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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Creativity and Competition


I'm competitive.

Everyone who knows me just shook their heads in agreement.

While I imagine it can be a strength, my competitiveness generally leads to me making opponents. I can make just about anything a game. I have challenged friends to competitions in pizza eating, marshmallow spitting, myspace comment making, and just about every thing a human being could do with a basketball.

I want to embrace this competitiveness but cannot figure out where my life reaps its benefits. Rather, I often despise my competitive juices. Why? Because I believe there is a link between competition and creativity. But its not a good one.

We have been told competition leads to innovation, but what if the constant comparison and competition actually limits our ability to innovate?

An excellent example of this can be found in Microsoft's recent ad campaign. The ads appear to be nothing more than a rebuttal. Nothing original. Nothing new. Just the Windows take on the Apple commercials. Their counterstrike was said to be a rebranding of PC's because, as their ad exec states, "you always want to own your own story." But does constantly launching counter attacks at your opposition really help you own your own story? Rather, the constant comparison leads to a lack of originality and a defensive stance towards all competitors. When you have to be looking over your shoulder to see who's creating similar products, ideas, songs, etc you miss out on opportunities to innovate. A company's value should be found in what differentiates them from the competition. The Microsoft ad campaign does little to differentiate and leads to a greater comparison between the two rivals. I am not qualified to say this, but it would seem that the all too common viewpoint that better advertising can cure all ills is evidence of Microsoft's larger ethos of defensiveness.

I have defaced this conversation and made it a little too commercial for my taste. Let me give a final thought.

I too often compare myself to the fashions of others only to miss out on what makes me unique. What I am currently processing is the human hesitance to be confident in who we are, and as a result, what we create. Whether it is our weight, our car, our job, our success, our "cool factor", or our relationships...we embrace what is uniquely ours. In order to be creative we must own our own stories. We must stop copying and comparing. We must rid ourselves of our defensive posture. We can't keep that pace for long. Oddly, we should find that originality is not nearly as exhausting as trying to out race the competition.

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Jarrod said...

Also from a recent NYT article discussing new MSNBC host Rachel Maddow's view of her competition..."Partly, she said, that lack of competitive interest is an effort to remain original. 'I worry every day about the homogenizing forces at work in my professional life,' she said, adding that it can be difficult to preserve creativity within cable’s production process. It helps, she said, that she does not own a television at home."

BrandonDoral said...

where would you say you are in this process, and do you think it's possible to be truly original? Thats a good thought. I like it.

Jarrod said...

Philosophically I would say that there "is nothing new under the sun" and that all of us are informed by other sources. We all create from something. IE, nothing is truly original accept what God made from nothing. Make sense?

That said, I think all of us are wired to be original. We are all wired to take the unique creation we encounter and then create newness with God. Co-creating.

For me personally, I tend to think I am pretty good at pulling a tremendous amount of data together to form original thoughts, ideas, experiences, etc. However, the large amount of data in my brain can often feels in conflict and I feel as if I have to decide which hat to put on rather than living an authentically original life.

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