What is your creative process?

Question: What's your creative process?

Rosabeth Moss Kanter: My creative process involves that old saying, “It’s 90% perspiration and only 10% inspiration.”  I struggle at every step of the way.  It gets easy sometimes when I know what I want to say and what I want to discover.  But it’s always a struggle.  So I’m very disciplined about it.  I … I have all kinds of mantras and slogans and sayings.  I sometimes place them up on the wall around my various computers.  They’ll say, “Just Do It!”  Or the famous quote … I call it “Kanter’s Law.”  I don’t know if other people do.  But Kanter’s Law: “Everything can look like a failure in the middle.”  And so I’ll say to myself, “It’s just the middle.”  And I’ll paste up that quote.  Because if you chip away bit by bit, eventually you have created the Mona Lisa.  I mean wasn’t it Michelangelo?  Well not the Mona Lisa.  Sorry.   But if you chip away bit by bit, you do create the great sculpture.  I think it was once Michelangelo who once said, “How do you make this beautiful sculpture?  Well you start with a block of stone, and then you chip away everything that isn’t David.”  So in a sense it’s that chipping away bit by bit by bit.  Having a big goal, knowing that it’s gotta be a big idea, that it’s gotta be something that is worth reading.  And that’s the other thing.  The creative process for me doesn’t work as well without an image of an audience in mind.  Who am I talking to?  Who am I doing this for?  How is it going to affect or influence them? So it’s that match between the internal – what’s in me – but knowing who might receive it makes my ideas a lot better than if I were simply writing for an audience of … of two or writing only for myself.  And I care about that.  I am an academic and a social scientist, and I have published in academic journals and I could continue to do it; but I’m looking for bigger things now.  I’m looking for impact on the world for reaching audiences of the powerful who can do something with my ideas or reaching audiences of the potential future leaders and social entrepreneurs who also can do something with my idea, but they start as anonymous, ordinary people.  And so if I have those in mind and think about the impact, and just discipline myself – as difficult as it is to “just do it” – then the creative process can be mastered.  But it’s not like it’s easy.

Recorded on: 6/13/07

Just do it, even if it's not easy, says Rosabeth Moss Kanter.

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