Saturday, March 31, 2012

Growing Up Starbucks

Starbucks' philosophy of maintaining an organic lifestyle has its origins in the coffee houses of Ancient Turkey.  

Pipe Artistory calls these ancient coffee houses "the location of choice to sip one's coffee and smoke a pipe."  

The patrons who frequented these coffee houses are not unlike the modern-day patrons of Starbucks, sans the smoking. The success of Starbucks' philosophy seems to have deep seated roots in our shared appreciation for nostalgia and for organic craftsmanship.  

The pipe above is a silver-plated copper pipe in the shape of a Turkish clay pipe. "This is an example of either the strong appeal of the culture of the Orient among the XIXth century elite of Europe or the actual demand from the elite of Constantinople for an occidental masterpiece in the ...shape of...Tophane pipe bowls." 

A "retrofitting" statement (lol) made by Arthur Asa Berger in Deconstructing Travel, describes nostalgia as a connection to an 'imaginary' past, "when life seemed to have been more interesting and exciting." 

Just as these coffee shops attracted writers, such as the famed Charles Dickens, so too does Starbucks attract many creative types - artists, musicians, students, and so on. 

It is for this reason that the success of Starbucks is not surprising. To go from one single coffee shop in 1971 to one of the most recognized and respected global brands has more to do with the experience of growing up than selling coffee. 

The feelings associated with nostalgia have long since provided coffee house patrons with "an uplifting and personal" experience. Connecting that relationship to a product can result in hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on having the experience. 

The cultural significance of our recollections manifest in the phenomenon known as nostalgia, an experience whereby our minds chronicle the universal journey of growing up during each respective Age of Innocence. 

Here, we embellish our lives, create our alter egos, and experience forever a wonderful, simpler time - our struggle for identity, first dates, friends, sweethearts, siblings, parents, school, cars, music, radio, television, and now, YouTube.

Stepping back and appreciating the objects and concepts that unite us is an experience universally valued.  Finding yourself in your memories is like growing up all over again. 

Grant Snider and the Cross-Creative Process

Grant Sinder began his career as a comic artist by drawing a weekly comic strip for the Kansas City Star called Delayed Karma. A dental student turned obsessed comic, Snider demonstrates great talent in a variety of contexts within the comic strip domain - on top of that, his work is brilliantly funny. 

Surgeons who played video games improved their eye-hand coordination, committed 37% fewer mistakes in laparoscopic surgery, and increased their task rate by 27% as compared to their counterparts who did not play video games. Snider, who is currently studying orthodontics at the University of Colorado-Denver, may someday be another example of the cross-creative process employed by the surgeons in this study. 


Creative processes are intuitive, applying them to non-related domains helps us apply this way of thinking to generate exceptional (and more creative) solutions to seemingly different problems. When we get wrapped up in the context of things, it takes creativity to keep searching for the content. 

Drawing comics, playing video games, or gardening are all creative processes. Employing our creative side results in a myriad of skills and abilities that allow us to look for solutions that aren't as obvious to others. When we are creative, we are more inclined to throw out old strategies and purse new directions, we can appreciate and be comfortable with complexity and ambiguity, and eventually, we adopt a general attitude that includes refusing to prematurely pass judgment on ideas. 

Irregardless of where creativity is applied, it goes without saying that people who actively pursue creative ventures reap the benefits of this process in unrelated areas. Like the Sinder and the surgeons in the study (hyperlinked) above, I believe we'd see many improvements in society and industry if allowed ourselves (and our nation's youth) to engage in tasks "just because" we find them personally enjoyable and beneficial. 

This intrinsic motivation comes from within; it's clearly linked with our own identity, personality and interests. In this state, we don't care what others think. We're doing something just because we want to do it, and that's reason enough. 

I can't say we'd see the same success if the surgeons were "only" playing video games to improve their surgery skills - unless something "kicked in" while they were playing a game and all of a sudden you hear your dad shout "Yes!" from the other room because he leveled up !!!  

When we engage in a task just because we think we will derive an external benefit, we're less connected to who we are and more focused on the benefit that compelled us to do something we didn't really want to do in the first place (for a paycheck, award, grade, or someone else's approval). 

Naturally, we're motivated by both intrinsic and extrinsic forces to think creatively. The key is keeping our motivations properly balanced. 

If you're a student, checking out this post because you dig Incidental Comics, then email this post to your parents to justify an extra hour of video game playing, Manga reading, dancing, or skateboarding. Tell them that you are focused on a task that allows you to maintain your motivation in other key areas of your life (like school). If you need to hang out with your friends, remind them that the creative process isn't just a solitary activity. The usefulness of an idea is part of what makes it creative, and the people around us help make that evaluation. Even though the creative process is richly experienced on a personal level, creativity is also a decidedly social phenomenon. 

If you're an adult reading this post, please forward this to all the generations of people in your life. Creativity is not limited to teenagers with braces. Creative people are often times pioneers in their careers, people who are later referred to as "ahead of their time," and people who clearly note the importance of the creative process in performing their careers, which they often times refer to as "getting the zone." 

However creativity operates, the processes employed engage the cognitive (thinking) dimension.  Cognition is more than facts and figures, it includes all the mental actions or processes of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses. The result of this perception or creative eye is what we should focus on - the content, not the context (comics, video games, gardening, and so on). 


1. Read Snider's comics. 
2. Laugh when appropriate. 
3. Go do something "just because"
4. Measure your increased performance at work or school. 
5. Return to this email, and forward it to all your friends

(so they, too, can reap the benefits of intrinsic motivation)