Hypothesis: Naivety produces your best work.


This is something that interests me. The difference between the creative output of idealistic youth and unbridled passion vs. the calm focus of experience?

I had an idea that I haven’t yet go around to doing the research on, studying objects, architecture, industrial design, literature, images, films – that are inarguably ‘classic’ – and seeing where in the person’s career they occurred. 
Will I end up with the discography of Duran Duran, where nothing quite beat ‘This is Planet Earth’?
Or will Malcolm Gladwell’s 10 000 hours theory prove true.

My hunch is that ‘it’s never as good as the first time’ will mostly dominate. In fact, I recall John Taylor saying that they were a better band back then, as they simply didn’t have knowledge, so their music was simpler. Later on, they got into more sophisticated music because they could, but by then, the spirit was gone.
Not that Duran Duran should be held up as the epitome of this.

If this is the case, as creatives, we should be constantly putting ourselves in situations where we’re back in the apprenticeship stage, reapplying our curiosity to new outputs, but drawing on our collective ‘creative’ experience. 

I invite anyone who has their own theory on the matter to jump in and give me some examples. 


4 thoughts on “Hypothesis: Naivety produces your best work.

  1. Hi Julian, I agree with you. I reckon there’s a lot of good stuff to be said about being ‘young and stupid’. I recently read an article where the author was talking about expertise being the driver of innovation. I actually challenge that. With expertise, you can become encumbered by protocol and sometimes invisible barriers. It’s easy to subscribe to the laws of whatever you’re doing (even if the laws are unwritten ones).

    I think there’s more chance of breaking through innovation barriers when you simply don’t know they exist.
    It’s for this reason I purposely try not to get bogged down in the technical aspects of digital stuff – I prefer the approach of asking an expert, ‘It would be good if we could do this. Is there a way you make it happen?’
    Age isn’t necessarily the driver of this type of approach, but there’s certainly a strong correlation between age and naivety.


    1. Totally agree. The concept of the uncarved block comes to mind. Tao of Pooh and Te of Piglet. Great read. You don’t know, what you don’t know. And in the creative process, this is important.
      But where engineering is concerned, the ability to build something better through experience and leverage, as opposed to the more naive state, where you don’t know what you can’t build.
      Sort of suggests that we need to be careful of the two skills downward equalizing and producing a bland end result.
      I’ve noticed this happening unfortunately. The egalitarianism can lead to a leaderless situation. And an uninspiring product.


  2. Hey, that reminds me of this article (also by Malcolm Gladwell, inevitably) which theorises two kinds of creativity – conceptual and experimental.

    Conceptual creativity is the kind that can produce incredible breakthroughs, naivety notwithstanding (eg Picasso. Or Duran Duran for that matter.) But the other kind of creativity is slow-burn, sort of iterative and exploratory, and usually takes decades to get where it’s going.

    The full essay’s here – http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/10/20/081020fa_fact_gladwell – pretty interesting really…


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