The Smith-Nietzsche Method
Most of the stuff written about creativity is guff. I want to contend that being creative is not about learning processes or ways of doing so much as unlearning them and being systematically unsettled. The Creating Passionate Users people write instructively on how we can all be more ‘innovate’ in the way we make for others, but for a true creative ‘state’ or ‘approach’ there are few examples to draw upon. One, and I think in terms of attitude this is the only one, is The Fall. It involves ME Smith taking his band members ‘unlearn’, keeping them from feeling comfortable with the way they work. Dave Simpson in the Guardian gives us examples through the vast array of past members. Unplugging amplifiers on stage, dismantling drumkits, taking on amateur members at a moments notice and employing classically trained musicians to unsettle existing members. And sacking people. A lot. Smith explains it such: "It’s a bit like a
football team," he said. "Every so often you have to get rid of the
centre-forward." This isn’t squad rotation so much as a new team every season. But despite this Smith inspires idolatry. It’s like the Stockholm syndrome – once in people love him despite his aggressive and bully boy manner. His ‘method’ is never to let inertia get hold: make them question what they do, make them be spontaneous. To constantly undermine practices and even peoples psyche. This ‘method’ seems quite Nietzschean for 3 reasons [and this is borrowing from my sketchy memory of studying Nietzsche years ago so give me some ‘interpretive licence’:
1. Smith shares Nietzsche’s productively nihilistic outlook
2. The concept of the ‘overman’ [superman] who can move beyond existing cultural and social norms ‘fits’ with Smith’s own sense of identity
3. The "will to power" as Nietzsche’s main social force – a creative desire to extend oneself and exert control. This wanting to maintain power over others bands and band members is a driving force of creative endeavour for Smith and The Fall.
It’s not going to win over the ‘innovation’ agencies as a corporate service but I like this Smith-Nietzschean approach to thinking about innovation and creativity [much as I don’t like to be seen to like people being uncomfortable and being sacked]. It’s radical. It flies in the face of a lot of modern thinking on innovation. It involves pain and a sense of tension and apprehension, of doing things differently, of never being settled, in fact of being unsettled and never allowing people to get comfortable. Oh what a beautiful thing it would be to have Smith as arch innovation conspirator barking orders to a bunch of blue-chip suits.