Creativity Marketers can draw inspiration from anything.
In my case, from Nicole Kidman in the play "Photograph 51" by Anna
Ziegler this week. This tells the story of Dr Rosalind
Franklin, the pioneering experimental scientist whose work prompted
the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA.
Despite her essential role in the uncovering of the so-called
"secret of life", Franklin was not there for the final breakthrough
and did not share in the Nobel Prize subsequently awarded to
Francis Crick and James Watson from Cambridge, who finally solved
the riddle, and to Maurice Wilkins, her supervisor at King's
How come they made the breakthrough and got the credit, and she
did not? That's a question the play explores, and the lessons
that emerge are valuable ones for anyone committed to tearing up
the text-book and delivering innovation - whether scientist, artist
or even marketer.
Figure 1 - Nicole Kidman as Dr
Rosalind Franklin in "Photograph 51"
Firstly, Franklin was a meticulous experimenter. She
refused to make assumptions until the facts were proven beyond
doubt. Crick and Watson by contrast were theoreticians and
always ready to take an imaginative leap, even when it led nowhere
and they had to back-track.
Secondly, Franklin was a loner and could be a prickly character,
whereas Crick and Watson were naturally gregarious and used their
sympathetic relationship with Maurice Wilkins, Franklin's
supervisor, to gain access to and build on Franklin's work without
Then there are reasons of Franklin's situation rather than her
character. She was a woman, and in the clubby scientific
establishment of the 1950s that often meant a battle to be taken
Figure 2 - Franklin's "Photograph
51" that suggested the double-helix structure of DNA
And in any case, by the time the Nobel Prize was decided
Franklin was dead - killed by ovarian cancers most likely caused by
her exposure to X-rays while carrying out the very experiments that
led to the discovery of DNA's structure. The rules of the
Nobel Prize allow only living scientists to qualify.
So what can even the greatest thinkers learn? The
importance of being open to imaginative leaps that take you beyond
what you know already - you can always test things out later and be
prepared to retreat. The importance of networking and the
contribution of others in perfecting your ideas. And the
destructive nature of any barriers that destroy true equality of
All of which were perfectly
demonstrated by Nicole Kidman in London this week, by taking on
this unconventional role and turning it into a theatrical
Stephenson-Wright is Affiliate Professor at ESCP Europe
Business School, and Programme Director for the MSc in Marketing & Creativity.
The London campus will hold a webinar information session for
the MSc in Marketing and Creativity (MMK) and Executive Master in Marketing and Creativity
(EMMK) on 25th February at 5:00 pm (UK Time). To register, click here.
To keep up-to-date with our activities, follow us on twitter @CreativityMktg and LinkedIn Creativity Marketing at ESCP Europe.