Combing through our Most Creative People of the year list, you can see that technologists, performers, and interviewers all have a masterful command of conversation—here are three examples of how they do it, and what it means for work, innovation, and, of course, creativity.
If you remember, Apple booted Google's Maps from iOS last year, ushering in the dark age of Apple Maps. This made Google redo their own iOS app—one that kicked Apple's ass on its own turf. Daniel Graf led that team, one which followed Google's new imperative to make beautiful, functional products—and make the best maps experience ever created. As he tells us, a daily conversation was critical to the process:
"We had design reviews every single day, down to the pixel. Everyone in the room, from the product team to the design team, would discuss features. At first you might think, What a waste of time. But that hour a day is the reason why, when you read the reviews and use it yourself, the product seems so polished."
That's the lesson here: since a product like Maps draws on so many disciplines, you need to get those teams together to confer. Just make sure you do the proper, Bonsai-style preparation—and capture all the value that's created.
Connie Britton, the firebrand lead on Nashville, isn't afraid to speak her—and her character's—mind. One of the jobs of an actor, Britton says, is to help writers "deepen" the portrayal of the character. After her co-star Charles Esten complained about his character getting a tone-deaf line or two, she told the same to him:
"I said, 'Of course they want to hear that from you; you're here representing this character.'" Anything change? "He's a regular. He's having long conversations with the writers."
That's a bold kind of honesty—and it's one of the habits of the Most Creative People.
When you're talking to someone, listen closely. Marc Maron, who hosts the ridiculous(ly wonderful) interview podcast WTF, says that he "can't really detach" when he's speaking with sludgerock legends or deadpan masters—we imagine he's not thumbing at his phone the whole time. It's not that the interviews go off script, he says, it's that there's nothing resembling a script:
"I don’t make a list of questions. Ever. I think a lot of my interviews are driven by my need to feel connection. You listen and when you hear intonations, you hear feelings. It’s just feeling where there’s something more, getting them to a place that they’re not usually."
Why's this helpful? As we've talked about before, creativity often springs from joining two or more previously unrelated ideas—and a wandering conversation like the kind Maron talks about is a fine way to serendipitously uncover those connections.