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3 Dangerous Myths about Innovators and Creators
If you believe in the myths that surround some of our most famous and beloved creators — Einstein, Jobs, or Edison, for example — you're setting yourself up for failure.
Tim Sanders spent most of his early career on the cutting edge of innovation and change. He was on the ground floor of the quality movement, the launch of cellular phones and most notably the world wide web.
He was an early stage member of Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner's broadcast.com, which had the largest opening day IPO in history. After Yahoo acquired the company, Tim was tapped to lead their ValueLab, which enabled sales teams to close hundreds of millions of dollars of new business.
By 2001, he rose to the position of Chief Solutions Officer and later, the company's Leadership Coach. In 2005, he founded Deeper Media, which conducts research and provides consulting and training services for leading brands, trade associations and government agencies. Today, he is one of the top rated speakers on the lecture circuit. His focus is on sales strategy, leadership, collaboration and innovation.
Tim is the author of four books, including the New York Times bestseller Love Is the Killer App: How To Win Business & Influence Friends. It's been translated into over a dozen languages and has been featured in Fast Company, USA Today, the New York Times, The Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor and on CNN. His other books include Today We Are Rich, The Likeability Factor, Saving the World at Work and his most recent book on sales collaboration, Dealstorming: The Secret Weapon That Can Solve Your Toughest Sales Challenges.
Tim Sanders: There are myths of creativity and these myths are usually propagated by people that have romantic notions about heroes, romantic notions about eureka moments. And these myths of creativity keep people from collaborating and it causes them to be a lone wolf. And the research says it causes them to fail. So let me talk a little bit about those myths of creativity. In the world of sales and marketing, I battle against three myths. Myth number one — the lone inventor. This is very dangerous because there is no such thing as a lone inventor. As a matter of fact, there’s a lot of historical research that has debunked [Albert] Einstein specifically in terms of inventions. Henry Ford. Not a lone inventor. A classic example — Thomas Edison. In the invention community, Thomas Edison is a brand. It stands for 14 people. Yes there was a figurehead named Thomas Edison. His name is on 10,000 patents. He did not invent a single thing. He marshaled people together and knew how to spot innovations and put people together like a creative soup, if you will. Here’s a classic example. Steve Jobs. You ask the average person, say a millennial who uses a lot of Apple technology, who’s one of the greatest inventors of our time? They’ll say Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs once said I never created anything. All I did was notice patterns and put people together to finish projects. So think about it. If he doesn’t have [Steve] Wozniak, there is no original Apple, right. If he doesn’t have [Jony] Ive, there is no iPod. If he doesn’t have Tony Fadell, there is no iPhone and the list goes on and on. Got a good friend of mine, David Burkus, who wrote a really wonderful book about the myths of genius. And he was telling me that it’s a romantic notion. And I remember when I first read this research years ago, "No Lone Inventor," it did kind of hurt my feelings.
I’m a musician in my past. I thought I wrote a lot of songs, but according to the research I never wrote a song. I always collaborated with somebody. The song that actually made it to the record or made it on the radio had 15 to 50 hands on it. When I talked to David, I said, "When I read your research, it kind of hurt my feelings." And he goes, "It’s a romantic notion because we want to be heroes." We want to be as empowered as Ayn Rand. We want to think that we are The Fountainhead so this is how we tell the story. But until you believe that genius is a team sport, you will never give up control. And this is the problem for a lot of people in sales. They don’t want to seed any level of control over their process to somebody outside of sales world because they don’t value those voices enough. But the research is clear on this. Miller Heiman Institute researched the difference between good and great. They call it world-class organizations. They win. They sell 20 percent more than their nearest competitor. The only thing they have in common is they’ve broken this myth and they understand that every deal is about rapid problem solving and no one person can solve the problem on their own. Quickly the other two myths of creativity that must be dispelled is the eureka moment. There is no such thing as a big idea that changes the world. I know this is another one of those hurtful, but very true based on empirical research, points. There are little ideas that combine with other little ideas that improve themselves into game-changing ideas. And I’ve experienced this personally by who I consider one of the authorities on creativity, Ed Catmull, president of Pixar. I remember standing backstage a few years ago just gushing to him about John Lasseter, his VP of creative. I’m like, he’s the bomb. This is the guy who wrote Wall-E, the commercial. This is the guy that wrote the script for Toy Story, you know, telling the story from the toys point of view. And I remember Catmull looked at me, cut me off and not to dismiss Lasseter, he said Toy Story was a problematic idea from the start. Make an entire full-length feature film inside a computer. Do you understand how hard that is from a rendering-time standpoint?
Make the characters as human as human. They didn’t even have facial control or technology at the time for this. And tell the story from the toys' point of view when we’ve never historically had a toy have any narrative for us to draw on. Catmull explained that nine months in, they shut the film down after a meeting with Disney. They called it Black Friday. And the Catmull said something to me that shattered the myth of the eureka moment. Catmull said Toy Story, the movie you saw, was a thousand problems solved. And it was like a bolt of lightning. I was like I get it. When you do a million dollar deal in an ad agency, it’s not a big idea; it’s a hundred problems solved; 80 of them are inside your agency. As you move through every level of that sale, you get obstacles in front of you. And what this means is that if we no longer depend on the big idea to fall out of the sky and change the world, we meet more, we think more, we research more, we settle with small pieces of progress that add up to momentum. Finally, the third myth of genius or creativity that must be shattered if you want to be more collaborative is the myth of the expert. Now I believe in involving people in a dealstorm who we think are experts on the problem space. But if you notice, I don’t want experts on the solution space. Because most of the great solutions to vexing problems come from the edges of a domain, you know. People that don’t know what they don’t know. So they’re not limited by these false constraints that hold people back that are in the middle of this subject. So the way I like to think about it is if you could talk to a fish — if you could; if the fish could respond; if it could — and you walked up to a fish in a fishbowl and you ask the fish, "How’s the water?" The fish would look at you puzzled and ask you, "What’s water?" And that’s the problem with experts. People that are so steeped in the domain they don’t have the expansive perspective that allows them to recognize patterns and convergence. Because every invention, every solution is really about pattern or convergence recognition. And so it’s really important for us to follow the following mantra in collaboration. Ideas can come from anywhere.
As a matter of fact in Dealstorming, that is one of my four key ground rules. It’s just as important as stay on agenda and don’t distract the person next to you. Because the problem with the myth of expert is it leads to not invented here dismissal of good ideas. So when you’re in a dealstorm meeting and someone who’s on the edge of the domain — I’ll just give you an example. Someone out of finance that generally handles something as mundane as revenue recognition. They come to one of your meetings because you have a problem related to how you recognize the revenue of this deal or whatever. And you’re in the middle of this conversation about packaging and they come up with a really novel way to think about how it’s built. You might look at that person and say you don’t know anything about billing sales. You’re just a revenue recognition analyst. We know billing and sales. You’re about to shut him down for the rest of the meeting. And what you don’t understand is that he may have an educational background. He may have had previous jobs. He may have a significant other that is steeped in the billing expertise and he’s drawing upon all of that. The minute you tell someone only experts can weigh in with ideas, everyone who’s not an expert stops contributing. In my experience, it breaks down collaboration.
There are three specific myths that surround our most beloved creators, and if you model yourself on those myths, you're setting yourself up for failure. The myths are (1) the lone wolf inventor; (2) the eureka moment; (3) the myth of the expert. From new theories of physics and revolutionary patents to Toy Story and the iPhone, creators depend on their ability marshal the talent of large teams of people. Yet despite the readily available evidence that we tend to romanticize innovation, myths persist because we love telling stories in narrative form.
Researchers are using technology to make visual the complex concepts of racism, as well as its political and social consequences.
- Often thought of first as gaming tech, virtual reality has been increasingly used in research as a tool for mimicking real-life scenarios and experiences in a safe and controlled environment.
- Focusing on issues of oppression and the ripple affect it has throughout America's political, educational, and social systems, Dr. Courtney D. Cogburn of Columbia University School of Social Work and her team developed a VR experience that gives users the opportunity to "walk a mile" in the shoes of a black man as he faces racism at three stages in his life: as a child, during adolescence, and as an adult.
- Cogburn says that the goal is to show how these "interwoven oppressions" continue to shape the world beyond our individual experiences. "I think the most important and powerful human superpower is critical consciousness," she says. "And that is the ability to think, be aware and think critically about the world and people around you...it's not so much about the interpersonal 'Do I feel bad, do I like you?'—it's more 'Do I see the world as it is? Am I thinking critically about it and engaging it?'"
President Vladimir Putin announces approval of Russia's coronavirus vaccine but scientists warn it may be unsafe.
A new coronavirus vaccine on display at the Nikolai Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, Russia.
Credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/ Russian Direct Investment Fund via AP
Medical workers draw blood from volunteers participating in a trial of a coronavirus vaccine at the Budenko Main Military Hospital outside Moscow, Russia.
Credit: Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP
A scientist in Sweden makes a controversial presentation at a future of food conference.
- A behavioral scientist from Sweden thinks cannibalism of corpses will become necessary due to effects of climate change.
- He made the controversial presentation to Swedish TV during a "Future of Food" conference in Stockholm.
- The scientist acknowledges the many taboos this idea would have to overcome.
Depiction of cannibalism in the Medieval ages.
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A report from the New York Times raises questions over how the teletherapy startup Talkspace handles user data.
- In the report, several former employees said that "individual users' anonymized conversations were routinely reviewed and mined for insights."
- Talkspace denied using user data for marketing purposes, though it acknowledged that it looks at client transcripts to improve its services.
- It's still unclear whether teletherapy is as effective as traditional therapy.
Talkspace.com<p>Former employees also questioned the legitimacy of certain interventions by the company into client-therapist interactions. For example, after one therapist sent a client a link to an online anxiety worksheet, a company representative instructed her to try to keep clients inside the app.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I was like, 'How do you know I did that?'" Karissa Brennan, a therapist who worked with Talkspace from 2015 to 2017, told the Times. "They said it was private, but it wasn't."</p><p>Other former employees said the company would pay special attention to its "enterprise partner" clients, who worked at companies like Google. One therapist said Talkspace contacted her for taking too long to respond to Google clients.</p><p>Talkspace responded to the Times with a Medium <a href="https://medium.com/@founders_22883/talkspace-founders-respond-to-a-new-york-times-article-78d6f5c45c59" target="_blank">post</a>, which claimed the Times report contained false and "uninformed assertions."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Talkspace is a HIPAA/HITECH and SOC2 approved platform, audited annually by external vendors, and has deployed additional technologies to keep its data safe, exceeding all existing regulatory requirements," the post states.</p>