Innovation That Matters

Innovation Culture Bulletin: Tech Enabled Creativity


In this month’s Innovation Culture Bulletin, we’re looking at ways of using technology to enhance your creativity.

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.” — Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

In this month’s Innovation Culture Bulletin, we look at tech tools to complement and advance the creative mind.

From the earliest paintings to modern day special effects film studios, advancements in technology have long held an intimate relationship with the frontiers of creativity. A recent roundtable discussion on creativity in the modern age went so far as to claim ‘it is the responsibility of the modern day creative to understand all the tech available to them and to actively interrogate how it could apply’. In an age of viral video, social media, and even the renaissance of the gif, to use the word “responsibility” is not overstating the issue. Technology has become the driving force in shaping today’s leading creative output.

Conversely, technology can sit uneasily with more Romantic notions of creativity — the artisan, drinking craft beer on hand made, bespoke furniture. But to regard artisanal craft as a counter point to technology would be to miss the point entirely, for we must remember that even the handsaw would once have been considered a technological breakthrough. Many people find they work better using pen and paper to develop ideas, rather than a computer, but to expand this observation into a reluctance to learn new software is missing the point. Nearly every tool we use in our day-to-day lives was once regarded as a new technology, and a reluctance to adopt newer technologies should be interrogated in this context.

It’s a tension that appears time and again in art history. Vermeer’s reported use of a Camera Obscura to achieve photo realistic proportions in his paintings has been described as ‘cheating’. More recently, the term “Mac Monkey” may be familiar to many readers — a derogatory term widely used in marketing circles for designers who rely on Photoshop to produce gimmicky creative lacking in substance. (Not a monkey in a coat)

While we may frown on technology being used as a crutch to compensate for originality, the greater worry is when devices and screens actually intrude on our ability to innovate, stifling our creative impulses altogether. Distracting notifications all to often “ping” us away from the stillness required for original thought.

Rather than creating resistance, awareness of these risks should form the foundation of a closer relationship with technology. Technology won’t make a bad idea good, but it can help develop a good idea into a great one. By embracing the incredible hardware and software now available to us, we can explore previously closed avenues. We can garner global input on an idea in seconds, access near infinite source material for mood boards, and capitalise on leading design software to express ideas in new ways. With such huge benefits on offer, and with such a diverse array of uses, such tools should no longer be exclusively used by designated “creatives”. It is the responsibility of everyone in a forward-thinking company to innovate, which means everyone should push themselves to embrace new technologies as a way of broadening their creative thinking. In the words of David Hockney, one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century, “The technology won’t make the pictures different, but someone using it will.”

Mindful of the mechanics of creative thinking, in this month’s Innovation Bulletin Five we encourage a better use of technology to help magnify creativity and innovation:

1. Prepare for inspiration anywhere. For the creative mind, inspiration is everywhere. We recommend adopting mobile tools such as Mod – a paper notebook that syncs to the cloud, allowing writers to store their handwritten notes and doodles and access them at any time on their mobile device. Or designers can build their own color palate without compromising on originality with Scribble, a pen that can scan the colour of any object and immediately begin drawing in that colour.

2. Online Communication. Online tools for virtual teams such as Slack have now become the defacto team communication vehicles for the New Entrepreneur. By enabling real-time chat with teams based around the world, it’s more possible than ever before to easily garner a global feedback on ideas — leading to surprising and illuminating input.

3. Tech wellness. Make time time for mindfulness. Sleep and routine can be affected by working long hours with intense focus, which over time leads to a decrease in creative output. Integrate a take-five into your schedule by taking power naps. Springwise spotted Thim, a wearable sleep-training ring that features a power-nap setting – 10 minutes is the length of time research has shown to have the highest impact on performance enhancement.

4. Live streaming creative process. Kill two birds with one stone working simultaneously in the online and offline worlds. Springwise previously covered a live novel-writing platform, where users could comment and favourite lines to influence the outcome of the work. Real-time feedback from a global audience can add a new layer of creativity and innovation. Live-streaming a production process is approach adopted by Argentine designer Alejandro Sticotti and Simultaneously documenting work in real time, revealing the craft of making, and offering product transparency.

5. Do Not Disturb. Regular readers will recall our September Innovation Culture Bulletin on Productivity and eliminating distractions in the digital age. Using “good tech” to filter out “bad tech” distractions is a crucial strategy for interacting with tech tools for optimum creativity. Sensory distractions can be addressed by blocking out the literal noise with noise-cancelling headphones, for working while commuting or concentrating in the office.