27 Insights About Creativity That Every Entrepreneur Should Read

Malcolm Gladwell

Photo: Nina Walia via flickr

Innovation is a buzzword businesspeople can’t live without, but over the years, its meaning has gotten lost in the abyss of business jargon.We’ve compiled 27 great quotes from some of the world’s most creative minds — and some recently departed  ones — about what innovation really means and how we can bring it out.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO, Facebook

'We used to write this down by saying, 'move fast and break things.' And the idea was, unless you are breaking some stuff you are not moving fast enough.

'I think there's probably something in that for other entrepreneurs to learn which is that making mistakes is OK. At the end of the day, the goal of building something is to build something, not to not make mistakes.'

From a 2010 interview with Business Insider

Malcolm Gladwell, author and social scientist

'In order to get one of the greatest inventions of the modern age, in other words, we thought we needed the solitary genius. But if Alexander Graham Bell had fallen into the Grand River and drowned that day back in Brantford, the world would still have had the telephone, the only difference being that the telephone company would have been nicknamed Ma grey, not Ma Bell.'

From his 2008 New Yorker article 'In The Air'

Lady Gaga, performer and artist

Marissa Mayer, VP, Google

Seth Godin, author and entrepreneur

'Where do you put the fear when you choose to innovate? The fear is there, but you have to find a place to put it.'

From the 2010 World Innovation Forum

Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School professor

'Innovation almost always is not successful the first time out. You try something and it doesn't work and it takes confidence to say we haven't failed yet. … Ultimately you become commercially successful.'

From a 2008 interview with HSM Global

Tony Fadell, founder, Nest

'I'm always doubtful. Everything I do is always doubtful. When you're trying to differentiate, there's going to be this gut sense, is this right? If you're not having doubt, then you're not pushing it hard enough, or you're not looking at the details close enough. You need to be feeling that doubt every single day.'

From his 2012 presentation at the Behance conference

Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook

'What Mark worries about the most is the lack of change, the lack of innovation, becoming the innovator's dilemma company that gets big and stops moving and stops staying ahead.'

From Henry Blodget's interview with Sandberg at Business Insider's 2012 Ignition Conference

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO, Amazon

Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief, Vogue

'It's always about timing. If it's too soon, no one understands. If it's too late, everyone's forgotten.'

Nathan Myhrvold, CEO, Intellectual Ventures

'We live in a society where technology is a very important force in business, in our daily lives. And all technology starts as a spark in someone's brain. An idea of something that didn't exist before, that once they have invented it --brought it into existence -- could change everything. And that activity is generally one that's not very well supported.'

From a 2010 interview with Harvard Business Review

Jonah Lehrer, author and journalist

'Grit is often the single-most predictor of success. Grit is not just about stubborn persistence. It's also about choosing the right goal in the first place. The unfortunate reality is that it's not all going to happen. How can we make sure all our struggle and sacrifice will be worth it? Make sure it passes the underwear test.'

From his 2012 presentation at the Behance 99% conference on creativity

Peter Thiel, investor, VC and hedge fund manager

'To understand businesses and startups in 2012, you have to do the truly contrarian thing: you have to think for yourself. The question of what is valuable is a much better question than debating bubble or no bubble. The value question gets better as it gets more specific: is company X valuable? Why? How should we figure that out? Those are the questions we need to ask.'

From student notes of his CS183 class at Stanford

J.K. Rowling, author

'Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared.'

From a 2008 commencement speech at Harvard University

Ben Silbermann, founder, Pinterest

'I think anyone who makes products has this simultaneous joy and, almost, shame looking at it. You look at it all day and all you can see is all these things you want to make better.'

From a 2012 interview with Inc.

David Brooks, New York Times columnist

Scott Berkun, author

'The refrigerator, the laser, and the dishwasher were disasters for decades before enough of the cultural and technological barriers were eliminated through various insights, transforming the products into true business innovations.

'Big thoughts are fun to romanticize, but it's many small insights coming together that bring big ideas into the world.'

From his 2007 book 'The Myths of Innovation'

Jean Oelwang, CEO, Virgin Unite

Ralph Lauren, fashion designer

'At some point in my long relationship and love of cars, I became aware of a powerful degree of admiration for these highly creative individuals such as Ettore Bugatti and Enzo Ferrari, and David Brown at Aston Martin and Jaguar's William Lyons. These men were spiritually connected to the cars they were developing.

'They were their brands. Their origins were based in something I look on or beyond as exciting sensibility. And that 'exciting sensibility' is an important part of what it takes to make people connect with what these automotive innovators were creating.

Peter Drucker, author and management consultant

Gary Hamel, founder, Strategos

'In the age of revolution it is not knowledge that produces new wealth, but insight -- insight into opportunities for discontinuous innovation. Discovery is the journey; insight is the destination. You must become your own seer.

James Dyson, founder, Dyson

'It's the unlikely juxtaposition of creativity and logic which causes the wooliness and confusion around the term 'innovation'. Everybody wants to be innovative; many companies and ideas are proclaimed to be innovative and no one doubts that innovation is a money spinner.

'And, thus, we are all looking for the magic formula. Well, here you go: Creativity + Iterative Development = Innovation.'

From a 2005 column in Innovation

Meg Wheatley, author and management consultant

'Innovation is fostered by information gathered from new connections; from insights gained by journeys into other disciplines or places; from active, collegial networks and fluid, open boundaries.

'Innovation arises from ongoing circles of exchange, where information is not just accumulated or stored, but created. Knowledge is generated anew from connections that weren't there before.'

From her 2001 book 'Leadership and the New Science'

Yvon Chouinard, founder, Patagonia

'Doing risk sport had taught me another important lesson: never exceed your limits. You push the envelope and you live for those moments when you're right on the edge, but you don't go over. You have to be true to yourself; you have to know your strengths and limitations and live within your means.

Ron Johnson, CEO, JCPenney

David Ogilvy, former chairman, Ogilvy & Mather

'In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. Management cannot be expected to recognise a good idea unless it is presented to them by a good salesman.'

From the 1989 book 'Confessions of an Advertising Man'

Steve Jobs, former CEO, Apple

'Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.'

From a 1998 interview with Fortune

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