A closer look at the magic of songwriters

Some people consider the notion of design thinking to be exceedingly vague. But it represents a great leap forward compared to loose talk about corporate creative thinking that has been with us for decades. Most advice I’ve ever heard from consultants about creativity has been highly theoretical and remote from day-to-day realities of working.

Years ago, in one of my workshops on how innovation happens, someone remarked that it would be worthwhile to study artists who frequent the cafés of Montreal to understand the true nature of creative thinking. Now, that person was on to something.

Or how about studying songwriters? In his fascinating book Songwriters On Songwriting, Paul Zollo interviews great songwriters of the past fifty years. Zollo identifies some common themes in terms of work habits, attitudes and sources of inspiration. Many of the writers express thoughts about writing songs of enduring value vs. disposable hits. These interviews highlight the fact that although there is no rigid formula for quality songwriting that captures all the magic, there are creative patterns and conditions worth studying.

Design thinking shines a light on designers who must do more than talk about how to be creative. The “say-do gap” between having ideas and implementing them was examined back in 1963 by Theodore Levitt in his Harvard Business Review article, “Creativity is Not Enough.”

As the concept of design thinking gets wider exposure and is subject to rigorous investigation, one of the benefits is that we can at last move beyond warm and fuzzy images of the creative life.

Prosperity in our fragile economy depends on widespread, in-depth understanding of what really motivates and constrains innovation.

– Sharon VanderKaay


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  • About The Nature of Innovation

    We see our collaboration with clients and colleagues as providing a living lab for enriching the creative process. Farrow’s built work has been internationally recognized for leadership in human-centric design. This is where we come to discuss our ideas as they hatch and our experiences as they happen.
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