Creative thinking

Being ‘a creative’ doesn’t only come with the arrogance to call yourself such, but also the occasional odd feeling of delightful envy, when you come across someone else’s creation which you know you would never have come up with. Especially when the end result seems so obvious and simple. 

Ideas like Uber don’t fit into this category, being the kind of app that I bet everyone thinks is obvious. The kind of thing that feels inevitable, that someone just beat you to, rather than they were genius in coming up with. 

But the original iPhone, the design of the Brompton, or the work of Piet Hein Eek (all in their original historical context) are for me examples of ideas which I believe I would never had come up with, given the same inspiration and inputs as their creators did at the time.

The iPhone for example: I had owned a mobile phone for 8 years, I had seen the Jeff Han multitouch TED talk, I had used Mac’s for nearly 15 years, and I’ve even been a Hitchhikers Guide and Star Trek fan (both which fictional universes feature hand held all knowing touch screen like devices), but nowhere in my mind had I composed anything like the iPhone before seeing it 2007. Instead, to this day I am left kicking myself, trying to reverse engineer why I didn’t have the idea, in hope to hone my creative skill.

Similarly so, though on a far smaller and more obscure level, I have endlessly reverse engineered a YouTube video that I first saw in 2008, in hope to understand (and replicate) the ingenious creative connections that were combined to create it. As an experiment for you reading this now, I’ll give you hints and ingredients before sharing the video, to see if you get close to having the idea before seeing it. 

1. Ingredients: One Technics 1210 deck. A stapler. Some unused animation cels. Some Tipp-Ex. A black pen. And some scissors. Add some paper and sticky tape as well if you like.


What could you do with all this? Any ideas? Have a think. They are objects you are likely to have encountered hundreds of times before. Maybe not the Technics or the animation cels, but you get the idea of them. The deck spins and the cels are clear plastic. Anything yet? OK.

2. Animation hint. Think animation. Perhaps obviously, but just in case you were trying to be clever and not think of the obvious. This is supposed to be an amazing idea after all. 

Anything now?

3. Record speed hint: When you change the speed of a 1210 record deck, that red light in the bottom left corner helps you visualise the varying speed of the spin, reflecting off the little silver dots. The other little light more toward the centre bottom is to help you see where the needle is when it’s all dark (these are DJ decks after all, for playing in dark places, not well lit lounges or studios).

Getting there? For me, knowing what I’m getting at, it’s seeming totally obvious now, but I’d wager it’s still not clear to you. The stapler for example, what’s that for?! Maybe you’re close though, given all the hints I’ve given, along with the exact ingredients all together in one picture, but whatever you’re thinking, hold on it while watching this video and see if you share in the delighted audience noises that start around 40-45 seconds. 

Go here to watch (as the embedded video still gives the game away too soon).

Did you get there? Honestly? Perhaps you animated something on the deck, but did you imagine it upright, like a group of real little people jumping into the air? And the hurdles? If so, either way, isn’t it even more amazing when pass the parcel starts! Another mind blowingly effective little idea. Genius. At least I think so. I so wish I had come up with the idea and feel proper love and envy toward Jim for doing it. How about you? Maybe I bigged it up too much, maybe you found it obvious, maybe we work in different ways. Whatever the case, the exercise of honestly considering why you didn’t come up with someone else’s idea is a good one I think. Humbling and educational. And hopefully delightful.