创造力和创新 / Creativity and Innovation

创造力和创新

经常浏览我博客的人可能还会记得,我是吉姆•柯林斯的忠实粉丝(Jim Collins,因著有畅销书《从优秀到卓越》而广为闻名的作家)。另外,我还非常喜欢钓鱼。

柯林斯从少年时代起就酷爱攀岩。他经常会谈起这项运动带给他的启迪,以及如何能将它们运用到商业和生活中去。

而我从年轻时起就迷恋垂钓,从中也感悟到了一些可为工作和生活所借鉴的道理。可惜我没有柯林斯那样出众的辩才,没能写出一本像样的畅销书来。

在我眼里,攀岩与垂钓相比更为艰苦。仅凭一根细细的绳子悬吊在陡峭的崖壁上,任身体被肆虐的狂风摇来荡去,这对我可有没什么吸引力。如果必须在绳子的一头儿拴上个东西晃来晃去,那我宁愿拴的是鱼而不是我自己。不过,参差百态才是人生趣味所在。

我对吉姆•柯林斯崇拜得五体投地。他不仅是位攀岩高手,而且还事业有成,并深刻地影响着人们在商业以及非经营领域中的思维模式。

柯林斯早年曾在斯坦福大学执教,教授创意课程。他告诉我,这门课的基本要义是说创造力乃每个人与生俱来的天赋,但学校教育、家庭环境、社会力量、同辈压力等综合因素在某种程度上导致了大多数人的创造天赋变得迟钝、被扼杀或遭到恐吓,最终部分或全部丧失。

而创意课的核心就要帮助学生重拾自己的创造力。

其中一个重要的步骤就是要克服对做傻事或说傻话的恐惧。换言之,就是要消灭害怕犯错的心理。再者,要相信自己对数据的解读和认知,不要一味依赖他人的观点或传统观念。

今年年初在采访吉姆•柯林斯时,我们谈到创新环境下的创造力——这是时下中国的一个热点话题。有些人认为创新是中国企业的当务之急。而在有关中国教育现状的讨论中,创造力同样也引发了人们的热议,有些人认为现行教育对开发年轻人的创意能力重视不足。

虽然我认为创新的确是中国企业面临的重要任务之一,但我对某些人将它置于首要位置的说法不敢苟同。至少,我看到在中国的商界已经发生了很多变革,只是其中很多不为国外所了解罢了。这一点在商业模式的创新上表现得尤为真确,此外在服务业和制造业中也有很多力证。

在美国,柯林斯已指出过创新的重要性也许被过分夸大了,因为公司最常见的问题不是缺乏创新,而是缺乏根本的秩序。

显而易见,在如今动荡的年代,无序创新并不足以维持生存,更何谈成功。

你可能会问,这些和钓鱼有什么关系?除了我几周前在南中国海海钓时看见的一样东西以外,还真的没有。

当时我们碰到一条小船,船上有两名中国渔民正在撒网。他们头上戴着手工自制的风雨帽,样子简单而奇特,以前我从没见过。

Creativity and Innovation

Regular readers of this blog may recall that I am a big fan of Jim Collins (best known as the author of the best-selling book “Good to Great”), and secondly, that fishing is one of my hobbies.

Collins has been an avid rock-climber since he was a teenager, and often talks about lessons learned from that sport and how they apply to business and to life in general.

I have been an avid fisherman since my youth. I can also see lessons learned from fishing which apply to business and life, although I am not as eloquent as Jim Collins and have yet to author a best-seller.

To my eye, rock climbing looks like a lot of hard work compared to fishing. The idea of dangling off a sheer rock face on a skinny-looking rope high up a mountain with the wind blowing hard is not something which appeals to me. If something is going to be dangling on the end of a line, I’d rather it be a fish than me; but variety is the spice of life.

I have enormous respect for Jim Collins as an accomplished rock climber as well as for his professional achievements and the impact he has had on how people think, in business as well as the non-profit sector.

Early in his teaching career, he taught a course on creativity at Stanford. The basic thrust of this course, he explained to me, was that everyone is born creative, but that somehow for most people a combination of factors — school, family, social forces, peer pressure, etc. — dulls, buries, and intimidates that creative force, rendering it partly or wholly dormant.

The course focused on helping students to rediscover their creative force.

One important step in the process is to overcome the fear of doing or saying something silly. In other words, trying to silence the common fear we all have of making mistakes. Another is trusting one’s own interpretation and perception of data, rather than always relying on the views of others, or the conventional wisdom.

During my interview with him earlier this year, Jim Collins and I were discussing creativity in the context of innovation, which is a hot topic in China today. Some would argue it’s at the top of the improvement agenda for Chinese companies. It’s also debated in the context of the current state of Chinese education, which some say doesn’t focus enough on developing creativity in young people.

I think innovation is a very important agenda item in Chinese businesses, but I am not convinced that it’s as high on the priority list as some would say. For one thing, I see a lot of evidence of innovation in the Chinese commercial world, although much of it remains largely unseen by people outside China. This is especially true in business model innovation, but you can find a growing range of examples in services and products as well.

In the American context, Collins has said he thinks innovation may be over-rated, because companies more often get into trouble not by lacking innovation but by lacking or straying from fundamental disciplines.

Clearly, innovation without discipline is not enough for survival, let alone success, in today’s turbulent times.

So, you may ask, what does all of this have to do with fishing? Nothing, really, except for something I saw while fishing from a boat a few weeks ago in the South China Sea.

We came upon a small skiff with two Chinese fishermen aboard, working their nets, and on their heads they were wearing an amazingly simple type of home-made, all-weather hats, which I’d never seen before.

创新风雨帽 ——摄影:Bob Davis / Innovative Hats — Photo by Bob Davis

帽子是用运送海鲜的白色聚苯乙烯泡沫塑料箱做成的,这种材料的绝缘性好,质地又轻。

他们在箱子盖上挖了个洞,大小刚好适合佩戴者的头围,再装上可以系在下巴上的帽带——一顶量身定制的渔夫帽转瞬即成,既防晒又挡雨,还是用可回收的绿色材料制成。真叫酷啊!

这种几乎不花一分钱、巧妙利用现有材料的做法正是自发创新的鲜明例证。

我估计顶级运动服品牌是不会仿照这顶帽子推出相应产品的。不过这也无妨,名牌自有它的定位,草根阶层的自主创新也有市场,而且还会日趋精巧。

这两名渔民证明了高学历并不是创意思维或提出创新方案的必要条件。他们也克服了担心遭人耻笑的畏惧心理。我要向他们脱帽致敬!

These were made from the kind of white Styrofoam plastic boxes which are widely used to transport fresh seafood due to their insulating properties and light weight.

A hole was cut in the top of the box cover, just big enough to fit the head size of the wearer, and a chin strap fixed on, and — presto — you have a tailor-made weather-proof fishing hat which protects the wearer from both sun and rain. It’s also a green product, made of recycled material. Very cool.

A brilliant example of home-grown innovation involving eclectic use of available materials at virtually no cost.

I doubt that top sportswear brands are going to come out with a line of hats resembling these, but that’s OK. Premium brands have their place, and so does home-grown innovation at the most basic of levels and so on up the ladder of sophistication.

These fishermen are proof that you don’t need an advanced degree to think creatively or find innovative solutions. They also clearly overcame the fear of looking silly. Hats off to them!


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