April 14, 2023

Being the finest versus being the first


Shakespeare’s writing does almost nothing for me.

Reading his work or watching his plays is laborious, unrelatable and too complicated for my brain to comprehend. Those damn sentences hurt my brain and frankly, are not worth my time and energy.

However, you don’t have to like something to appreciate that it’s there. There’s no relationship between affinity and value.

Shakespeare may be dreadful for me to read, but one trait of the artist that’s undeniable is, the man had one hell of a vocabulary. Literature scholars show the great bard used about twenty thousand words in his plays and poems, and more importantly, he is credited with the invention of eighteen hundred terms that are still used in language today.

Do the math, and that’s roughly one out of every twelve words.

He just invented them. Out of thin air. Shakespeare coined more new words than any writer in history.

That level of verbal prodigiousness is inspiring to me. Because it’s the epitome of what being an artist is about.

Technical proficiency isn’t impressive, that’s just a skill. Any idiot can learn how to be an effective creator. But the true mark of greatness is when someone makes up an original style that’s all their own. That’s the kind of person audiences and companies want to align with.

If you’re delivering innovative work, people will want to be a part of what you’re doing creatively. Art is more than the force of the message, but the fearlessness in inventing whole new ways of creating it.

Don’t worry about being the finest, but being the first. Inventing the category of which you are the standard bearer.

Now, the classic debate is, what qualifies someone’s work as being innovative? Do we simply know it when we see it, or are there any specific originality metrics?

Dartmouth researchers published a fascinating study on progressive idea generation, and it lends perspective to this issue. Participants were asked to develop concepts for one of two new products, alarm clocks or litter grabbers. The originality of each idea was decided by the rater’s perception using the five point scale, with the following categories.

Common, somewhat interesting, interesting, very interesting and innovative.

These levels are a helpful start for evaluation, but the metrics get even more granular with the questions judges ask about the level of originality. Think about how these metrics might apply to your own products.

*Does the creative product embody any features or solutions that are different from current market products?

*Does the creative product embody features or solutions that extend beyond current products?

*Are the new features at a system level where the entire concept is integrated around those innovations?

*Is the concept so unique that it is unlikely to be seen again?

By keeping these metrics in the back of your mind, it will become easier for you to make up an original style that’s all your own.

Yes, outright invention is hard. We can’t all just invent thousands of words that get assimilated into the national lexicon.

Achieving the nirvana of newness, reaching the nadir of knownness, it’s not for the faint of heart.

Shakespeare even said that the course of true love never does run smooth.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not a path worth taking.

Are you trying to be the finest at what many do, or the first at what you do?