Creativity is all about combining what may seem like disconnected ideas and approaches and them making them your own.
In my career I've drawn on my experiences in the contrasting worlds of punk bands, chefs, and designers. Great insights, and different approaches to solving a problem, free your thinking and often spark that idea that makes all the difference.
Here's what you can learn from four of the greats:
1. Green Day doesn't fit in, neither should you
Back in the day, my band, Paxston Quiggly, opened for Green Day at a grimy club in the Bay Area. This was before Green Day broke big, but you could tell it was going to happen.
What their music and personalities shoved in your ears and your face, was a point of view that was uniquely theirs. You loved Green Day or hated them, mostly the latter, and it was because they charted a new course in the punk scene, veering from the over-serious, angry bands that came before them.
When I co-founded Plum Organics in 2007 I borrowed from the Green Day/punk rock playbook. We didn't care what had come before, we'd do it our way--a unique way. The baby food industry was filled with bland mushy peas. We called bull#$%@ on that, and dropped organic purple carrots and kale on the market. Our fans/customers followed.
Green Day had it right. Every band, every company has to take a stand and bring something different to the party. Occupy some marginal middle ground and you're toast, or some semblance of mushy peas.
2. Tesla started with a mission, not a price
When Tesla launched its first model, the Roadster, it didn't start with a price-point, it started with a mission: to prove that speed, style, and sustainability could live together in one vehicle. The Roadster wasn't close to cheap, at north of $100,000, but it sure was fun to drive straight past the gas station.
Tesla proved its point, and with each successive model of car, (notably the Model 3) is bringing that combination of speed, style, and sustainability to an ever-growing customer base.
The auto industry looked down its nose at Musk when Tesla took to the road. Global carmakers were convinced he would fail. He hasn't, and the rest of the world has been put on alert that a sense of vision and purpose and maybe a little naivety--trumps whatever institutional thinking has been passing for truth.
3. Method proved style could be mainstream
If you had told me my dish soap would become a thing of pride, an object of desire, I would have blown bubbles back at you through my laughter. Then Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan launched Method in 2001.
Turns out cleaning sprays and soap could be infused with natural essences of grapefruit and lemon, as well as style. The packaging--from the chess-piece shape and squeeze-action of the dish soap dispenser--screamed modernist design. And it was all yours for $5.
Style matters, and style can sell everything from iPhones to kitchen cleaners. Have a vision, design something spectacular, think about every facet and every detail (don't design by committee, I am all for design dictatorships), and you can produce an object of desire.
4. Alice Waters knew when to un-innovate
We were losing our way when it came to food, and Alice Waters, the maven of Chez Panisse and the standard bearer of the organic movement, brought us back. Some of us, at least. She did it by flipping so-called progress on its head.
Before Waters' influence, innovation in the food industry meant more ingredients we didn't need (or couldn't pronounce), more chemicals, and a cavalier attitude toward genetically modified organisms. Progress translated to low-fat, no-fat foods that had little or no nutritional value. Our food system became a logistics system, tuned for easier transport of goods, rather than producing products that would sustain people and our farms.
What Alice Waters did is un-innovate food. She reminded us that food in its most whole and truthful self is the innovation. I am not suggesting that we all grow our own food. But in the rush toward innovation, and our celebration of the worn-out mantra of "disruption," we need to look at what is true progress, what needs disruption (the auto industry à la Tesla), and what, like a perfect peach, is well, perfect.