Creativity = 1% Inspiration / 99% Perspiration

During a thoroughly enjoyable and uplifting “Innovation and Creativity day” at the Escuela de Organización Industrial, Madrid ( Rafael Arbide gave a presentation on the creativity and innovation process. His presentation in general, and specifically the approach for documenting, prioritising and tracking both problems and the solutions highlighted the fact that “Creativity = 1% Inspiration / 99% Perspiration” rule is all too valid.

As a concrete example llustration of that rule, I was reminded of an interview with David Gilmour, ex-guitarist with the legendary British rock band Pink Floyd. The Pink Floyd song Comfortably Numb from the album The Wall features on many lists as one of the best rock songs of all time and the long guitar solo at the end is regularly voted one of the best rock guitar solos of all time. We might be tempted to think that this solo was an inspirational piece of improvisation done in a moment and something that just flowed from David Gilmour’s guitar. In fact it was a clear example of inspiration/genius combined with a clear process and work. As David says:

“I just went out into the studio and banged out 5 or 6 solos. From there I just followed my usual procedure, which is to listen back to each solo and mark out bar lines, saying which bits are good. In other words, I make a chart, putting ticks and crosses on different bars as I count through: two ticks if it’s really good, one tick if it’s good and cross if it’s no go. Then I just follow the chart, whipping one fader up, then another fader, jumping from phrase to phrase and trying to make a really nice solo all the way through. That’s the way we did it on ‘Comfortably Numb.’ It wasn’t that difficult. But sometimes you find yourself jumping from one note to another in an impossible way. Then you have to go to another place and find a transition that sounds more natural.”

The chart and the ticking of the boxes exercise is very similar to the steps outlined by Rafael Arbide in his presentation.

In other words Creativity and Innovation = 1% Inspiration / 99% Perspiration and it needs a process.


Musical Brainstorming

Musical brainstorming – first quantity and then the quality. Bob Dylan describing his 20 pages of vomit that in the end became one of the best rock and roll songs ever:

…”…. this long piece of vomit, 20 pages long, and out of it I took ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ and made it as a single. And I’d never written anything like that before and it suddenly came to me that was what I should do … After writing that I wasn’t interested in writing a novel, or a play. I just had too much, I want to write songs.”

Quantity first … then quality