When a creative individual masters one field, and then uses what they know to think about another, often truly original ideas–or mind-bending products–are the result. The story of Steve Jobs is a case in point.
The Apple CEO dropped out of Reed College, but he hung around campus for 6 months, often sleeping on the floors in dorms where his friends lived. Jobs used the time to attend classes that interested him. During one term, he took a calligraphy seminar, a subject wherein Reed College excelled.
Years later, when Jobs oversaw the design of the first iMac computer, he commented that all of the calligraphy instruction came back to him, so much so that he incorporated it into the iMac’s software. The end result was the development of the first computer to contain a variety of typefaces and proportionately spaced fonts, a hallmark of the Apple brand. Because Windows PC manufacturers’ copied many of Apple’s designs, had Jobs not dropped in on that class, none of today’s computers would have all of the exciting multiple typefaces.
Job’s innovativeness is shown in the progression of breakthrough Apple products: iMac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and now, the iPad. The original iPad came to US stores on April 3, 2010. In less than a year, it has reached $1 billion in revenue, an achievement that few products have ever attained.
Not content with resting on his laurels, Job’s spearheaded the re-design of the iPad. The new version, known as the iPad 2, is being released in stores today. As described in the New York Times, the salient design improvements include more thinness, less weight, more integration, greater beauty—and over 65,000 apps.
In conclusion, technological companies like Apple do require engineers who are experts in science and math. But creativity in product innovation is not based on science and math alone. As described in the book The World is Flat, creativity is about making connections between history, art, politics and science.
Are you a creative manager, designer or executive? How do you connect the dots?