Tom Stewart’s creative process is far from orderly.
Question: What's your creative process?
Tom Stewart: I once was doing an article that I was doing in Fortune magazine. I did an article about power. I actually did two of them about power in corporations. And I got very interested in psychological testing and how … and because there was a fad. This was, I can’t remember, seven or eight years ago. There was a fad for giving psychological tests to people before they got promoted . . . Meyers-Briggs tests, but also other kinds of tests. I also was intrigued because back in the 1950s, there was a fad for aptitude tests. And in fact it was concern with the aptitude test fads that got … to start writing the book that became the organization of the articles for Fortune … became the organization. And included in that book was a chapter on how to cheat on aptitude tests – how to take them and how to cheat on them. So I got interested in the personality tests, and I went to a psychologist friend and I said, “Would you teach me how to cheat on psychology tests?” And she said, “No, I can’t. I’m not allowed. There are professional standards. But I’ll give you one. I’ll give you the battery that I give.” Because she does executive coaching and so on and so on. So she gave me this battery of tests and gave me the feedback. And out of it … and of course I tried to cheat … and I … But out of it I got some interesting feedback in which she said that … that she was intrigued by the way that my mind worked. Because she found that … that my mind worked in a way that not too many other people in her experience … experience did. Which … which is it made all kinds of connections to things in strange ways. I would, you know … I’d leap from A to Z to M to L to P, and I’d pull in things from … from a whole lot of sources and sort of dance around topics until I’d get it right. And if I get passionate about an idea, I swarm it. I overdo it. I kill it. You know I … I just go all over it until I think I understand it. Or until … or until I’m bored and I go somewhere else. So it’s that kind of … There’s not an orderly process. It’s a fairly physical process. I mean, there’s a … I … I squirm a lot around in my chair when I’m excited by an idea, or I start talking to people. I wanna run it by them. So it … it’s kind of a noisy … a noisy process of seeing connections and getting excited by them.
Recorded on: 6/22/07