It’s easier to start from scratch than it is to get out of a creative rut. That’s because we know a lot more about what sparks creativity than we do about what blocks it. The Greeks believed that inspiration came to us through muses who literally visited us. Freud insisted that creativity was a kind of sublimation, a way of dealing with repressed inclinations. Jung theorized a collective unconscious, structures of mind that all people have in common. Today, psychologists like Kay Redfield Jamison describe creativity as a mood disorder, a mild form of madness.

We have countless answers to the question of what drives people to be creative, but the better, tougher–more elusive–question is its opposite: what stops people from being innovative? Why do so many of us have trouble overcoming creative dry spells? There are, of course, tons of studies attempting to address just that, yet many of them are biased by fundamental attribution errors. That is, these theories attempt to impose orderly patterns on complex, ineffable cognitive phenomena. For example, recent reports reverse-engineer the lives of geniuses like Einstein and Edison and identify the qualities that made them creative as symptoms of disorders like dyslexia. To attribute these late visionaries’ talents to psychological conditions is to suggest something improvable and to falsely assume causality. Further, it is to give a tidy explanation for what are, in actuality, the messy realities of the human mind. (more…)

Six presidential campaigns later, I’ve still got Bill Clinton’s iconic 1992 slogan running through my head: It’s the economy, stupid. But it’s not the economy that I’m thinking about–it’s corporate relocation that’s on my mind. What was so effective about Clinton’s irresistible one-liner is the way it redirected American attention. He not-so-politely told us that, when it came to diagnosing national unrest, we were getting it wrong.

Similarly, the press is missing the real issue when it comes to corporate relocations. Recent articles in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal highlight the stories of businesses moving headquarters domestically and internationally for tax concerns. While it’s certainly true that some companies are abandoning their states and the U.S. altogether to dodge taxes, the media is overstating the importance of these fiscally-motivated moves. (more…)

Breakthrough innovation typically starts at the edges of the bell curve in the challenge of a crisis or the prospect of an outstanding opportunity. This is because the risk of deviating from the standard way of doing things and the reward of taking a chance on something new is reversed in these extremely negative and positive situations. For example, the Apple we know today was born out of its near collapse in the late 1990’s and the Telsa we currently marvel at can do no wrong because the public adores its haute couture product.

Leading innovation is different than all other forms of governance in that it pulls the exceptions at the edges of the bell curve to the stable center in an attempt to bring useful novelty into the norm. In this way, innovation often incites commercial revolutions: ubiquitous connectivity replaces shopping malls and universities, smart gadgets replace billfolds and magazines, miracle drugs replace invasive surgeries and going to the gym, and the like. (more…)