“Everything is a Remix” – What are You Remixing?

The process of creation has been fascinating to me for decades. I’m someone who loves listening to demo recordings of my favorite music while reading about the influences behind its creation and the recording sessions themselves. I’m someone who enjoys seeing concept art for movies, or hearing a creator talk about how they made choices that led to their final work (similar to the – likely apocryphal – story about Michelangelo’s David). Few things are as thrilling for me as seeing an artist’s sketch come together, or sitting with a musician friend noodling on guitar and hearing them create the core elements of a piece of music that they’ll develop more over time. This, to me, is alchemy – taking the raw materials of musical notes, or pencils or paints, or words, and transforming them into something magical.

Think of a movie, a book, or a piece of music you enjoy. What were the raw materials that went into this work? What influences went into it? How obvious are they? If you’ve never seen the YouTube documentary Everything Is A Remix – or you haven’t seen it for a while – it is well worth a watch. The documentary uses examples of creative work throughout history to highlight three basic elements of creativity: CreateTransform, and Combine. Even the most highly regarded works rely on, build on – and sometimes are derivative of – works that came before them. Every creator is standing on the shoulders of giants. As the documentary’s title suggests, creative works are always, in essence, a remix of creative works and influences that came before – hopefully with some unique elements added – or combined in interesting ways – to create something new.

This is equally true outside of creative works. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that everything we do is a creative work. Every inventor’s creation relies on the work of thousands of people before them. Every programmer’s final product builds on the work of thousands (millions?) of people who’ve added something new to computers in the last century. But on a more personal level, think about phrases you commonly use and how you picked those up, or attitudes and opinions you hold and how those were shaped. Think about the influences that have gone into the choices you’ve made throughout your life. You could just as well say that your actions are a remix of things that have come before in your life. And this is true on a world scale just as it is on a personal one; as the 20th anniversary of 9/11 last weekend reminded us all, world events are also predicated on what came before, and shape what comes after. And so too is your team’s work a remix of what’s come before – using successes and failures to shape the future, along with influences and ideas from elsewhere.

So how might this idea of remixing be useful to you and your team this week?

This Week’s Tip:

Take some time this week to reflect on what are you remixing? What are your influences? What are the raw materials you’re using? What are you creating? 

  1. As a starting point (if you haven’t already), take some time to complete the Social Identity WheelThis can be helpful when thinking about your influences.
  2. Consider the sources of your influences. Are you attributing credit appropriately? If you ascribe to the idea that ‘everything’ is a remix, attributing credit can be impossible to do accurately, but where you have been consciously influenced or helped by another, do you acknowledge them when sharing your work? Doing so honors them, and helps others to share credit also.
  3. What other influences or raw materials might be worth considering? If your sources would identify similarly to you on the Social Identity Wheel, consider widening your input – focus deliberately on taking in creative works from people who would identify differently than you.
  4. As a team, reflect on what is influencing your work and your choices. Take some time to question your influences, and ask if others might be worth exploring. In particular, make space for out-of-the-box blue-sky thinking to hear ideas that haven’t been brought up in your team before.
  5. Talk about creativity in your team meetings. Encourage team members to share their creative pursuits, and share your own! You never know how that might influence your team! Contact us to find out how Building Bridges Leadership can support creativity on your team!

Try these out this week and let us know how it goes – we’d love to hear from you. If you have thoughts or questions, post in our Facebook group.

Published by Ian Jackson

Ian Jackson is the founder of Building Bridges Leadership, which works with individuals, teams, and organizations to create authentic community in the workplace. He also writes children's fiction and teaches creative writing.

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