Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Not smart, just persistent (or stubborn?)

Today's quote from the MBA Depot Weekly Content Alert is from the Harvard Business Review, specifically an article by Roderick Gillkey and Clint Kilts:

Ambitious people don't like failing or looking stupid. As the social scientist Chris Argyris (one of the fathers of organizational-learning theory) put it, smart people have trouble learning because it involves so much floundering and failure.

After reading the quote, I immediately thought of an article on creativity that I read earlier this year in How Design, What Kind of Creative Are You?: A Theory on Creativity by Doug White. White writes about a theory proposed by a University of Chicago professor of economics, David W. Galenson. "[Galenson] posits that experimental innovators (old masters) work by trial and error and make their major contributions late in their careers, while conceptual innovators (young geniuses) have flashes of brilliance and enjoy major artistic breakthroughs at young ages."

In the entire, Galenson said, "Experimental people improve with experience and should be concerned with using the skills they have acquired over time. ... Their greatest successes are the result of long periods of gradual improvement of their skills and accumulation of expertise. Persistence in following a line of research is a virtue for experimental innovators, even when others may perceive this as stubbornness.

It is crucial for experimental artists and scholars to recognize what their skills are, so they can select new problems that are sufficiently similar in structure or substance to the techniques they have developed and the knowledge they have acquired in the past. ... [E]xperimentalists have to resist the temptation to try to compete with conceptual practitioners of their own disciplines by changing problems frequently. If they persist, they may find that their reward is a growing mastery of their work."

If you're interested in art and in creativity, I recommend checking out Galenson's books: