Jony Ive, Chief Design Officer at Apple, was the first recipient of the Stephen Hawking Fellowship at Cambridge Union. His lecture to a crowd of about 400 was covered by The IndependentApple designer Jony Ive explains how ‘teetering towards the absurd’ helped him make the iPhone

What struck me was how Ive clearly showed that to produce creative work one has to balance between getting lots of ideas and getting things done, especially creative new things. This constant dance between bigger groups of ideas and smaller groups of people working together requires both cooperation and collaboration. What makes it work is a desire to learn in order to get better.

Social networks can provide inspiration but sense-making requires the resolve to solve problems

“There is a fundamental conflict between two very different ways of thinking. It is the conflict between curiosity and the resolve and focus that is necessary to solve problems. Curiosity, while it fuels and motivates, despite being utterly fundamental to the generation of ideas, in isolation just culminates in lots of long lists, perhaps some ideas, but alone that’s sort of where it ends.” —Jony Ive

On learning in community

“When we genuinely look at a problem it’s an opportunity to learn together, and we discover something together. We know that learning in community is powerful. It feeds and supports momentum which in turn encourages a familiarity and an acceptance of challenges associated with doing difficult things. And I’ve come to learn that I think a desire to learn makes doing something new just a little less scary.” —Jony Ive

On constantly moving between all three modes (perpetual beta)

“You see, in the mode of being unreasonable and resolute, you have to solve hard problems. But solving those problems requires new ideas. And so, we’re back to needing ideas and back to having to be open and curious. This is not a shift that occurs once or twice in a multi-year project. I find it happens to me once or twice a day and that frequency of shifting between two such different ways of seeing and thinking is fantastically demanding.” —Jony Ive

This shows how important it is to integrate learning and working. Being able to make the shift between curiosity and resolve several times a day will be the mark of successful professionals in a creative, networked workplace. Creating practices to enable the shift is the key focus of personal knowledge mastery. We have to feed our curiosity, support learning in community, and resolve to solve our problems together.

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

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