Every summer, Redfin hires interns from Stanford, Yale, Berkeley and the University of Washington. And at least once a summer, an intern posts an essay on our blog. Last year, Edward Chang, who will be rejoining Redfin for a permanent position this fall, explained why college students can’t be bothered with Twitter.
Today, we’re publishing the first essay of this summer. It was adapted from an email that one of our Stanford interns, Michael Brandt, sent me last Thursday about his thinking on creativity and attending business school. The topic had come up because when Michael first approached Harvard Business School about the possibility of applying for the class of 2013, he was told he seemed more creative, rather than business-oriented.
Well, Michael is a very creative person, having in his first couple of weeks at Redfin made a proposal for building a Roomba-style iPhone app, which would allow someone to create a floor plan for a home just by walking the perimeter of each room with the phone in her hand.
Here Michael argues that creativity isn’t incompatible with business, only with business schools. I love the essay, and hope you do, too. Best, Glenn
When I spoke to the Harvard Business School admissions dean last week, she invited me to come to this info session last night to learn about the school and see if I really would fit in.
At the info session, she went through about a dozen adjectives for what she’s looking for — able to lead, self-starting, giving, business-literate, etc. One quality that was not on her list was creativity, or anything like it.
Interesting. I read a Newsweek article recently about the creativity crisis we’re facing in the US.
Interesting quote: “A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 ‘leadership competency’ of the future.” A telling anecdote from the article is of an American professor who observed a Chinese university where the students were doing all sorts of creative projects, while US education is becoming more and more standardized and rote. Said the Chinese prof, “You [Americans] are racing toward our old model. But we’re racing toward your model, as fast as we can.”
We can race too. But we need to realize that being creative is not the same as being a self-starter, a leader, a quick learner, or any other management skill. Creativity is its own quality, taught in its own way. Management aptitude comes with experience managing; creativity comes with, well, being 7 years old.
Some of the most in-demand classes at the Stanford Business School are across campus at the Design School. There’s a tough application process for each class. Business-school students are competing to spend their precious elective units drawing, sawing, going on field trips, brainstorming, filming, thinking, interviewing, building, and destroying. They play all day and leave with more questions than answers.
All adults were creative at one point, and to get it back we just need to be shown how to awaken our inner 7-year old in a useful way.