Jim Collins: Let me just take on this topic of creativity for a moment.When I first started teaching at Stanford, I had the great privilege for the first two years there, one of the courses I got to teach was a course on creativity. It was a course that was created by Professor Michael Ray and his colleague, Michele Myers. And they had a very interesting take on creativity, that the more I've thought about it, the more I really think is basically right. Their view, their premise and what the premise of this course was, is that creativity is not something that you add, (in other words) the idea that somehow you add creativity to people. Their full view was, if you breathe, you're creative.
That if actually, you look at kids when they're five years old. Do they do creative things? Do they play games, do they kind of invent things, do they, kids do creative things. Until, whether it be organizations, or school systems, or companies, beat it out of them, but they of start out that way.
If you look over the history, a recently finished, wonderful course on what's called, Big History, 60 lectures. And it looks at the history of everything basically from the thing called Super Star Teachers series from the Millisecond Before the Big Bang to Today. And part way through that course you finally get to the rise of human civilization. And the view is you've got basically collective learning as a multiplicative creative force, which leads us from nomadic or agrarian stage to the modern revolution and whatever's going to come next and it keeps accelerating. But, of course, what happens is that is the infinite renewable resource the input is human creativity. And you take these points of view and say, is there any evidence, that basically people are not creative and the view of this course, and the evolution of human history, would suggest that the natural state of the human being is creative. We're born creative, if you're alive you're creative, if you breathe you’re creative, and the problem is we stifle it, we cover it up, and the whole point of this course is basically to say, there isn't such a thing as an uncreative person. What there are, are people who do not allow their creativity to come out because they have a very strong voice of judgment. "Oh, I can't say that, that would be really stupid. Oh, I can't really try that, I might fail." Or that kind of severe self-criticism that prevents you from trying something creative. Or, you're always afraid to ask questions, or to make precise observations in which you learn from your own precise observation rather than whatever everybody else thinks, so that you're paying attention to something directly yourself.
Creative people often look to actual situations rather than social convention. And so this course was based on the idea that there are four things that allow you to remove the barriers to your own creativity. One is, you have to have faith that you are creative. By virtue of the fact that, I am a card-carrying member of the human race, therefore I am creative. Second, you have to work on reducing that voice of critical judgment that prevents you from doing something that might be creative: letting the creativity out. Number three, exercise your ability to ask dumb questions. And number four, the ability to make precise observation of actual phenomena, and ask your own questions on what it means rather than whatever everybody else thinks it means. And these are the four basic tools that allow you to remove the barriers to the creativity that is inside you.
So, this idea that there are, I mean, I remember when I was teaching back at Stanford and we're talking about different cultures and so forth.
And people would say, yeah but the thing with Japan is, you know, the Japanese are just not very creative. And I would sit there and think, well, I've been studying Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka, and these were enormously creative people. What about Mr. Honda? What about the creation of the quality systems of Toyota? I mean, there's some amazingly creative (stuff), it's nothing about, the fact that inherently the Japanese are not creative, they're creative. The Chinese are creative, the American are creative, Europeans are creative, human beings are creative, if you breathe you're creative.
So, I think then the question becomes, what are the things in place that get in the way of that creativity being there? Which is a very different thing than somehow saying, oh, we're not a creative people, or I'm not a creative person. And I guess if we were to take a random sample of any group of people on the planet, now their situation might be one that stifles creativity, but as human beings they are creative. If folks in China and Japan and in parts of the United States embraced that idea, it's the infinitely renewable resource; it's there all the time.