NPR’s “Fresh Aire” program recently had an interview with Jonah Lehrer, a science writer whose new book, Imagine: How Creativity Works, looks at where creativity and innovative thoughts come from and what some companies are doing to create an environment that fosters that creativity. One company he mentions is 3M, where “every engineer has an hour a day to do whatever they want: whether that’s work on a side project or simply tinker with a hobby.”
Lehrer told interviewer Dave Davies that creative insight has two aspects – that the insight comes “out of the blue” (a “flash” of insight) and that the person feels sure that the insight is correct or valid. Musicians often spend hours being creative, and the “Fresh Aire” story illustrates two examples of composers / songwriters capturing musical magic:
Beethoven would try as many as 70 different versions of a musical phrase before settling on the right one. But other great ideas seem to come out of the blue. Bob Dylan, for example, came up with the lyrics to the chorus for “Like a Rolling Stone” soon after telling his manager that he was creatively exhausted and ready to bail from the music industry. After going to an isolated cabin, Dylan got an uncontrollable urge to write and spilled out his thoughts in dozens of pages — including the lyrics to the iconic song.
Mr. Lehrer also talked about the brilliant cellist Yo-Yo Ma:
“For Yo-Yo, it’s about learning how to relax. He told me this great story where before he goes out on stage, he often thinks about Julia Child. And at first, I was like, ‘Why Julia Child?’ And he tells this great story about Julia Child making a roast chicken and it looked beautiful and she was talking to the camera and the chicken would just fall off the plate, onto the floor. And he said, ‘Did she make this look of horror? Did she scream? No, the smile never left her face. She picked up the chicken, dusted it off and just went on with the show.’ And he said that’s an inspiring story to think about when you’re in the middle of performance, because you’re going to make a mistake and your attitude has to be, ‘I welcome that first mistake because now I’m free.’”
Can you imagine how wonderful it would be for companies to have beautiful grand or upright pianos available for their employees to use to relax and let their minds be free to create? 3M, are you listening?
Check out the “Fresh Aire” story online at npr.org:
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