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Technology has made people very productive but it has undermined their creativity – Interview with Chris Lewis

Adrian Swinscoe | Nov 9, 2016 44 views No Comments

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Sitting quiet

Today’s interview is with Chris Lewis, CEO of global communications agency, LEWIS. Chris joins me today to talk about his new book: Too Fast to Think: How to Reclaim Your Creativity in a Hyper-connected Work Culture, the idea behind it, what he means by creativity, what are the implications of the hyper connected work culture we live in and what people can do about it.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – How Tower grew by over 40% by introducing a five hour work day – Interview with Stephan Aarstol– and is number 194 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to their customers.

Here’s the highlights of my interview with Chris:

  • LEWIS is an employee owned company and Chris believes that this and their approach to growth has allowed them to think long-term and deliver 22 years of year on year growth.
  • Another differentiator of their firm is that they invest heavily in their people. In fact, last year they spent 25% of their total profits on training.
  • People will leave with training and people will leave without training. Which sort of people would you rather have?
  • People learn through teaching. So, they encourage their senior staff to teach on courses that they run for their staff as part of their Rise Academy.
  • Chris has just written a new book: Too Fast to Think: How to Reclaim Your Creativity in a Hyper-connected Work Culture which explores the hypotheses:
    • What would happen if the brainstorm was the wrong process?
    • What would happen if the people in the creative industries weren’t the only people being creative?
  • If being creative is about problem solving, Chris set out to explore to his hypotheses by interviewing a whole bunch of people from outside the traditional creative industries from places like the Navy, film, the clergy, academics, scientists etc etc.
  • He posed a simple question to them: Where are you when you get your best ideas?
  • The commonality of their answers was striking. They all said that they were alone, not at work and not trying.
  • The conclusion from this is that their sub-conscious is playing a large role in the creative process and that they, generally, follow a similar process (Induction, Incubation, Inspiration and Ignition) although that was not being consciously taught/used.
  • The phases Induction, Incubation, Inspiration and Ignition are roughly being used in the ratio 40:30:20:10.
  • Therefore, the creative process is probably a lot longer and more random than we have previously thought.
  • Creativity is the history you don’t know.
  • The greatest conceit that the creative industries have got is that they have got a new idea. There is no such thing as a new idea.
  • Some of the best creatives are historians.
  • Sir Ken Robinson wrote the Preface for the book and commented ’all primary education is an extended application for university status’.
  • The modern work place, which is typified by constant interruption, undermines our ability to be creative at work.
  • No matter how sophisticated technology gets we seem to find it very difficult to find the off switch.
  • A definition of business from Harvard Business School: ‘the management of social relations for profit, where profit may be financial’.
  • The disease of short-termism that seems to pervade much of business today means that we fail to help each other reach our potential.
  • It is incumbent on the successful to help to build ‘ladders’ for others. After all, a tree can’t exist if it doesn’t have roots.
  • Chris’ piece of advice: Stop it!
  • When was the last time you sat in a quiet room for an hour and did nothing?
  • Competence has got to follow preference. People get good at what they like doing.
  • Technology has made people very productive but it has undermined their creativity.
  • Chris asked the Head of Chelsea Arts College, George Blacklock, how he taught and he said that he asks all of his students (when reviewing their work): ‘Why have you decided to do it in such a conventional manner?’ This a question that every CEO or leader could utilise.
  • If you accelerate any pastime it ceases to become fun. The same is true of business.
  • Profit is a by-product of healthy and successful cultures.
  • Wow is all about discovery and not prescription.
  • If anyone describes how ‘wow’ their service is then it’s probably not very ‘wow’ at all.
  • Check out Chris’ book: Too Fast to Think: How to Reclaim Your Creativity in a Hyper-connected Work Culture and all of people that gave up their time and shared their insights.
  • If we are not here to enjoy it and reach our potential then what’s the point?

About Chris (taken and adapted from his LEWIS bio)

Chris LewisChris Lewis is the CEO & Founder of LEWIS, a global communications agency. With a background in US corporate finance, publishing and journalism, Chris has worked with a variety of international business and technical press.

He is a former journalist and has written two books – the Unemployables, a profile of 40 high achievers and Brilliant Minds, a satire on the global communications industry. Chris founded LEWIS PR in 1995 and is based at LEWIS’ global headquarters in London.



Chris is a highly skilled media trainer, coaching senior politicians, business people and celebrities. In his spare time, he rides motorbikes and enjoys flying.

Check out the book: Too Fast to Think: How to Reclaim Your Creativity in a Hyper-connected Work Culture, connect with Chris on LinkedIn and say Hi to him on Twitter @largeburrito.

Photo Credit: Terence l.s.m Flickr via Compfight cc

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