I came across this book (A Perfect Mess) by Eric Abrahamson and loved the title. A Perfect Mess is what we need to be in order to be creative leaders in our industry. A perfect mess is planning, calculating and strategizing (perfect) combined with experimentation and exploration (mess). Many of us embrace perfection, however, few of us embrace imperfection.
We must plan, calculate and strategize in order to be successful; there is no other way around it. There is a lot of time and attention devoted to this and that is why I want to focus on the messy part of the process.
Experimentation and exploration are at the heart of the creative process. Our creative leaders (Chen, Bezos, Cook, Mayer, Whitman, Musk) in corporate America know the importance of the mess and allow it to happen. Specifically, they allow their employees to improvise and be free part of their work day which allows one to experiment and explore. Many would view this as unproductive and a waste of time, however, this is where creative seeds are planted.
For example, Steve Jobs purposefully had his employees engage in unplanned collaborations (improvise) throughout the day as a means of generating new ideas and practices for his companies. Unplanned collaborations are un-scripted; meaning individuals from different departments would share ideas, inspirations and different points of view with one another. Animators would talk to accountants, and computer programmers would talk to engineers as a way to get groups of people engaged who normally wouldn’t interact with one another during the course of a day.
It was this co-mingling of different perspectives and points of view that allowed creative seeds to be planted and innovation to take root at Apple and Pixar. Jobs would go on to say this is where the creative ideas came from (mess), not in the board room or meeting room that were scheduled and planned (perfect).