Gladwell takes me on a musical and artistic journey through time in Season 1, Episode 7: Hallelujah of his Revisionist History podcast about things forgotten or misunderstood.

I recommend listening to this episode if you love art, music, and creativity. It’s fascinating to learn the role that time and iteration play in the production of genius and how some of the most memorable works of art had unremarkable births.

“Galenson’s idea that creativity can be divided into these types—conceptual and experimental—has a number of important implications,” Gladwell stated all the way back in 2008 in his New Yorker article, Late Bloomers: Why do we equate genius with precocity?

Nine years later, he is still talking about the importance of these two trajectories of geniuses in the art world.

  1. Conceptual Innovators – Conceptual innovators have clear, concise ideas they want to communicate and they articulate those ideas precisely. They plan, execute, and boom. Picasso is who we’d think of when we think of this type of genius, as he bursted on the scenes early on in his life.
  2. Experimental Innovators – Cézanne took a long time to emerge, but is every bit as famous and important as Picasso. He reinvented modern art in Paris in the late 1800s. Experimental innovators are found without clear, easily articulated ideas, and don’t really know where they’re going. Their work is never finished. They go through endless drafts after drafts, and are perpetually unsatisfied.

These two geniuses could not be more different. Experimental innovation requires crazier happenstances, twists and turns, and random events. The luck of meeting the right people at the right place and time makes all the difference. Without this, you would never have heard the song Hallelujah, originally by Leonard Cohen.