Saturday, June 6, 2009


Because I have no downtime, I finally got around to reading Nicholas Davidoff's profile, "A Civil Heretic" of a hero of mine, Freeman Dyson, the philosopher, mathematician and physicist which appeared in The New York Times on March 29th. If you have the inclination to read 8,500 words, you can get the article here:

Dyson is 85 now and has been a noted, notorious, subversive thinker and doer for 65 years, so his accomplishments are legion and more than I will annotate here. But this sentence in Davidoff's article struck me especially: "Their father [Dyson], meanwhile, was always preaching the virtues of boredom: “Being bored is the only time you are creative” was his thinking."


That reminded me of something the great Jean Renoir said decades ago. I wrote about it 18 months ago in Ad Aged. "The foundation of all great civilization is loitering."

My point, as always I hope, is simple. If you are working on a detergent account, sometimes the best way to come up with a great creative solution is to listen to Mahler. To do something non-linear. To take a walk. To throw a ball. To tell a joke. To talk to a cab driver.

One of the fundamental stupidities of our advertising age is the Frederick Winslow Taylorism of creativity. That creativity, like building a toaster or digging a ditch, can be broken down into piece-parts and can, therefore, be billed accordingly.

Ideas don't happen this way.
Stop forcing serendipity into a spreadsheet.
They call the little boxes in spreadsheets "cells" for a reason.
Don't lock your brain, or your creative department in a prison.

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