The Creative Monopoly

24 Apr

David Brooks had an interesting article on the philosophy of Peter Theil. Peter founded Paypal, needless to say, he’s doing okay for himself.


He teaches at Stanford and a student of his posted notes from a class which Peter later confirmed were accurate. Brooks summarizes Peter’s philosophy as follows;

In fact, Thiel argues, we often shouldn’t seek to be really good competitors. We should seek to be really good monopolists. Instead of being slightly better than everybody else in a crowded and established field, it’s often more valuable to create a new market and totally dominate it. The profit margins are much bigger, and the value to society is often bigger, too.

Now to be clear: When Thiel is talking about a “monopoly,” he isn’t talking about the illegal eliminate-your-rivals kind. He’s talking about doing something so creative that you establish a distinct market, niche and identity. You’ve established a creative monopoly and everybody has to come to you if they want that service, at least for a time.

I have only read bits and pieces of the book Blue Ocean Strategy and it sounds awfully similar to what Peter is saying. I wonder which came first, peter? or the ocean?

Brooks goes on to describe creative people;

Think about the traits that creative people possess. Creative people don’t follow the crowds; they seek out the blank spots on the map. Creative people wander through faraway and forgotten traditions and then integrate marginal perspectives back to the mainstream. Instead of being fastest around the tracks everybody knows, creative people move adaptively through wildernesses nobody knows.

I think creative people are independent thinkers first and foremost. They have trained their minds to look for connections and patterns where others simply lack the ability to connect the dots. I believe creativity is close to 100% learned and needs to become a mindset before you can begin to reap its rewards. Most of which involves continually exposing yourself to new ways of thinking and engaging with the world; stepping outside one’s comfort zone will create the conditions necessary for creativity to thrive.  I can recall an excerpt from the book Made to Stick (phenomenal read by the way!) where a study on creating advertising campaigns showed that ordinary people,  with the right techniques, training and working within certain guidelines, are significantly more creative than subjects who were simply left on their own to dream up a campaign.


I am not saying creativity can be distilled into another how to book (did I mention I am currently writing one…jk), or maybe that is what I am saying…. Help me out people, I am lacking creativity today 🙂


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