At 99U, we try to demystify the creative process. To show you the real inner-workings of how ideas are made to happen by sharing the thought processes and creative practices of great achievers. Here, with the help of our readers, we’ve rounded up some of the best videos on idea execution from artists, writers, designers, storytellers, researchers, and chocolatiers.
1. William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible (53:12)
This rich and wonderful profile of acclaimed South African artist William Kentridge comes from PBS’s Art:21 series. Among other things, Kentridge talks embracing the seriousness of play and learning how to work out of your weaknesses.
It’s always been in between the things I thought I was doing that the real work has happened.
2. Ira Glass: Bridging The Gap Between Appreciation & Ability (5:20)
This American Life’s Ira Glass describes the painful moment when your ability to execute on your ideas does not yet meet your own aesthetic standards – and how to push through it.
The most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.
3. Michael Wolff: Don’t Overvalue Your Experience (62:04)
Sometimes we over-value our own experience. Here, Michael Wolff – one of the foremost identity designers in the world – talks about counter-balancing the rigidity that past experience can inspire by remaining open. Open to appreciation, open to curiosity, and open to the possibilities of imagination. Click to play the video.
I know that being right is a pretty deadly thing. And I know that thinking that you know what to do is not a very useful thing.
4. J.K. Rowling: Life Is Not A Checklist of Achievement (20:59)
In this classic Harvard commencement speech, J.K. Rowling extols the value of failure and imagination as she describes her journey from impoverished single mother to mega-bestselling author of the Harry Potter series.
It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all.
5. IDEO: Enlightened Trial-And-Error Always Wins (24:20)
In this vintage video (circa 1999), ABC news challenges the design geniuses at IDEO to redesign the supermarket shopping cart in 5 days. The resulting three-part video demonstrates the power of blue-sky brainstorming balanced with real-world field research and rapid prototyping.
Enlightened trial and error succeeds over the planning of the lone genius.
6. John Kelly: The Many Shades of Procrastination (4:17)
Illustrator John Kelly calls us out on all of the things that we do to avoid doing the things we really should be doing – a bracing (and hilarious) reminder of how creative we can get with our procrastination techniques.
Procrastination is finding the most difficult way of doing something, is jumping from one idea to another to another, is checking your emails.
7. Elizabeth Gilbert: Where Does Creative Genius Live? (19:32)
In one of the most popular TED talks ever, Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert talks about recalibrating our notions of “creative genius” to help us thrive, proposing that genius is external – a divine inspiration called forth, or prepared for, with lots of hard work – rather than a manifestation of individual greatness.
I think that allowing somebody to believe that he or she is the source of all divine, creative, unknowable, eternal mystery is just a smidge too much responsibility.
8. Daniel Pink: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (10:48)
It turns out that traditional rewards systems – money, praise, vacation time – are much less effective at motivating creative thinkers than we think they are. In this illustrated talk, author Daniel Pink reveals the surprising secret to eliciting great creative work.
Three factors lead to better performance and personal satisfaction: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
9. Steve Jobs: Live Each Day As If It Were Your Last (14:34)
Apple legend Steve Jobs talks about dropping out of college, getting fired from Apple, and being diagnosed with cancer – three moments of great adversity that governed the course of his life, and ultimately made it come out for the better.
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.
10. Mast Brothers Chocolate: Business As Personal Craft (4:16)
The Brooklyn-based Mast Brothers run one of the only bean-to-bar chocolate factories in the country. Here, Cool Hunting goes behind the scenes to investigate their work-intensive process and DIY approach.
There’s the easy way and then there’s the Mast Brothers’ way.
What Are Your Favorite Videos?
Of course, this is just a partial list. Please share your favorite creative process videos in the comments.