Saturday, June 28, 2014

Moments of Conception 035 -- Moneyball

All creativity begins with the moment of conception.

That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.

And so, in this new blog series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.

Today's clip comes from the whiteboard scene in Moneyball:



What can we learn?

The user experience for creativity. Pete converted his dark, stale basement office into an inspiring, personalized and prolific command center. Dry erase boards covered with undecipherable equations, walls collaged with sports page clippings, sticky notes scribbled with algorithms and computer screens sprawling with code and spreadsheets. Forget about the baseball diamond, this is his home turf. His territory. His war room. His creative nirvana where utopia truly manifests itself. Billy may feel overwhelmed when he walks in the door, staring blankly at the surrounding, but not Pete. In this space, he has the home field advantage. And that’s why his message is received. It’s a beautiful lesson about the power of context. Pete proves that our primary creative environment is what becomes the structural asset for creating our ideas, and the user experience for communicating them ideas. Are you cultivating the optimal conditions to make your creative process happen?

Seek out unoccupied channels. Originality comes from tapping into unexpected venues as rich areas to mine for inspiration. Viewing everything around you is a point of connection with crossover usefulness. As my mentor once said, the whole world is your rhetorical toolbox. Pete’s version of this is discovering a sanctuary of defective, unwanted, overlooked and undervalued ball players. The island of misfit toys. The place where no one measures up to conventional expectations. But rather than ignoring the players that most teams don’t like, he transforms brokenness into beauty. He sees disturbing or unwanted things as potentially meaningful and becomes enriched by things people normally treat as garbage. Pete exemplifies the practice of deep democracy, meaning, treating everything you encounter with fundamental affirmation and radical acceptance. Baseball players may be his currency, but the larger creative principle still applies: With the right mindset, anyone can discover a river that hasn’t been fished. Are you trying to change nature or follow it?

Objectify your process. Pete writes a code that builds in all the intelligence he has to project players and get things down to one number. Namely, on base percentage. This is a brilliant strategy for baseball, as it allows him to assemble a team of undervalued players with high potential, despite hamstrung finances. But it’s also a smart approach to being an artist. Some creators call it their critical number, their prolificacy equation, their daily mission piece, or their opportunity filter. The name doesn’t really matter. The point is to boil your work down to one thing. Something clean and simple and easy to calculate. A shorthand that triggers an entire world. A proxy that does the heavy lifting for you. That way you can focus on creating. For example, every time somebody reaches out, requesting my service, participation, resources, time, talent or money, I always ask the same question. Is this an opportunity, or an opportunity to be used? That’s my one thing. It’s a boundary setting technique, and it’s saved me thousands of hours of frustration, kept me focused and prolific and helped me stay profitable over the long term. What’s your critical number?

What's your favorite movie moment?