Life’s Work

Life’s work is a project by Harvard Business Review. It highlights the importance of everyone’s story; success didn’t just happen overnight, there were events and actions and people which enabled these individuals to where they are today. It looks at the environments, psychology, context, management and personality needed for creativity to flourish using case studies. There were a few articles that really interested me.

‘Maybe my greatest failure is to think you cannot fail’ (Weiwei, 2012)

Ai Weiwei is a political artist known for his struggle against the repression of the Chinese government. He identifies the need to work in a group and have the presence of others to be creative. When managing he highlights the need to understand the task and apply either rigidity or looseness, taking an holistic approach to directing a task. During Ai Weiwei interview he also  comments on the effect that standardised education systems have on creativity; suggesting that as children move towards adulthood their creativity is stifled as they are taught how to take tests instead of how to collaborate. This is just one environmental impact on creativity, as I read more articles it became apparent that different people require different situations to be creative.

Marina Abramovi speaks of the need to expose herself to cultures beyond her own. In exploring the world beyond the studio she is taken outside of her comfort zone where she can push the boundaries of what is accepted and of what she thinks she can do. Obsessing over an idea is part of her creative process. Her story highlights the need for perseverance and commitment to something you feel is worth your time.

James Dyson also spoke of his perseverance and use of trial and error. He clearly focuses on one particular invention, the vacuum cleaner. He highlights how countries such as the Philippines, Mexico, Iran, India and China are producing more engineers and enabling children to flourish creatively.

Craig Venter focused on believing that what you want to achieve is achievable, despite what others may believe. He advocates for the use of multidisciplinary teams and aiming for goals bigger than themselves. Taking a flexible, hands off managerial position enabled people to have space to work though a problem by themselves. He highlights the importance of being able to trust with the people you decide to employ.

Finally Jane Goodall was another person of particular interest because of her behavioral studies. She studies chimpanzee behavior but this ability to observe and document is a skill required in museums and education, if you want to determine if someone is learning. She speaks of having initiative and patience. To ignore the desire to try and find something or prove something and to simply observe, if you look at or apply an idea or go in with a prejudice or bias there will always be a way to justify the correctness of the hypothesis yourself. She stresses the need to keep an open mind.

These five articles highlight how different successes are powered by a range of factors including risk, perseverance and drive but that everyone is different and the degree to which people require these factors in order to inspire creativity varies.


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