Innovation can be bred: Google creativity head
By Edwin Yapp April 8, 2016
- ‘Yes, and’ instead of a ‘Yes, but’ attitude to spur creativity
- Goal is to move towards 10x thinking, make impactful changes
INNOVATION and creativity may not come naturally to everyone but that doesn't mean it cannot be fostered, encouraged and developed, according to the head of innovation and creativity programmes at Google Inc.
According to Dr Frederik Pferdt (pic above), if it were just left to innovative and creative people to think up new ideas, companies such as Google, Tesla Motors Inc, Uber Technologies Inc, and Airbnb Inc would not have innovated and challenged existing paradigms.
Speaking during a media tour of Google’s campus in Mountain View, California on the sidelines of Google’s Next Cloud Platform Global User Conference 2016 (GCP 2016), Pferdt says that “extreme ideas” such as Google’s own desire to ‘download the Internet’ gave rise to the US tech giant’s mission to organise the world’s information.
Airbnb, Tesla, and Uber have disrupted and challenged the status quo in the hospitality, automotive and transportation sectors respectively – they dared to dream beyond the conventional, and their efforts have led to real change in the world, he argues.
According to Pferdt, the three companies above began by asking “What if ...?”
Tesla asked, “What if we could build a car that runs only on batteries?” Airbnb asked “What if we could give everybody a home on the planet?” Uber asked, “What if we can build a transportation company without owning any taxis?”
Meanwhile, Google’s founders asked, “What if we can download the Internet and make all the information accessible to everyone?”
Pferdt currently leads a team which leverages what Google calls ‘10x’ thinking to build an innovation culture. His mandate in Google as its de facto chief innovation officer is to train people on how to build a better future through technology.
Originally from Germany, he is the cofounder of ‘The Garage’ at Google and runs its Creative Skills for Innovation Lab. He also lectures at Stanford University.
Apart from asking ‘what if’ questions to spur creativity, it is also important to have a positive mindset instead of a negative one, says Pferdt.
Arguing that there are too many people today who have negative mindsets, he says that these are the kinds of people who often regard new ideas with a ‘yes, but’ instead of a ‘yes, and’ mentality.
People with a ‘yes, but’ approach effectively have a mindset resistant to new ideas, and this discourages creativity; while the ‘yes, and’ attitude is the basis of ‘10x’ thinking that is practised at Google.
In a nutshell, ‘10x’ thinking encourages staff to try and improve any idea by a factor of 10 times instead of just by 10% or 20%.
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