My son is at that age where he keeps asking if things are real. Are there really smurfs out there somewhere? It’s not very challenging for filmmakers to suspend his disbelief. I, on the other hand, know there are no smurfs. I asked my parents a long time ago and got the same disappointing answer I gave my son.
But watching Star Wars he asks if spaceships are real. And I can tell him that they are. We made them real because we built them and travelled into space. So why shouldn’t he wonder about smurfs?
We never stop trying to understand the world we live in, and when we look at the universe through grownup eyes, it is through the filters of knowledge, understanding and experience. They are very useful tools and used correctly, there is more than enough wonder in this world for a lifetime.
Experience tells you where not to go. It creates shortcuts in thinking, slapping “do not enter” signs on avenues your mind deems not worthy of exploring. Without this process, no useful thinking is possible and no creative venture would ever reach any practical result.
We know what is true. We understand our world. And we know what works and does not work. To create something new, we must first suspend parts of our knowledge of the world and ask, “Could that possibly be real?” For a brief moment we need to suspend our own disbelief and enter the world of fantasy. It´s what we call an idea. A smurf, if you will.
To create something new, we must first suspend parts of our knowledge of the world and ask, “Could that possibly be real?”
And therein lies the contradiction, because everything else in the creative process is a very grown up series of tough calls, rationality, hard work, reasoned debate and focus. It is a strange and exciting combination, this fantasy coupled with discipline.
At the heart of QuizUp is one of those simple fantasies: Wouldn’t it be fun to have a trivia game where you play against your friends? Can we do that? Everything else follows from there. Problems need to be resolved and questions answered. How many topics should QuizUp have? Maybe, instead of 6 or 10, there should be hundreds or even thousands? That’s another fantasy in itself. Would people want to write their own questions? How childlike is that? Will other people join in for the sheer fun of it? Almost 50,000 people have asked us to do so already.
Somewhere along the way, we realized we weren´t building a game but instead a new way for people to interact with one another. That was an interesting revelation. We are now connecting people all over the world through their interests and passions. So far, QuizUp has been a case of asking a series of simple questions and getting a very long and complicated answer.
Making Fantasy Real
The idea itself is truly not the most important thing. Execution is everything and without our engineers and designers, their knowledge and vision, it would still just be a good idea. It took two years to make QuizUp and it was at times a very messy business, full of wrong turns and dead ends. Of course it was. The creative process was about giving these flights of fancy some concrete shape. Making something people could navigate, something that looked good and finding the people with all the different skills needed to make it happen. Finding a smurf is only the beginning. Catching and holding onto one is even harder. Just ask Gargamel.
This article is part of GE’s Dare to Do collection that explores the imagination and curiosity of those who dare to do great things. At GE, we don’t just dream of a world that works better. We build it.