Chef René Redzepi was at the top of his game when he shut down his restaurant, Noma. For years Noma was widely considered the number one restaurant in the world. But Redzepi didn’t want to rest on his past success; he wanted to build a new Noma fueled by even deeper creative exploration and experimentation.
Redzepi traveled the globe looking for the best food in the world: from tacos to sea urchins. Along the way, he connected with food writer Jeff Gordinier. The two became friends and Gordinier joined Redzepi on his exploration. Gordinier turned their adventure into a book, Hungry: Road-Tripping, and Risking It All with the Greatest Chef in the World. The book follows Redzepi in search of perfection and creative inspiration.
At the end of the adventure and as Redzepi is planning the re-opening of Noma, the chef writes in his journal, “Looking back at the last six months, the best moments have happened when something in the present connects with stories from the past. ‘What is creativity?’ I’ve been asking myself while writing this journal. I’m not sure, but tonight I will answer it like this: creativity is the ability to store the special moments, big or small, that occur through your life, then being able to see how they connect to the moment you’re in. When past and present merge, something new happens.”
We have taken a similar view at FiveStone over the years. We ask three core questions that shape the core of any creative endeavor.
Anyone working on a creative solution has a responsibility to understand the history surrounding their work. A thoughtful creative process will consider prior solutions, historical circumstances, and cultural influences.
As we survey our current situation, we are looking for intersection points of both past and present. Or, to paraphrase Redzepi, we are searching for those moments in the present that connect with the past.
Design strategist Dan Hill makes the point that you cannot “design culture, but it should be possible to shape the conditions in which society and culture unfold.” Said another way, if you are thoughtful about the undercurrents of culture (the past and present) then you should be able to design a better future. Your creative endeavor is doing more than solving a problem, it is also pointing to a desired future.
There’s no doubt that these are big questions. And, you may not be able to fully answer them. But, even in uncertainty, understanding how these perspectives interact with one another will strengthen your solution and lead to something unexpected.