Saturday, May 26, 2018

The creative process lollipop chart

Stefanie Posavec came up with this brilliant 'chart' to illustrate the creative process of coming up with a great idea.

It reminds me of a story of this Brazilian band (Paralamas do Sucesso), when the lead singer/composer was asked about their success. Long time ago a journalist asked him: "When a band releases a new album, they usually get one maybe two songs in the top hits. How come you get so many top hits for every new album you release after so many years on the road?". His secrete, his said, was that every day he would write the lyrics of a new song. It took a lot of discipline, for sure, but at the end of the year he would have more than 300 songs. Most of them would suck, of course, but certainly a few would be good material that could be worked further.

Ok, I don't remember the exact words of the dialogue, but you get the idea. And frankly, I think that's a good advice for young researchers looking for good research questions. Read a lot of papers so you have an informed understanding of what are the knowledge gaps in your field. Then put yourself to ask as many questions as you can think of and write them down without censoring yourself. At some point you will have many questions (20? 50?). Revisit your list of questions after a few weeks and some more reading. You'll realize most of them won't work. Some are too ambitious, some have been answered already, some are just not that relevant etc. Once you have three or four questions that sound reasonably good, it's time to do more reading and to discuss these questions with more experienced mentors/supervisors/friends. Remember to be humble.

"You ask me if I keep a notebook to record my great ideas. I've only ever had one." (Albert Einstein )

The bottom line is this: