Innovation, rebellion or “the next big thing” – whatever you call it, it seems architects and designers are eternally on the hunt for the idea that will put them on the map: the original thought that is fully and unarguably theirs. In this essay by Isaac Asimov, written in 1959 but only recently published on Technology Review, the scientist and writer poses the question: how do people get new ideas? Though originally written to provoke scientists and engineers working on defense systems, the thoughts and contributions serve as a gentle reminder to all creative classes, of the role of collaboration, play and failure in the design process.
The stereotype of the lone genius in design is a familiar one: brooding, dark and mysterious, or perhaps eccentric and difficult to understand. The role of this “genius” and, by comparison, the value of collaborative work is called into question many times in Asimov’s essay. Is a single, brilliant mind in isolation more effective than the group effort? Asimov poses a more complicated response, illustrating the too common problem of the over-powering genius silencing others, and more poignantly, the embarrassment of constant failure in the creative process.
With the architect under critical fire on all sides, the importance of allowing foolishness, joking and play in the collaborative process that is re-iterated here cannot be stressed enough. Asimov explains how the cross-pollination of ideas is an invaluable tool, but one which is often nulled with the pressures of appearing intelligent or deserving of one’s payroll.
Read the whole article on Technology Review here.