Giants Like Geniuses Are A Myth

The Colossus sometimes called the giant was painted by Francisco Goya painted 1808-1812

I was recently asked by a young designer about who it was I look to for inspiration or as an example for leadership.

In business, when I started my career, it was was my father. Being an Executive who worked with Stephen Covey and other thought leaders in his day – I learned most of the business frameworks that built the Fortune 500 companies before leaving for University.

In the tech world it was the countless number of speakers and thought leaders that lead the design world from 2000 – 2010.

As I thought further, I shared that most of my inspiration today comes from reading about concepts, disciplines, and autobiographies outside of the design world.

This has allowed me to frame both problems and solutions without focusing on terms and outputs that fail to generate a shared understanding with executives and other disciplines.

I argued that much of what I grew up viewing as creative work has been replaced by data models, frameworks, and linear thinking.

After nearly two decades of consuming hundreds of books and countless articles, interviewing over 200 thought leaders via podcasting… replication and repetition – or variations on a few themes – became apparent across disciplines.

Success and “better” is measured almost exclusively today by data, even though mixed methods of research have proven to produce a broader (more complete) understanding of what’s true from those engaging with whatever is built.

But that perspective doesn’t make me right. In fact, I’m not out to prove to anyone that I’m right and they are wrong. I want people to discuss ideas and consider possibilities. That is the new perspective I’ve adopted on being creative, today.

If many [product] companies aren’t being creative from my definition, then I’ve learned to adapt and engage with people with whom I disagree on what defines “better”.

I don’t dig in and argue my point. I work at attempting to move the discussion to a space of debate. That level of discussion, however, is only possible if I can share ideas in favour of their perspective as passionately as I do for my own.

If not, then the perspective I hold is incredibly narrow knowing I should consider the possibility that I am not, in fact, standing on the shoulders of giants.

If everybody sees further because they are standing on the shoulders of giants, then there are no giants, just a tower of people each standing on the shoulders of one another. Giants, like geniuses, are a myth. …If it was not until [50,000] years ago that our transition to Homo sapiens sapiens – creative people – was complete, then everything we make is built upon [2,000] generations of human ingenuity. WE do not see further because of giants. WE see further because of [not in spite of] generations.

Paul Zikopoulos