Where the box ends and innovation begins

This week’s post has me ruminating about creativity and how it can result from constraint.

It seems that to think outside of the box, you need to know where exactly the box is first.

There have been plenty of articles written on this topic.That last one is actually a HuffPo blog post by Scott Barry Kaufman which explains why people tend to be limited when presented with a blank slate. He writes:

“Paradoxically, when people are given free reign to solve a problem, they tend to be wholly uncreative, focusing on what’s worked best in the past. This is due to the fundamental nature of human cognition: to imagine the future we generate what we already know from the past.”

Whereas if limits are imposed, you seek ways to overcome them.

The sonnet is one of the most exacting forms of poetry – 14 lines of ten syllables each and written in iambic pentameter – and yet has resulted in some of the most beautiful, tender words ever written.

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

To prove my point, here’s Alan Rickman reciting Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130.

Nothing like gratuitous Alan Rickman to make my Friday night.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has persevered artistically – it could be argued his artistic life has thrived – while living with consistent attempts to repress and undermine his actions on the part of the state.

In the trailer for Never Sorry, you see a screen shot of the computer where he tweets: ” I am an artist who is always looking for what is possible.”

My photojournalism professor is the one who got be thinking about this, when he said  (in as many words) that, when on assignment, it is when a photojournalist is having a hard time finding an interesting way to shoot something that you get creative.

It is when you are challenged that you produce your finest work.

Of course, this leads me to ask why there is so little visible innovation in the news industry. Why are we not using these new limits to push ourselves?


Here are my reads of the week:

THE THROWAWAYS  : Police enlist young offenders as confidential informants. But the work is high-risk, largely unregulated, and sometimes fatal. | Sarah Stillman | The New Yorker

Kevin O’Leary: He’s not a billionaire, he just plays one on TV | Bruce Livesey and Tim Kiladze | Report On Business Magazine

And some vintage journalistic goodness, courtesy of the year 1963:

Digging JFK Grave Was His Honor  | Jimmy Breslin | New York Herald Tribune

– Girl Friday

P.S.: I found a typo in The Economist this week.

It was horrible.

Tagged , , , ,

2 thoughts on “Where the box ends and innovation begins

  1. That is some pretty powerful stuff there, Owen. And thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: