The Creative Priority: Driving Innovative Business in the Real World

Front Cover
HarperCollins, Jan 20, 1998 - Business & Economics - 272 pages
How does your company define creativity? Or does creativity define your company? In this remarkable book, Jerry Hirshberg, founder and president of Nissan Design International (NDI), distills his experience as leader of the world's hotbed of automotive innovation and reveals his strategy for designing an organization around creativity.

Rather than championing the traditional treatment of creativity as a vital component in business, Hirshberg shows how creativity can become the fundamental organizing principle of business.

"Business," Hirshberg writes in the introduction, "begins with an idea. And as never before, its growth, stability and ultimate success depend upon innovation and a continuing flow of imaginative thought. Throughout this book I will maintain that the most urgent business of business is ideas."

Yet, Hirshberg claims, business has never been more poorly suited for stimulating original ideas. "Current organizational models revolving around productivity and efficiency at any cost produce a corporate culture hardly conducive to thinking -- much less innovative thinking."

In The Creative Priority, Hirshberg describes how NDI produced a culture that fostered innovation, enabling his team to produce such cutting-edge designs as Nissan's Altima, Pathfinder, Quest and Maxima; Ford's Villager; and Infiniti's J30.

Hirshberg weaves together enlightening real-world anecdotes with the story of NDI's genesis to illustrate 11 interlocking strategies that came to define NDI's creative priority. The strategies are arranged according to four principles:

  • Polarity: Typically seen as an obstacle to creative thinking, the friction that exists among individuals or systems of thought can be harnessed to generate original ideas.
  • Unprecedented Thinking: The Nissan Altima materialized after Hirshberg's entire company played hooky midday to see the opening of The Silence of the Lambs. Imagining a new idea into existence requires both stubborn determination and a childlike openness to serendipity.
  • Beyond the Edges: Many of the strategies for fostering creativity loose us from our moorings and blur the boundaries between traditionally distinct disciplines.
  • Synthesis: All too often corporations set creative activity apart from the rest of the organization. Far from being a romantic escape from disciplined thinking, genuine creative thought should be an imaginative escape with disciplined thinking.

    Richly illustrated with NDI's elegant designs and sketches, The Creative Priority is at once a compelling narrative, a rich store of hands-on experience and a grab bag of breakthrough insights that can help your business perform its most important function.

    Jerry Hirshberg, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, left General Motors in 1980 and accepted the position of founding director of Nissan Design International, Inc. He speaks widely on subjects ranging from automotive and product design to multicultural business to the managing of creative capabilities. An accomplished painter and musician, he lives and works in Del Mar, California, with his wife, Linda.


    Advance praise for The Creative Priority

    "Jerry Hirshberg has established a management concept that is outside the confines of the traditional managers' playbook. His ideas and philosophy contain worthy messages for all managers facing business challenges of the 21st century." --J. D. Power III, chairman and founder, J. D. Power and Associates

    "Fresh, clear, practical steps for moving creativity from the drawing board to the board room. A landmark book on creativity that is itself creative." --Max DePree, author of Leadership is an Art

    "Teaches invaluable lessons on how to support creativity in your organization."--William C. Byham, Ph.D., president and CEO, Development Design International, Inc.

    "A remarkable book.... A blueprint for establishing a creative culture... written with exceptional clarity."--Jay Chiat, founder and CEO, Chiat-Day Advertising

    "Demonstrates a perceptive and articulate understanding of the creative process and suggests many new approaches to enhance the creative environment that would be appropriate in any organization." --Robert J. Eaton, chairman, Chrysler Corporation

    "A remarkably lucid and entertaining book that should set CEOs as well as first-time managers thinking about how to make their organizations more creative." --Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago and author of the bestselling Flow

    "An outstanding study of creativity and design in management. Hirshberg convincingly details the strategies that made Nissan Design a creative workplace. He charts the pathways of inspiration."--Robert Grudin, author of The Grace of Great Things: Creativity and Innovation

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    About the author (1998)

    In 1980, Jerry Hirshberg ended a 16-year stint as an executive designer at General Motors, where he headed design for Pontiac and Buick, and accepted the position of founding director and eventually President of Nissan Design International, Inc. This unique corporate hybrid has become a creative hotbed of automotive innovation, producing such cutting edge designs as the first Nissan Pathfinder, Altima, Maxima, Pulsar NX and Quest minivan, the Infiniti J30 and the Mercury Villager for Ford. Along the way, owing to an intriguing fixture of the agreement he forged between NDI and Nissan, Hirshberg's team also designs computer concepts for Apple and Motorola, golf clubs for Taylor Made (including the famed 'Bubble Burner'), medical instruments, ski-boots, yachts and pre-school daycare furniture for an international list of clients.

    Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1939, Mr. Hirshberg has spent a lifetime dealing with the creative process. Along with being a designer, he is a consummate painter and classical musician. He scored one of his earliest creative successes with the rock-and-roll hit 'Sparkling Blue,' adopting the stage name Jerry Paul, and was the occasional opening act for such singers as Bobby Rydell, Fabian and Frankie Avalon. He studied Mechanical Engineering at Ohio State University and graduated with honors in Design from the Cleveland Institute of Art, with further study in Europe on a Mary C. Page Fellowship.

    He has served on the Board of Trustees for the Cleveland Institute of Art, the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, the Board of Advisors for the Graduate School for Pacific and International Studies at UCSD and the Mayor's Growth Management Task Force for San Diego. He has been a member of the Design Arts Panel for the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, D.C., and was a member of a select group of the country's leading designers invited to Little Rock, Arkansas to consider the implications of Design for the American economy. He chaired the national IDEA Awards program co-sponsored by Business Week and the Industrial Design Society of America, of which he has served as a national director.

    Mr. Hirshberg has lectured at such universities as Harvard, Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA and Brown, many of which now teach the principles he and his colleagues developed at NDI. He has also addressed a broad variety of professional organizations and audiences worldwide, and has been the subject of several documentary films and television specials in Europe, for PBS in America, and for British television. He speaks on a wide variety of subjects ranging from design and automobiles to public art and creativity in business. He has even addressed the application of his ideas on creative thinking to leading police departments.

    The father of sons Eric, a graphic design and advertising executive, and Glen, a writer and teacher, he works and lives with his wife Linda, a Ph.D. Clinical and Organizational Psychologist and President of Applied Behavioral Systems, in Del Mar, California.

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