Subject Matters

Thursday, June 4, 2015
Creative
Subject Matters

Although my title seems to delineate some higher sense of creativity than the average individual, I can safely say with profound confidence that I’m far from being the most creative individual at the ad agency.

Maybe that sounds kind of odd. I mean, what the heck is a “creative” if he’s really not all that creative?

Maybe I can shed some light on the subject. …

I read a book by Mark Cuban recently — which of course was pretty blunt and filled with insights that had my mind reeling about the possibilities of plunging into my own entrepreneurial pursuits. But beyond that, it offered up hand-picked practical advice from his own life and experience to (hopefully) help you with your own daily happenings.

He told a story about how he would go way out of his way to learn every bit of information about a specific software he was trying to sell in an attempt to become a “subject-matter expert.” He seemed to always carry this fear that one of his competitors, or even worse, one of his customers, might know more than he did on any given product. Furthermore, he always assumed that everyone else had gone to great lengths to do the same. Well, to use his words, “as it turns out, no one ever really reads the manual.” Apparently, all of the humdrum sifting through hundreds of pages of technical text is not very appealing to the average individual. Go figure. But for Mark Cuban, not only did this tedious acquisition of knowledge bring him a sense of fulfillment and joy (don’t look at me, I think it’s crazy too), it brought about the distinct edge he needed to surpass his competition. And, as most of us know, it eventually brought him immense wealth as well.

Maybe you can see where I’m going with this. …

The point is, the more you know about something, the more likely you’re going to be able to make new associations with other things that others literally cannot, because they “haven’t read the manual” like you have.

I’m more than sure that others have been a little befuddled if they’ve ever seen me look up words as simple as “restraint” and “verify” during the course of my research for a project. I should know these words; after all, I am a writer. But for me, it’s absolutely pivotal to my ability to innovatively use words with confidence and precision. I want to know a word’s part of speech, the etymology, how it’s said and spelled, all of its forms, and finally, its definitions — all of them.

This seemingly insignificant input of information establishes an entire new network around what was, just a moment ago, an isolated entity in my mind. This brings with it the potential for hundreds of new connections and associations with other parts of past experiences.

That’s more powerful than you think.

So the next time you find yourself stuck on a creative problem, maybe you just need to ask yourself one question:

“Are you a subject-matter expert?”

Richard Lee

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