The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Obstacles Inspire Creativity …

I am a big believer in putting as few boundaries around creativity as possible.

That doesn’t mean it can ignore the problem it is trying to solve.

I just think the focus should be on solving a clearly defined problem rather than piling on a bunch of additional ‘mandatories’ that are often for no other reason than satisfying someone’s ego within the organisation.

The main reason for my view is because I know when creativity is given the freedom to solve problems, it can do it in the most imaginative and powerful of ways. In my opinion, too many companies are dictating the solution they want from their agencies – which not only means they are robbing themselves of the possibilities creative people could add to their business, they need to take some of the blame in terms of the lack of traction so many of their ads have in culture.

However, as we all know, when it comes to being able to save a client money – they suddenly become far more open to changing their behaviour. The digital and data industries have profited from this approach more than most – and while some of the things they have done are phenomenal, a lot is quite simply, flawed thinking … designed to drive short-term growth at the cost of long term profit.

Please understand, I am not saying digital and data are flawed. I’m saying many of the things digital and data agencies are doing is. From D2C models that are ore about driving commoditisation than distinctive brand value, to CX practices that are often designed to reduce transactional friction than reinforce brand experience through to user-journeys … which are sold as fact but are designed for mass convenience.

I’m not saying there’s not great value in this … when done well, the impact on brand and business can be huge. But too much isn’t done well. Sold as transformative but executed in productised form.

But I digress

You see I recently read a piece about some incredible lateral thinking.

Where creativity didn’t just overcome a huge obstacle that was eagerly embraced by clients with an open mind, but created an outcome that was better than they ever thought possible.

A few years ago, the US Air Force was facing huge budget cuts.

Their technology was out-of-date and the cost to update would place huge pressure on all the other things that needed investment.

Rather than sacrifice, they explored other ways to solve their challenge.

To cut a long story short, they discovered the answer was a SONY Playstation.

1760 Playstation 3’s to be precise.

1760 Playstation 3’s the came together to build the most powerful supercomputer in the entire US Department of Defense.More than that, it was the 33rd most powerful supercomputer in the world.

At the time, it’s performance was unparalleled … able to perform 500 million mathematical operations in one second and analyse over a billion pixels in one minute. Because of this, the Air Force used it to process high-resolution satellite images, identify unclear objects in space and deepen their research into artificial intelligence.

At the time, the Playstation 3 cost about $400 each.

The cost of buying approximately 2000 of the machines meant the entire project was approximately $2 million … which was between 5-10% of the price of a regular supercomputer of similar capability.

Of course to pull this off required a lot of incredibly talented engineers and computer programmers – not to mention open minded senior officers – but the reality was the end result was something that actually advanced their capabilities.

Not an optimised solution.
Not a short-term benefit at a longer term cost solution.
But something better than they had before at a price that enabled them to do the other things they wished to invest in.

So much of what we do is impacted by systems and processes that are designed to validate remuneration.

There’s value in that.

But when it ends up killing possibilities of effectiveness and value … simply because it doesn’t fit into their pre-determined evaluation criteria of an organisation, then you have to ask who is really mad.

The people who can see ways around the impossible, or the ones who want to stop them.

22 Comments so far
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If this is real, this may be the best post you’ve ever written.

Comment by Bazza

It also means when I’m playing call of duty, I’m basically training for special forces.

Comment by Bazza

It is true. I believe the name they gave it was the condor cluster.

Comment by Lee Hill

I believe this is your perfect chaos > order story.

Comment by Lee Hill

The ultimate case study.

Comment by George

This is the most ridiculous, amazing story I’ve ever heard. And I thought the US Navy were smart for financing Top Gun to make joining up appealing.

Comment by George

for smart you mean evil fucks.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by Pete

this is why they think war is a fucking game.

Comment by andy@cynic

Might explain why they don’t realise friendly fire actually kills people.

Comment by Bazza

By “explored other ways to solve their challenge”, you mean they copied at a larger scale what Linux enthusiasts had done previously. And that’s truly unconstrained creativity.

The British military tried something similar with three ZX81s and an Amstrad midi system, but the less said about that the better.

Comment by John

I’m pretty sure PS didn’t run Linux. I think there was a lawsuit about it. Even if I’m wrong, there’s a big difference between enthusiast behaviour and getting the government military to adopting this approach.

Comment by Bazza

every now and then you remind me how much of a sad tech geek twat you fucking are.

Comment by andy@cynic

Enthusiast was probably the wrong word. But the best part of the story for me is that the military apparently had to beg Sony for the kit.

Comment by John

I tried that to get a PS5. Failed.

Comment by Rob

🇺🇸 🇺🇸 🇺🇸 🇺🇸 🇺🇸

Comment by Billy Whizz


Comment by andy@cynic

What’s with the name change on this blog?

Comment by Bazza

A momentous day.
However the font size and header remain.

Comment by Lee Hill

Well it’s a bit weird.

You see WordPress changed their editing system to write posts. Which meant I had to pay to get to use the classic system. Which meant – for some reason – they changed my domain. Which meant I had to buy [though it was touch and go with buying] And suddenly I’ve spent a bunch of cash to be back where I started and get questioning comments from you lot. Ha.

Comment by Rob

best fucking thing a pretend tech company has ever done.

Comment by andy@cynic

Wait till you see what the NZ government has just done to tax rates.

Comment by John

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