Creativity is an important part not only to the creation of a great product but also in solving problems around creating momentum with your team. In this episode, Joe and Sean talk with a renowned artist, Sebastian ErraZuriz about his experiences in creativity and technology.
Joe: [00:02:08] Welcome to our Momentum podcast, here we talk about software products and innovation and how to build momentum, which you’re familiar with as we’ve had several conversations about that in the past. Thank you for joining us. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and about your role?
Sebastian: [00:02:25] Sure. So I’m a bit of an activist now, apparently a tech entrepreneur. I’m Chilean, based in New York for the past 12 years and basically I have a studio in which we work on everything from the interior of a private jet to a giant public artwork in Times Square, or a 3D printed set of shoes, all the way to, I don’t know, some basic design product.
Sebastian: [00:03:01] Now over all of the time in which I’ve been working as a designer, an artist, it’s always been driven by the need to connect, the need to invite other people to look at what they’re missing, to see what’s obviously always been there, but we pass by and somehow inadvertently can’t notice it. And it’s happened to me, like many other creators, but we feel we’re no longer being able to make contact. That no matter how creative we try to be, whatever we throw into the world gets absorbed into this black hole of information and it immediately fizzles up and disappears. And so suddenly the role of the creative, of the art, of the designer is being incredibly frustrating and unsatisfying. And you feel that you can no longer make a difference.
Sebastian: [00:03:58] And it is within that scenario that I’m suddenly forced to get into technology as a way to use the leverage of the exponential reach of technology to continue to communicate and connect. And that’s when slowly we pass from the studio that was doing 3D prints and using seven axis robots and that end of the tech side to, actually, “maybe we need to hire a coder, and what if we could develop this bot, and what if we could think of machine learning for that problem?” All the way to, you know, “you what guys, we need to hire a team of engineers to star building software.” It’s been a very interesting path in which arriving at technology has it been through a necessity and always driven by a need and an urge to connect as an artist from an existential standpoint.
Sean: [00:05:10] That’s amazing. You’ve had an interesting journey for sure. Our goal here with this podcast is to kind of try to tap into some of your experience with creativity. And I know it shouldn’t be a hard conversation to have, at least from our perspective. I think it comes to you easier than it comes to most people, but how do you tap so how do you tap into creativity? And I find it extremely interesting that you’re moving towards technology, as, if you think about most industries, they’re all becoming more and more. We’ve had some of these conversations in the past Sebastian, but lots of things are moving towards the software and A.I. is coming in, you know, all sorts of things are going to be changing even more than they are today. So how do you tap into creativity, so to speak?
Sebastian: [00:06:03] I think creativity has long been seen as almost the quality that you either have or you don’t have. There’s a whole mystery about how creativity works. And there’s always been this cliche of creative people as being unreliable and a bit of a mess, and the roles of artists that when they’re feeling passionate, grab red paint and slap the canvas and when they’re angry they’ll go rip that same canvas apart and so on. And it unfortunately has created an idea of what creativity is that separates it from the science. Separates it from the aesthticism and professionalism that any other discipline should be tied to.
Sebastian: [00:06:58] And as a professional artist and a professionnial designer, someone who’s been raised in this, trained in this since I was 4 or 5, I generally believe that creativity can be trained. And creativity is a discipline that is completely necessary, vital today, and that it is at reach of anyone, and no matter what your current level of it is, it is your obligation to train your body your mind to be at its best possible level and in an era of interconnectivity where everyone has access to the same information. The only resources we really have in order to compete is be able to come up with original combinations of that information.
Sebastian: [00:07:50] And so I focus on that, and in a way I’m a bit of a hacker. A hacker of systems, a hacker of logic, and I always tend to give creativity and the unconscious side, the intuitive side of our brain the higher respect over the rational side. In a way, I feel our creativity is almost like an A.I., an algorithm, that’s capable of processing a lot more information than we normally can, and maybe through algorithms that have been developed in it in their own iterations where it’s very hard to understand how we get there. Nevertheless, the quantity of information that can be processed by our intuitions is exponentially larger than the quantity of information we can try to process rationally.
Sebastian: [00:08:56] So both in my personal practice, in my everyday routine, I train myself to be as creative as possible. And it’s what I’m always inviting people to do. And ultimately it’s my biggest service. I will accept any challenge to take on any creative problem no matter how hard it is because I trust that that intuitive algorithm, when used properly, could bypass a lot of what we’ve rationally always done and it would allow you to be in the position of theis underdog, this David versus Goliath that actually has a truly unique tool that can make an enormous difference. So I see creativity as the key to pretty much everything, especially in this new era, and maybe even the final area of human intelligence that A.I. will get to. So that would be most valuable within the next 20 years before we get into some sort of, I don’t know, artificial intelligence peak.
Joe: [00:10:22] So you mentioned earlier the ability to be able to observe and see what’s there already, and we talk about that a lot when we’re working on software projects and are trying to observe our users, and you know, see what problems there are that are right there in front of us to solve. So in thinking about that, in innovation and creativity it’s not always about building the next Uber or the Snapchat, but just seeing what’s there and solving problems for users that they have workarounds for potentially, but I guess my question is, how do you just very simply define creativity and/or innovation? The words get thrown out around a lot.
Sebastian: [00:11:02] Sure. Definitely creativity is the ability to come up with original combinations based on the same set of known ingredients. So if we have pasta, tomato sauce, and ground beef, we can make a spaghetti bolognese or we can make lasagna, right. And it is in the role of the creative to have as many ingredients as possible. In the same manner, if you have a machine learning system, you want to feed it with as much data as possible.
Sebastian: [00:11:40] Nevertheless, it’s how we find the patterns in that data that we are able to find new original combinations that others haven’t spotted. And a lot of the time, those patterns are the most obvious. The ones that we don’t look at because we get them for granted. They’re the basis from which we start. And so often, the best way to start working is to do exactly the opposite of what has always been done.
Sebastian: [00:12:14] So I see it a little bit as, if you think of any problem in marketing and in branding in any area, just to give an example. That particular problem has probably been tackled by many, many people. That means that there’s a whole group of experts that have been looking very closely at that problem, almost if you can imagine physically surrounding it with their magnifying glasses on top of it. Now when you don’t sum yourself up to that group and do the thing that everyone else would do, which would be to try to squeeze in for a little bit of space to try and see a tiny slot of what everyone already is looking at, which undoubtedly will most probably give you have the same view that everyone has already seen and get the same conclusion. And if instead you start by simply looking at this bunch of people looking at something, you already start from a different standpoint where you’re already seeing not the problem, but first seeing how we’ve approached it and how we can look at it. It’s a pretty silly effect. There’s a whole bunch of people all crouched up with all their heads together, all trying to observe this one thing without really noticing that the way they are observing could maybe be different.
Sebastian: [00:13:40] And so I’ll give you a very simple example. I have the first door in humankind that has two viewers in it. Do you think of any single door when you approach a door and you ring the bell, in front of you there is a single viewer looking back and the person on the other side who answers the doorbell can go up to the door, close one eye, peek through the viewer, and look who’s on the other side. Now that view happens to be one single viewer. And none of us is a pirate, right. None of us has a single eye. It doesn’t make sense that we should be closing one. We’re not looking through a telescope. We’ve had binoculars forever. Why not have two viewers? So my door has two viewers and if it’s weirdly surprising and funny in its obviousness. People look at it, see this door with two viewers horizontal, one to another and they actually wonder if it works. And they go up to the door to check if they can actually see through it because they can’t quite believe that they’ve never thought about it before. Now the door has a practical purpose of allowing you to see in a better manner, right. But also it’s simply staring at you back in the face and telling you, “hey how about we open that other eye, how about we look again? And so that practice is what I do again and again and again in a variety of areas. And the process of looking at things differently can really be applied to absolutely any industry or any problem.
Joe: [00:15:24] I was laughing loud literally on mute when you’re talking about the peep hole on the door, that’s an amazing example. And I love the pasta example too, I’ll probably steal that one as well.
Sebastian: [00:15:37] It’s really weird. I had a museum show and we sent the door over; It was one of the pieces they wanted to show. And when they sent us the door back with the two viewers, we took it out of the crate, get it unpacked. And there was this smudge of grease between the two viewers, and I go like, “what’s that smudge of grease, how disgusting!” And we check and we realized it was people’s noses. And so basically for the length of the exhibition at the museum, there had been thousands of people that went up to the door, pressed their nose against the door, and looked through the two views with their two eyes to check if it really worked.
Joe: [00:16:23] Oh my God.
Sebastian: [00:16:23] And all of that nose grease was layered again and again and again. I painted over, we cleaned it up, because I thought it was a little too discussing, but I should have left it as the proof of our need to sort of see that things could have been different and changed.
Joe: [00:16:41] Right, evidence. That’s so cool. So something I debate with my my friends my colleagues a lot is, “how important is your physical environment that you are in when you’re trying to be creative?” Like do you have to stand in a room blasting classical music, or, you know, how important is that environment around you?
Sebastian: [00:17:04] I think that’s a really good point. Obviously our environments matter a lot on us in the same manner as our own physical presence matters a lot. It’s been proven, right, that if you raise your arms more and you walk upright you tend to have more positive thoughts and you carry yourself with more determination and so on. In a similar manner, if your space is very constricted, if you feel that you can’t move too much, to do too much things without being looked at, that naturally influences the way that you feel more constricted to come up with ideas. If the space allows you to feel more free, to maybe feel less judged, feel there’s more space. It also, I believe, allows your mind to feel more tranquil and more confident.
Sebastian: [00:18:07] Now I’ll give you an example. I, like everyone else, will wake up in the middle of the night and have an idea, or I’ll be in the shower and have an idea, or walking around then have an idea. Nevertheless because I do this for a living, if you guys had hired me to come up with a solution with a design, with a campaign, I need to comply with a timeline. And occasionally I’ll need to force myself to come up with an idea. Now, to force myself, what I do is similar to what some of you might do if you meditate, right. I try to place myself in a situation where my mind can be blocked so the unconscious side of the head can do other types of work. For that, I personally need loud music. I personally need to be tapping my foot, so I’m tapping, using a pulse, and that pulse almost works like an um where I’m keeping my attention on that. And it’s almost like being a bit of a medium. I’m really trying to block out any thinking and allow my head to come up with weird associations. And I have pen and paper in front because the fastest as I can sketch to put down ideas and I just throw everything out that comes up to me. And this process could last an hour, an hour and a half. And it’s almost like in a movie when the protagonist opens the time portal and this weird circular thing opens up and they’ve got a finite amount of time to pass through it, right, and then the time portal closes. Here it’s almost like you have an unconscious portal, or an intuitive portal, where you’re pulling out much information as you possibly can as fast as you can without judging it and capturing it all. In my case, on pen and paper, for someone else it could be typing it in the computer, or on the phone, and then at some point you’re exhausted. At some point you’re done and your head just wants to go other ways. In the same manner as some point you can no longer continue to meditate and you need to end that process.
Sebastian: [00:20:34] Now, to be able to be something like that is quite vulnerable. Because first, my eyes are closed. I don’t know much around me. I’m moving my arms a lot. I probably look quite silly and quite vulnerable. I happen to be in charge of my studo, I’m the boss. So in some manner, it’s already a lot easier for me to be there. Nevertheless, I still do this process when everyone has left. It’s what I do when I’m alone at the studio. I have a hard time doing it otherwise. And so, I guess what I’m trying to, in a very long description, explain, is that the environment is vital. The need to feel protected and tranquil and feel that you can breathe, that you can think that you’re not restricted or judged, is super important because the process of coming up with intuitive, alogical associations that rationally maybe don’t fully make sense at first requires that leap of trust and requires that space.
Sean: [00:21:50] That’s fascinating. Thank you for sharing that, by the way. That was very personal and very deep. I think in our world, when it comes to software, I agree with you that creativity is the key to everything. That was your quote from earlier. Especially as the world is moving more and more towards technology, and like you said we all have access to pretty much the same information and ideas that are already out there. So if we’re going to help our customers build software that’s going to help them compete in new, unique, and different ways, creativity is the key to everything.
Sebastian: [00:22:27] Exactly.
Sean: [00:22:28] So you mentioned at some of your tactics for how you trigger creativity for yourself. I think that there’s a lot of things in there that are probably very unique to you in how you’ve sort of evolved through your amazing life. I’m giving advice that might be useful to software development teams that are trying to work together to solve problems. Now you’ve been through one of the workshops that we execute. Do you think that there’s any sort of validity to following some sort of guided process for helping figure out solutions and coming up with ideas? What do you think about that?
Sebastian: [00:23:10] I’m a little skeptical towards team development of the creativity. I think it’s similar to when you get the director of a movie to decide that he no longer wants to be in charge of the authorship of that particular film. The leads of the movie and the rest of the production team decide to do a mash up of a variety of creative and carry that through. Normally what tends to happen there is that you get a relatively generic commercial movie that fulfills a lot of the base requirements that you would expect, nevertheless, has very little soul. And that, I think is mostly because, in order to be able to make a bigger breakthrough in creativity, someone needs to take a big risk.
Sean: [00:24:10] Makes sense.
Sebastian: [00:24:12] Today the only bet you can do if you’re in a company is to innovate and to break through of what’s expected. That is the only rational, safe move for you to do. Now not everyone can do that, and especially if you’re nervous of the approval of others, especially if you’re not the boss and your job is on the line, especially if you feel you don’t have complete authority to present a paradigm shifting notion that often can sound stupid. And so I think as much as it is vital that teams can work creatively. Checking each other’s hypotheses and theories and of moving together toward strategies with solving problems, then each one can contribute different elements. Having a leadership that is trained in creativity that is not afraid to present ideas that are somewhat crazy, that is willing to put those out there without being nervous about being judged or their job and that even maybe has a certain level of pride in coming up with these contrarian notions, is vital, right.
Sebastian: [00:25:42] You should have in your team someone who just does this, and that that’s their role, and they’re expected to be the contrarian, because that in of itself almost is a feature within the process. It guarantees that there is an element of measure. There’s a forced different perspective and that perspective comes from a safe place. Now generally, it’s best if this is not the owner of the company doing it. Generally it’s best if it’s someone who doesn’t feel that the results financially are all going to depend on this decision.
Sebastian: [00:26:30] One of the beautiful things for me of being a designer artist is that at the end of day, most of the jobs I take, I almost take them for honor before money. I would say I’m not for sale. Now I’ll think about your problem and I’ll give you what I believe is the solution you need to take. If you don’t take it, that’s your problem. And if if you if you think it’s dumb, it’s it’s fine. I couldn’t care less either. I’m not going to give you a mediocre idea that you probably expect because, I, first and foremost, want to feel satisfied almost at an existential level with what I contributed. And hopefully because of that I get well-paid.
Sean: [00:27:20] That’s amazing.
Sebastian: [00:27:21] But that’s a freedom, that in a weird way, my upbringing as an artist has allowed me to have today. Nevertheless it’s the freedom that is key and it is vital and that should be incentivized at least in a couple of members within every team.
Sean: [00:27:41] I like that. You know, the underlying theme that I’ve heard you use and say at many points is safety.
Sebastian: [00:27:48] Yes.
Sean: [00:27:49] And people need to feel safe in order to thrive and ideas are never, I totally agree with that point, people are never going to feel free or have their ideas flowing freely unless they feel safe. So we have to create an environment of complete and thorough safety, especially around that sort of stuff. And I love the idea of having sort of people that are almost tasked with defending the ultimate goal and being the contrarian when they have to be a contrarian, because it’s easy, especially in the corporate world that we have to exist in the business that I run, that we’re constantly being pushed towards mediocrity. Because it’s safe. Like we know that our competition is doing this. So if we meet these requirements and we build the product in this way, we know that the competitors are doing it and they’re doing something righ,t so we can be safe by doing the same thing.
Sebastian: [00:28:50] That’s the problem and that’s what’s shifted. It is no longer safe. And people are having a hard time realizing that it is no longer safe to do what’s always been done. But the reality is that every single industry is being disrupted or has been disrupted over the past couple of decades. So no matter how big your industry currently is, if it does not have the practice of distrupting itself, it will be disrupted by someone else. So the only safe thing for any company to do today is to either hire the most disruptive person they could think of or have someone within their team paid to be disruptive.
Sebastian: [00:29:38] Because if I’m going up in competition with other people and the salaries of my team are on the line, if my investors are on the line, I want to know all the data. I want to know all the info. I want to know all the possibilities under which this could happen in a different manner. And what are all the possibilities that someone else could come up with to fuck me over? And if I’m not doing that job myself, it’s terrible. I guess it’s like trying to go to run for office and not collecting all the dirty information on your competitors, or not trying to first check everything that’s wrong about me and everything that could come out, so that if it does come out later on, right, I will have some measure of defense towards it. So we’re not safe. And it’s not safe to continue working the way we have. Disruption is a necessary part of any company today that wishes to be safe. You need to hire that person externally or you or you pay someone in your team to be that. Now, you could switch them around, you could one week have someone who’s the distruptor and who’s safe and then you ask someone else to do that role and so on.
Sean: [00:31:09] I think to your point earlier it’s going to require being conscious about it, being purposeful about it, and practicing that by making it a practice.
Joe: [00:31:22] So to that end about companies kind of trending towards doing what they perceive to be safe even though it isn’t, what are some companies, or who are some companies that you admire or do think are doing a good job with creativity and and being different?
Sebastian: [00:31:43] Well we could definitely think, for example of just this week alone Nike’s move to place, what’s his name, Joe Patrick?
Sean: [00:31:54] Colin Kaepernick.
Sebastian: [00:31:56] Yeah. Colin Kaepernick, then, as the face of Nike knowing that they make the outfits for the Football League and so on is a huge bet. That kind of risk that Nike has taken before in other situations I think is brilliant. I think that’s the kind of thing that companies should be doing right now. And for a lot of people, that would be a very very scary move. You’re basically siding with one part of a giant political discourse and you’re seeing immediately, the next day, a whole group of people posting your ad as their own personal belief on social media. They’re choosing to promote your own brand as a concept, right. They’re reposting your ads as their own personal philosophy while you’re having another group that’s burning their old Nike products.
Sebastian: [00:33:04] And that kind of bet came out of some agency in charge and it came out of one creative person who went for a coffee and figured, you know what, “we’ve got to do this.” And he managed to convince his team and they convinced the owner of the agency and that owner of the agency had to then convince the whole Nike team and then they probably had to convince, I don’t know, maybe the board. But that’s this whole series of bets that needed to happen that allows us to today be talking about it on the podcast or have it be the trending element. And I think it’s brilliant. And so once again, risk here is actually pretty safe. I mean, what’s going to happen tonight? Nothing. Everyone’s going to continue using it and this is going to die down very quickly and for most people, it will continue to cement the notion of Nike as a very edgy brand and that will be it. It’s a brilliant move, if you think about it.
Sebastian: [00:34:17] In the same manner, I don’t know, there’s many companies that are constantly changing and innovating. In the same week, again, I guess we could talk about Amazon, right. The fact that they are now a trillion dollar company and if we were to check the interviews of Bezos from just 15 years ago, the guy was already talking about the need to collect data and the importance of being able to know everything about your client. The fact that they’re capable of continuing to constantly innovate again and again and again is just brilliant. And I think in an era of exponential growth in which everything is becoming automated, in which artificial intelligence can solve most of the base problems, this constant innovative practice is the only way to thrive.
Joe: [00:35:25] Yeah I’ve heard Jeff Bezos interviews say, you know, when we come out with a great quarter for our stock and the results come out, that wasn’t from what we did last quarter, that was from three or four years ago of planning and in fact innovating. And you know it’s such essentially got to be built into your DNA to be operating like that. So things are continually being innovative as you grow and can move forward. So I’m curious, you know, you were talking a little bit before about teams and teams being creative, so when you’re hiring a creator for your team, what are you looking for in that candidate and how do you test them?
Sebastian: [00:36:02] Good point. Because in my case, my prime role is to be the disruptor and have this general creative overview, I don’t necessarily need everyone in the team to be as distruptive. Sometimes on the contrary, I need everyone to be able to execute very well. So I guess what we tend to search for, first is curiosity. I think curiosity is key, especially in this era. The need to want to know more, to understand why things are the way they are, to question the status quo, to read about any one particular issue, to have a doubt and want to follow that doubt up to understand why things are in a particular manner, I think that’s vital.
Sebastian: [00:36:59] Then I think there’s a need for stamina today. Right, there’s a notion of drive, stamina, persistence. You basically want to have a team of people that are almost capable of pushing stronger and stronger.
Sebastian: [00:37:21] And then, what I do require is that everyone is extremely critical, right. I don’t want yes people. I want the most critical people possible. I want whatever project we’re doing, whatever theory we’re having, to be destroyed in-house. I don’t want a safe environment because a safe environment isn’t safe. The only safe environment is the most critical one. So if I come up with a project or a solution, that solution, if it has a flaw, it better be spotted and destroyed in my own team, in my own space. I do not want a project going out into the world with our name on it that then gets spotted to have a series of weak points or have a series of aspects we hadn’t thought about. So having a team that is extremely critical, that is proud to be critical, in my case is important. Now I’m personally fine with that. I see criticism as a virtue and my ego is not on the line if what I present I feel is considered wrong. Obviously within respect, right.
Sebastian: [00:38:40] But I think stamina, curiosity, high levels of criticism, and then I think pride. Pride is important. I always ask the team to, no matter what they’re working on, to first work for themselves before they work for me. So even though they’re being asked to do a particular job, they’re being asked to fulfill a task, if the task they’re fulfilling, if they’re not doing it at a level that they are happy themselves, then it’s wrong. If you are not proud of what you just said if you aren’t doing it for you. If this is not good enough for you, it’s not good enough for me. So you’d better be convinced about what we’re doing, and if not you better work on it so that it’s good enough so that you’re convinced. Because I don’t want you just doing what you were told to do. I want you doing something that you’re proud of. That’s key
Sean: [00:39:38] That might be the best answer I’ve ever heard to that question, so thank you for that.
Joe: [00:39:45] Yeah, I love that, wrote it all down. Love it.
Sean: [00:39:48] I want to shift gears a little bit. You’ve been moving into the software development space for a while now. You’ve got a really cool and interesting project. I know it’s not fully launched so I don’t know how much you can share about it but we’d love to hear about it and have our audience hear about how you’re intending to disrupt the art world through technology.
Sebastian: [00:40:08] Sure. Well as an artist designer, I’ve been fortunate to be able to build a name, to have a career, and be able to exhibit and create the works that I want to make and have a group of collectors that pays handsomely for these pieces. Now the reality is that 90 percent of all art graduates don’t get to live from the sales of their work. They don’t even get to exhibit. And that’s naturally because an exhibition is expensive. You need a team, you need prime real estate, insurance, shipping, handling, etc., and that in turn means that art needs to be expensive. And so we have a very small limited amount of the population that can pay very high prices for a small quantity of work. Because of the cost involved, you can only really do an exhibition once a month, right, because it’s too expensive to be changing constantly and putting everything up again and shipping and creating and sending it back on the truck and so on.
Sebastian: [00:41:17] So you have this very old system that no longer makes sense in an era of technology. And for me, the logic there is, first, I have a responsibility as successful artist designer to try and help everyone else to exhibit and show. I believe that in an era where we’re no longer, maybe buying books or albums, maybe we’re no longer buying movies, but instead we’re all renting or paying for the experience. Being able to change the system where you pay a lot of money to own permanently something by very few people, instead having a system where you pay a tiny micropayment for an experience that you don’t need to own because there’s so many interesting experiences that you want to have a different one all the time makes complete sense. And within that, the logical step is to move into the virtual to use elements of reality as a platform where the art and creative experiences can be shared.
Sebastian: [00:42:31] And so we’re currently building a platform for artists, designers, architects, creators in general, to be able to exhibit their works, share their works, and receive some form of payment for that experience, and be able to do that in a democratic manner using the natural technologies that are coming up now that will be part of our future routine. So we’re basically trying to build, not trying, we’re building the future art world in which most of the creative output we believe will be made of experience.
Sean: [00:43:14] That’s great. What’s the last book you read, Sebastian that sort of changed the way you think that you would recommend our listeners read.
Sebastian: [00:43:22] I don’t have a proper answer because I actually stopped reading books about a year ago. Books have this problem, right, which is a format problem. And it’s similar to pretty much every single other industry. You get a writer that has a series of ideas that can be perfectly summed up in 20 pages but because the system of the book market requires 220 pages or 180 pages to be able to be sold and packaged within the normal system for the whatever, 15 dollar price, they need to fill it up with crap.
Joe: [00:44:01] I agree.
Sebastian: [00:44:02] And I have no time. I already read all the self-help books of the airport bookstore, and I already went through all of that info, and books are no longer an efficient tool. And so what I do instead is I read about 20 newspapers every day. I go through every single newspaper I can think of and I’m trying to search for an article that could be related one to another. In a weird way, I think we need to change the concept of books and leave those with the very enlightened. So in the case of Grano Harare, the book is so successful partly because of the originality of the theme and its time an its urgency. Nevertheless most probably due to the actual depth of intelligence from a guy who meditates five to six hours a day. He’s actually capable of packing a 220 page book with real, original content worth 220 pages and not a 20 page series of hypotheses accompanied by a lot of bullshit examples and little stories and anecdotes.
Joe: [00:45:22] It’s so true, and you read the first one or two chapters of a book and then all of a sudden things start to repeat themselves and you’re like, “oh boy I’m going to skim the rest or just put it down.”
Sebastian: [00:45:32] Exactly. We don’t have time for that anymore, and it’s a system that’s broken.
Sean: [00:45:37] So there’s is a quote from Albert Einstein that kind of reflects that point: “There comes a point in your life when you need to start reading other people’s books and write your own.” Books are really looking at the past and they’re somebody else’s ideas, right. So it’s interesting.
Sebastian: [00:45:52] And again, books, there’s nothing wrong with books. It’s a medium to capture ideas. The problem is that there are very few people today capable of coming up with enough original ideas that can actually fill 220 pages. And it’s hard to find a same set of ideas that can still be contingent and still be contemporary within the time frame in which the book comes out. So for example, I tend to listen to a lot of podcasts and TED talks and so on. If I check a TED talk about technology, I will not listen to a tech talk about technology that is older than 2017, even if it’s some futurist version, because it’s already too old. It’s already gone.
Sean: [00:46:46] Right.
Sebastian: [00:46:46] It’s of no use whatsoever, right. So I need to know that whatever I’m listening to is from a couple of months ago and unfortunately, the book system, because of how exhausting it is to write a book, you could be listening to the ideas of someone that’s been brewing them for ten years, and that some of that might be contemporary, some of that might already be past.
Sean: [00:47:14] All right, last question. You want to ask one, Joe?
Joe: [00:47:18] Sure. Yeah, so I always like to gauge from people comeing from different perspectives. What do you think is the single most reason a product, or in this case maybe an idea, fails? And is there anything you can do to avoid that?
Sebastian: [00:47:36] That’s really good question. I guess the single biggest reason a product fails is the lack of data. Steve Jobs used to say that people don’t know what they want until they see it, right. And there’s a philosophy that many of us use of trusting our gut and believing that we know what needs to be put out. And I think as a creator whose sole purpose is to push the ideas that go against the system and are contrarian, the first requirement is data. If you do not have all the variables, you cannot come up with the right product, the right idea. So if I’m going to rob a bank, I can come up with the most ingenious way of doing the perfect bank robbery, but if I don’t know that the guard’s just been changed and that there’s a new alarm system in.
Sebastian: [00:48:44] And so I think there is an arrogance that we all tend to exercise in which we believe we know, and we haven’t updated our information, and we haven’t maybe allowed a contrarian to ask about potential scenarios that we didn’t know about, or we cast a net that was too small in terms of what we thought were the requirements involved. And so I think it’s vital to first cast as wide a net possible, understand as many of the variables that are about to go into the system, and then within that, be able to distill it in a contrarian hypothesis that that could have the potential to disrupt each and every single one of the variables that were considered key. Yeah, that’s it. Data.
Joe: [00:49:46] Good answer.
Sebastian: [00:49:47] If the algorithm can’t wo, A.I. can’t work, nothing can work without the appropriate data, even for a creative studio.