When I was at university, one of the topics that fascinated me was that of long-term business cycles. I was held in thrall by the theories of people like Kitchin, Juglar and Kondratieff. Particularly Kondratieff, whose Halley’s Comet-like long business cycles mystified and haunted me.
In turn, that passion for Kondratieff led to my spending some time reading the works of Joseph Schumpeter; I was introduced to the concept of creative destruction and, almost as a corollary, to the essays of Ronald Coase and his views on transaction costs. All of which really formed the foundation of my views on the theory of the firm, a lifelong passion of mine.
Many years later, it was with that perspective that I read Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma, and found similar themes playing out: the impossibility and yet the inevitability of creative destruction in the face of the established, the status quo.The idea wasn’t new, but the treatment was.
Some time before Schumpeter, Albert Einstein is reputed to have said “If at first an idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it”. A fine sentiment, serving to encourage many entering, with trepidation, their personal infernos of creativity, striving not to abandon hope.
It’s a punchy, concise book, containing 40 simple lessons, expertly articulated and deftly illustrated by Hugh’s trademark back-of-business-card cartoons. I’m loath to quote too much from it, I don’t want to spoil it for you. But here are some tasters:
“`Of course it was stupid. Of course it was not commercial. Of course it wasn’t going to go anywhere. Of course it was a complete waste of time. But in retrospect, it was this built-in futility that gave it its edge.”
“Your business card format is very simple. Aren’t you worried about somebody ripping it off?” “Only if they can draw more of them than me, better than me”.
“Your wee voice doesn’t want you to sell something. Your wee voice wants you to make something. Your wee voice doesn’t give a damn about publishers, venture capitalists or Hollywood producers. Go ahead and make something.”
There are a host of other gems: the warning that corporations attract “nonautonomous thinkers” who wander around in infinite loops of what-do-you-think, Baldrick-like in their lack of originality, their family brain cell paucity; the futility of trying to stand out in a crowd, the preference to avoid crowds altogether, evoking memories of Yogi Berra’s “Nobody goes there any more, it’s too crowded”.
And the powerful, powerful exhortation towards the end: “There is no silver bullet. There is only the love God gave you”.
Hooked? It’s a great little book, covering a lot of ground in a short space, applicable to a whole slew of professions: artist, writer, software developer, filmmaker, photographer….. and cubicle warrior. As long as there’s a creative urge in you, there’s good advice to be found in the book. A lovely little read, easy to absorb all the way through in a single sitting, yet suitable for delving into for little tidbits later.
So go ahead and buy the book, it’s due out Thursday.
And ignore Hugh Macleod. At your peril.
[Disclosure: I've known Hugh for a long time, I'm delighted to count him as a friend, and I am completely unashamed at giving the book such a glowing review. The book deserves it. Hugh deserves it.]