Posted by: Liz Massey | May 20, 2009

Surf’s Up: Top Creativity Links for May 20, 2009


Photo courtesy of SXC.

Creative Elegance: The Power of Incomplete Ideas
Each month, the site publishes a series of “manifestos,” authored by innovative thinkers from a range of disciplines.

This month, Matthew E. May, author of The Elegant Solution: Toyota’s Formula for Mastering Innovation and the forthcoming In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing, has produced a 13-page classic on creative minimalism. I say classic because he is able to find the common thread of artistic excellence between things as diverse as the Tao Te Ching, the series finale of HBO’s “The Sopranos,” Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings and the “secret menu” available at In-N-Out Burger.

He begins his manifesto with a clear assertion that less is more:

“It is nearly impossible to make it through a typical day without exchanging ideas. Whether deciding on something as simple as a restaurant for a long overdue night out, or as complicated as the design of an entirely new product, we are forever involved in sculpting and selling our creative thought. Conventional wisdom says that to be successful, an idea must be concrete, complete, and certain. But what if that’s wrong? What if the most elegant, most imaginative, most engaging ideas are none of those things?”

Along the way, May also points to focus as a strong promoter of creative productivity. His mention of business expert Jim Collins use of a “stop doing” list is an especially important point—I made much the same argument in a guest post I made on the Positivity blog about the importance of a “to-don’t” list.

Photo Books & The Kindle: Is The Writing On The Wall?
This link from the Jim M. Goldstein Photography blog features an intelligent post and reader commentary about the technological progression of e-books and what this means for professional photographers who produce books of their work.

Goldstein, a nature, landscape and travel photographer, notes that the current iterations of Kindle and its big brother, Kindle DX, are not ready for photo-book prime time, but that won’t remain the status quo for very long:

“Kindle still strikes me as having a lot of room to grow particularly when it comes to real world use beyond text heavy books … Don’t get me wrong; I know the Kindle DX and Kindle use innovative parts, but compared to what is to come it will look quite primitive. Much can be said about any product I suppose, but in this case the best is yet to come, particularly with flexible OLED displays poised to become mainstream.”

He posits the two main questions for professional photographers interested in the future of e-books to be how quickly will photographers be ready to provide their photos in a purely electronic reading media and to what degree will the audience for fine art photography adapt to purchasing e-books. One reader also points out the potential for secondary sales (download this photo to your desktop, print a postcard, etc.) through hyperlinks in e-books.

All in all, the post is a robust discussion about how the rise of e-books will change how artists work to produce their content.

Are You an Idea Addict?
Mitch Ditkoff of the training and consulting firm Idea Champions recently broached an important point about the downside to becoming too attached to one’s own ideas, no matter how creative, on his company’s Heart of Innovation blog.

He relates the buzz we can experience when we develop a particularly tantalizing idea, but warns that we’ve crossed the line into addiction when we refuse to modify our idea because it’s become too deeply associated with our personality, it’s become so familiar that it would be uncomfortable to alter it, or because we’ve already invested mass quantities of time in its development and don’t want to feel that time was wasted.

He points to the example of Apple’s iPhone, which reached a late stage of development before CEO Steven Jobs realized parts of the design didn’t work for him, and wouldn’t work for customers, either. Although Jobs is quoted as saying he realized asking for change in the basic concept behind the phone at the last moment was a risk, everyone on the Apple team signed up to make the changes.

Jobs said:

“Sometimes when you’re in the middle of one of these crises, you’re not sure you’re going to make it to the other end. But we’ve always made it, and so we have a certain degree of confidence, although sometimes you wonder.”

I would agree. Sometimes it’s important to keep a few playful devil’s advocates associated with your business or on your personal “board of directors” to help you see the downside to your ideas, no matter how visionary or useful they may seem to you and your supporters. The point isn’t to have them shoot down your best ideas, it’s to help you see how your best ideas could be better.

Bonus Links!

Brain Freeze? How to Thaw Your Mind With Mind Maps
From’s blog. Good intro to mindmapping and lists different software packages that help you do it.

15 Unusual and Creative Bus Stops
A public works design feast for the eyes from the blog.



  1. Interesting e-book article, and I find the info on Steve Jobs enlightening. Thanks for your article!

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