The greatest limitation that keeps teams and individuals operating below their true creative capacity is not a lack of imagination or talent, but rather a lack in the ability to underwrite the risk that is essential in the creative process.
One word that I think describes the capacity to underwrite risk in creative endevour is the word “courage.”
It feels safer to copy and fail, and be congratulated for having at least done it canonically “right,” than it is to test unchartered ideas and fail, and be considered a fool. Hence: “innovation” bandwagons.
Yet every true act of creation is risk.
And the cost of allowing our impulse towards comfort to keep us operating below our creative capacity is colossal loss—for us personally, for our users, and the innovation that is the future viability of any organization.
Courage—not imagination or skill—is the essence of our creative capacity.
Courage is not an emotion, it is a principle of execution: executing on the basis of achieving gain rather than averting loss. Courage is not confidence of success, it is the willingness to underwrite the risk of failure. Courage is about thinking hard about first principles: asking “why” instead of just the “what” or the “how.”
In this talk I translate these principles into how we go about the process of designing software, building teams, and developing plans. My aim is to give a framework that can help us all escape the temptation to imprison ourselves into coloring within the lines of other peoples success, and instead develop the courage to exercise our true creative potential.
This talk was first given at the 2016 Abstractions Conference.