Inside our Inbox: Carl Fritscher on Collaboration, Cities, and Creativity

The FUSE conference this year was particularly exciting– so much so, that our email and offices were abuzz with discussion of inspiration, curiosity, and information that was on the minds of our attendees. We thought an email from Carl Fritscher, our Director of Strategy and Innovation, to our team was a perfect window into one his inspiring experiences, a speech from Jonah Lehrer:

Hi all.

I had an opportunity to see Jonah Lehrer speak at the FUSE conference. Jonah wrote “How We Decide” (one of my favorites) and has a new book out “Imagine: How Creativity Works”. His speech was very interesting, allow me to share…

Basically, his premise starts with the belief that creativity is putting two things together to form a third, new, idea. He offers that most of the “low fruit” ideas have already been solved for and that the things that we are solving for today are much much harder than ever. And, today, we rely on other people to help us make connections. As evidence he put forward the observation that geniuses from the 19th century like Einstein and Darwin authored their scholarly articles themselves. Today, scholarly articles are authored by teams and that the size of the teams has doubled every 10 years or so. Then he offered an example of how Steve Jobs designed the Pixar office space to have only two restrooms in order to very purposefully force diverse people together regularly in the restrooms and in the long hallway walks that they have to get to the restrooms (Jobs observed that people don’t vary who they eat with or break with in other common areas).

Key takeaway: Organizations must encourage (force!) collaboration in order to be successful

Next, he discussed how cities are wonderfully creative places because they force people together. (Another book I highly recommend on the subject is Triumph of the City by Edward Glaeser). Then Jonah compared cities to companies. They have a lot in common but they have one big difference that leads to a very interesting reality: mayors can’t control residents’ actions, schedules, what they read or who they talk to. In contrast, companies, particularly big ones, prescribe all of those things. Cities are random and chaotic and that scares CEOs. So, the result is that cities become more productive as they grow and companies become less productive as they grow until they become too big to sustain themselves. His evidence is that the average life span of a Fortune 100 company is 45 years.

Key takeaway: There is great risk to successful entrepreneurial businesses as they grow or are bought by larger companies.

Fascinating food for thought.

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