This week I started watching season 2 of Abstract on Netflix.
I really loved the episode about Neri Oxman who leads the MIT Media Lab. One thing about that episode has really captured my imagination over the past few days: It is the model Neri Oxman proposes to describe the relationship between Science, Engineering, Design and Art.
Like so many things in our reductionist industrial culture of the 20th century, we tend to think of these as separate disciplines. Neri provides an elegant model describing the connection, even the process of moving from one discipline to another…
In the Abstract episode, Neri explains,
Picasso started the cubist movement, Einstein the general theory of relativity. Both were asking questions about space and time. One expressed himself through painting and sculpture, the other through a mathematical theorem. But they were both questioning the world around us.
Usually Art is for expression, Science is for exploration, Engineering is for invention and Design is for communication. Why can’t we take these four domains and think of them like a clock… where you are constantly shifting from one domain to another. And the input for one domain becomes the output for another
Science converts information into knowledge
Engineering converts knowledge into utility
Design converts utility into cultural behavior in context
Art takes that cultural behavior and questions our perception of the world
There is a flow of information, a flow of creativity that happens across all disciplines…
And if you believe in the Cinderella moment, look at 12 o’clock… In that place, the midnight hour… is where Picasso meets Einstein. Art meets science, changes in our perception affect the way we capture data … And it can only happen if you believe in magic … it can only happen if you suspend your disbelief.
Entrepreneurs have a well-developed muscle for suspending disbelief. And I think the cycle of creativity described by Oxman is what happens for entrepreneurs. In fact, the literal translation of word entrepreneur is to “take between”. It implies that an individual takes the risk of investing without a certain outcome. I now think it also describes an entrepreneur’s ability to take risks – suspending their disbelief – as they move between disciplines to create utility and art … as well as move between customers, markets and partners to make profits.
- Take their view of the world and scientifically develop that information into knowledge
- Take their knowledge and engineer it into utility in their products and services
- Take the utility of their products and services and design usage and adoption that changes cultural behavior (think of your smartphone)
- And ultimately question their perception of the world as they exercise the art of taking what they’ve learned and iterating or pivoting to new ideas, opportunities and development of new products.
I think the Cycle of Creativity model is useful for entrepreneurs to assess where they are in their innovation and go-to-market process. It helps us to think about who we might partner with to leverage expertise in certain domains. As we grow our companies, it also helps us think about structure… Do we have the right people in the right seats? Do their roles enhance our ability to move between domains like clockwork?
What do you think? Are there other ways the Cycle of Creativity model helps describe your entrepreneurial experience?