Sick and Tired Of Paul Sloane’s Slick Shine-Ola

Paul Sloane seems to always write the most insipid B.S. about innovation that I see. No, wait, let me change that. I think ONE time I did see something that I liked that made me go, “Wow. I can guess sometime he can pull his head out of there…” but like I said, I’ve seen this maybe one time. I’ve not read much of his material, so it could just be the luck of the draw that most of what I’ve seen was the crap, but hey, I calls ’em like I sees ’em…

And so it is, I’ve got a real problem with the following sentiment from one of his blog posts:

“Change your attitude to failure. If everything you try works then you are not being bold enough. Innovation involves trying some things that don’t work. Treat each failure as a learning opportunity. The innovator’s motto is, ‘I succeed or I learn but I never fail’.”

Really? Here’s the deal – if a person really has it together, knows where creativity truly comes from and how to tap into it every time – at will, then they will be right most of the time. Anyone can fail, big deal. In fact, I pointed out on another blog that Edison’s big quote, about not failing but finding out 10,000 ways that something didn’t work, was really just a defensive comment to cover the fact that he wasn’t smart enough to nail the right solution the first couple of times out of the shoot. However, another man, Nikola Tesla, was and Edison hated him. So who do you strive to be  when it comes to innovative ideas – Edison or Tesla?

This attitude that I’m finding, that it’s OK to fail, appears to be becoming a psychological crutch when the real focus should be how to improve insight, vision, creativity so that you don’t fail! When you learn to drive a car are you expected to be allowed to have accidents when you go for a drive for your first year, just because you’re not that good at it yet? In most professions as well, failure isn’t allowed. You do that too many times and you’re out of a job or out of business.

What’s missing is the very simple but obvious fact that few people know how to really be innovative by tapping into the very core of where creativity comes from and that reason is that most people don’t even understand creativity. I saw a TED talk once where Amy Tan said that creativity was the height of compassion. Really? The Nazis had a lot of very creative scientists and they didn’t give a damn about compassion.

Just to be honest, I saw a Youtube video about the worse 5 weapons in use now. Most were from the U.S.. Because they showed actual casualties, I decided not to include it because I didn’t want it to ruin the feel from the other videos here. However, it really puts Tan’s comment into perspective as one of the most asinine statements ever made by a reportedly, intelligent woman. Creativity is a neutral force that can be used for good or evil. Period. The first time you hear someone claim otherwise, feel free to discount anything else they say…

There’s such a thing that I’m beginning to call, SuperSupra™ Creativity. It’s there when it’s needed. People want to say that you can’t force innovation. SuperSupra™ Creativity doesn’t care what the circumstances are, it just provides the answers, the solutions, the invention, the document, the lay-out, the treatment, whatever it is that needs to be done. The suggestions in the piece, where I got the quote, are very good ideas as far as creative ways to problem solve, but they say nothing about the issue of a person being creative themselves. These are simply convenient work-arounds. If Paul really had the answers I’m talking about, he’d come out and talk about them. Instead, as with most innovation and creativity hypesters, we get mostly his slick shine-ola.

Listen to Paul and Jeffery Baumgartner, whom I hold in equal respect to Paul, argue over whether brainstorming is good or whether Jeffery’s latest gimmick is better. Listen closely to see if either one ever mentions at all the idea of  training the team in creative thinking first.

So, the thing is that people gathered together with widely varied levels of creativity and knowledge of how to apply it, are like these children, unwrapping music instruments and discovering their instrument’s most shallow and pedestrian potential for the first time.

Yep. That’s what it’s like essentially, from any kind of session where people don’t really understand how to use creativity beyond the most pedestrian level.  Now here comes the “facilitator” and see what a difference it makes.

Yep. You can recognize a bit of a tune, but it’s still a lot of noise. But what happens when the children get a little training in what they’re doing before they attempt a song? In other words, when each participant knows their instrument and can contribute to the discussion useful ideas and not just noise. I know I’m veering away from the brainstorm format a bit here but I’m allowed, because Baumgartner wasn’t going along with it anyway. I’m viewing the session as more an orchestration of spontaneous ideas that fit together within a discussion, with a productive outcome. I know, because I’ve been in them before. On average, it would look more like this –

I think you get my point. By the way, I think those little children are very talented and endearing and I hope you enjoyed their performance as much as I have. Within the context of this discussion however, I see them as symbolizing your basic corporate culture that has allowed for creative expression within a conservative context. The ideas flow, and are very productive within the strict, corporate structure that allows them, and they are seen as productive. But, let’s take this a little further. What happens when you have a team of highly trained people in creativity? Ones that know how to tap into the source, the SuperSupras™  who are then allowed to be who they are? Let me give you an example of what I mean by “highly” trained SuperSupra™ with an example of one such person –

Power. That’s the word that comes to mind for me. Imagine the opportunity of being on that stage with this legendary rock star, Ozzy Osbourne, that you’ve listened to and you’re actually jamming with his band while thousands cheer you on. The best part is he’s just a kid and is too innocent to tap into those kind of feelings yet. However, that’s what’s happening all around him. Projections of the power of creativity unleashed.  Everyone is feeling, “Wow. Look at what this kid can do, he’s so into our culture he can share the stage with these legends and rock out”! YEAH!!!!!!!!!! So, back to the problem at hand, if you’ve got one person like that, that can really come up with the great ideas that wow everyone, then imagine a couple more on the team –

Now you know what I mean by SuperSupra™. Most people who listen to men like Paul Sloane and Jeffery Baumgartner are going to be like those little N. Korean tykes with their guitars at best – effective but rote. They will have mastered all the gimmicks, but lack the skills to improvise, to know the freedom of being unleashed in their creativity and how to use it.

So, I want to go back to his statement that if you haven’t failed you weren’t being bold enough. OK, so my knee-jerk reaction is who does he think he is to tell anyone about being bold? I don’t see anything is his background that would indicate that he even knows the definition of the word or has even experienced it. The biggest failure in my professional life was because I wasn’t bold enough, not the other way around. I relied too much on other people who undermined what I was doing, which taught me to take the next move and be able to do everything myself. My mentor actually taught me what I needed to know to accomplish that because he knew that I was going to need that ability and he knew that I had it in me to pull it off. So, had that kept me from being a team player? No. But it has freed me from having to rely on a team if there’s no team around. That’s why when I see comments like, “Innovation mean collaboration” I know the person has absolutely no idea whatsoever about innovation. None. They’re like the kids that were buying the KMart, copycat punk clothes off the rack back in the ’80s, instead being punk and living it out of the thrift shops.

I agree that people are afraid to try being creative and that is mostly because they haven’t been trained properly in the process or what it means. Creativity means one thing and one thing alone – power.  The rock’n’roll kids had it. Did you see the difference? That’s what  SuperSupra(TM) Creativity is like. And I’m sure that there are many bosses in some businesses that actually don’t want their employees to be too creative because it means that they will become more powerful and then they may figure out that maybe they don’t need that job after all or maybe that they can get a better one elsewhere. Again, this isn’t happening everywhere, but it is somewhere and it raises the issue that unlike the easily tossed about branding term that “innovation” has become, it is actually a multifaceted, multidimensional concept that is often beyond the cognitive grasp of bosses, CIOs, motivational speakers, and  so-called “creativity experts” like Paul Sloan.


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