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  • Steve Jobs and Manifestation of Creative Genius

    Post by : expatree

(Originally posted on October 21, 2011)

Steve Jobs - Eyes of a genius


Apple logo - Steve Jobs tribute

This month witnessed the passing of legend in the world of technology. Steve Jobs possessed rare combination of charisma, technological  prowess and aesthetic consciousness that made Apple products irresistible and revolutionized the way we used technology. However, more significant than any of these other traits, it was Jobs’ creative genius that allowed him to stand above his peers. While Jobs and Apple were not the first to develop the personal computer or portable MP3 player, the ability to visualize a world in which such products could be sleek, intuitive and user-friendly enabled the firm to successfully bring such technologies to the adoring masses.

Reflecting upon the life of Steve Jobs allows us to pose a number of interesting questions. Where does creative genius come from? Is it genetic or a product of environment? There is a large body of scientific research on what makes a genius, with no definitive consensus. Despite years of brain-imaging studies, scientists have as to date been unable to define the circuitry responsible for creative thinking. A study on Albert Einstein’s brain conducted by Sandra Witelson and her colleagues found an evidence of early development of the posterior parietal lobes, which are responsible for the integration of sensory information from various parts of the body. Although conclusive answers are hard to come by, the ability to amalgamate such information may be advantageous in taking a perceptive approach the problems.


Young Steve jobs - 80's

Nancy Andreasen of the University of Iowa, who has studied brain imaging of various artists and scientists, has found that creativity rarely follows a prescribed cognitive and is often generated spontaneously. Her work with brain imaging indicates that creativity is often an organic and subconscious, rather than conscious, process. However, Andreasen’s research has indicated a number of other less-auspicious parallels between creativity and Schizophrenia, affective illness (particularly bipolar disorder), and other mental illnesses, rendering the phenomenon of creative genius both a blessing and a curse.

Yet the creativity of Steve Jobs differed markedly from that others typically considered creative geniuses, such as writers and artists. Jobs possessed a unique ability to take products for which the technology already existed and envisage the ways in which consumers would actually use them.

True to Picasso’s aphorism that “good artists copy, great artists steal,” Jobs did not simply duplicate existing products and technologies, but appropriated them for use in a sleek and user-friendly manner. Unlike artists and writers, the creative success of Steve Jobs was not about letting one’s creative juices flow in an unconstrained manner, but about channeling his energies toward anticipating the emotional needs of society. His work at Apple embodied the Wayne Gretzky maxim,“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

Jobs’s rich tapestry of life experiences gave him a unique human pathos that could be directed toward an inventive view of the marketplace. He was adopted as an infant by a machinist who taught him rudimentary electronics and mechanics at an early age. Having dropped out of  Reed College after one semester, Jobs continued to audit courses while sleeping on a friend’s floor and taking free meals at the local Hari Krishna temple. He later took a pilgrimage to India in search of spiritual enlightenment, experimenting with LSD and other hallucinogens. He later remarked that those who have not taken LSD could not appreciate his thought process. Collectively, such experiences made thinking outside the box a matter of principle for Jobs, something quite noteworthy as we look to the future.

Although the jury is still out on the cognitive processes through which creative genius is manifested, the incredible story of Steve Jobs is instructive on a number of levels. We can see that creativity is rarely a function of any conscious effort or ideally designed environment. It is an organic experience and comes from an imprecise confluence of factors. It involves disengaging from our conscious control of reason and logic and letting loose mentally and emotionally. It was the emotion appeal, after all, that allowed the iPod to surpass its rivals. Thus, for all of the aspiring creative geniuses out there, although innate cognitive ability may be part of the puzzle, releasing one’s inhibitions to think outside the box may be just as important.


Thomas Mehaffy
for Expatree

Date:2012-07-02 15:32:52
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