“If you look at 4 year olds, they are constantly asking questions and wondering how things work. But by the time they are 6 ½ years old they stop asking questions because they quickly learn that teachers value the right answers more than provocative questions.”
This is quote from Professor Hal Gregorson of the business school INSEAD, in a new Harvard Business Review article titled, “How do Innovators Think”. The author Bronwyn Fryer is discussing the findings of a a six-year study, conducted by Gregorson and Professor Dyer of Brigham Young, surveying 3,000 creative executives and conducting an additional 500 individual interviews. During this study they found five “discovery skills” that distinguish them.
They list these skills as,
Associating – The ability to link seemingly unrelated questions, problems, or ideas
Questioning – The ability to ask, “what if”, “why”, and “why not”
Observation – The ability to see details, especially the details of people’s behavior
Experimentation – The interest in “trying on new worlds and exploring new worlds”
Networking – The ability to network with other smart people who they may have little in common with
Professor Dyer suggests that the most important of these skills is “associating”, “because new ideas aren’t created without connecting problems or ideas in ways that they haven’t been connected before. The other behaviors are inputs that trigger associating–so they are a means of getting to a creative end. They end with the suggestion that the sum of all these skills is fundamental “inquisitiveness”.
One of the things we as package designers must always do is keep asking questions, not just creating beautiful answers. It makes you wonder whether the best creative presentations, and frankly the best creative development processes as a whole, might be the ones that ask the most beautiful questions of our clients, and not just show them what we think are the the most beautiful answers. The final solutions might be richer and more surprising.
On a personal note, I think that is what this blog is doing for me. It keeps the inquisitive tool sharp.
Photo above is from the the Davis Food Coop web site.