Brands aren’t grown in labs

CHANGI AIRPORT, SINGAPORE – It’s said that the best tightrope walkers refuse to use a safety harness. This is because they insist on knowing that they, and only they themselves, can be relied upon to save them in a fall. The device itself is counter-productive; and, in fact, it can fail.

Great creative work is similar. It exists in that indefinable area between the Humanities and Science. For the scientific method, if not Science, will always seek to deliver predictable, reproducible results. Good if you want to boil a kettle of water, but a lot less so if you want to create something truly remarkable. The scientific method by its nature eliminates variables, systematically. This control is fine in the laboratory, but can be self-defeating if the objective is to generate something extraordinary, revolutionary or, by definition, evolutionary in a creative sense. .

This is where the Humanities and Liberal Arts, with all their imprecision, find their wings and infuse spirit into ideas. The intersection between science and the humanities is where good truly becomes great, and great becomes inspired. The introduction of variables, sometimes random, is what results in variation and evolution that gives us the most remarkable things in creation. Variables separate us from primordial ooze. And it’s therefore harder. Less certain. Intuition has no atomic weight, no equation, no definable process (though many have tried, and failed, to try to give it one).

So the pursuit of something more – great, not good; breakthrough quality, not mediocre goodness – requires a surrendering of all (well, much) of what is scientific and predictable. The ability to get to a place where 2+2 = purple, not 2+2=5. Five is safe. But purple is magnificent. And it tastes a hell of a lot better when you look at it from a distance, later.

And one thing the scientists don’t want you to know: the ability to predict the reproducibility of results doesn’t guarantee a goddamn thing. Maybe worse; the confidence it provides is a phantasm: nothing is certain. Even the best algorithm in the universe chewing big data won’t guarantee you a penny in the bank. A pseudo-scientific method putting process as an end, not a means that yields the same creative result time and again will not yield the answer that got you to ask the question in the first place.

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