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Imagine there was a little turtle with a shiny green shell. Let’s call her Toni. One day the other little turtles, envious of the attention Toni received over her shiny green shell, told her shell was gone. At first, Toni didn’t believe them, but after hearing turtle after turtle swear that it was indeed gone, she began to believe it. Soon Toni began retreating under shelter when it rained since she had no shell. She’d explore less of her world for fear of danger since she had no shell. This behavior continued even as she grew into a big turtle since Toni still believed she had no shell.
Most humans are just like Toni. Instead of a shell, it’s their creativity that they’ve been made to believe is missing. An innate trait that we’re all born with and used to explore, learn and make sense of the world. Sadly, it just takes one or two individuals to convince us that we’re not creative. Typically this happens in the formative years of elementary education. When we’re told that there’s only one answer, that it can be found only one way, and that that’s the only problem that matters in the first place.
We’re All Creative
When framed in that way, creativity is something every knowledge worker must have to avoid being replaced by A.I. Yet many are quick to say “I’m not creative“. Pablo Picasso said “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once they grow up.”
Creativity is one of the traits we have as little children. What most adults fail to realize is that unlike a doused campfire their creativity isn’t snuffed out. Rather it’s been muted like the television volume by years of social conditioning. The compulsory school systems mandate compliance at the expense of individuality and creative expression. Soon that child begins doubting their creativity for fear of ridicule, getting a bad grade or worst of all, not being accepted by others.
ReCreating Your Creativity
The key then to invigorating our sense of creativity is creating a sense of safety in our workplaces. A place where people are free to share their ideas and get constructive feedback. Which preferably comes in the form in the form of “Yes, and…” A commonly used approach in the Improv world.
Tips to be more creative:
- Inspire – “It’s all in your head.” If your doctor spoke those words it could be a great let down. When it comes to creativity, truer words have never been spoken. Your thoughts are the kindling or the logs of your creative flame. Having different thoughts is keys as the most innovative usually come from separate ideas/realms.
- Move – “Move! #$%!&, Get out the way!“ …of your thought creation. During simple non-brain intensive movements, the conscious mind is occupied long enough for the subconscious mind to engage. Ever wonder why many claim to have gotten their insights in the shower?
- Play – “Daddy, will you play with me?“ As a father, I get that a lot. Kids love to play. Think about it, the times when our creative juices are bubbling over is the time when we’re constantly playing. Re-incorporate a bit of play into your day. Take it one step further and schedule a 15-minute play break into that busy schedule.
- Write – “Writing is like painting with words.” Nothing is better for helping you gain clarity of thought than writing. Sometimes stirring the mind for words could feel like your stirring molasses. Stick with it and get something down on the page. It’ll absolutely suck at first, but with enough time this mental Jui-Jitsu often yields tremendous insights and ideas.
- Design – “Build it and creativity will come.” Ok ok, that’s not quite what Jame Earl Jones told Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams. The very act of designing something will prime the pump. If creativity were a carton of eggs, there’d only be 1 or 2 uncracked ones in that 18 ct carton. The only way to get the good ones is to go through the bad ones.
- Constrain – “Ultimate freedom is chaos.” In a counterintuitive way, applying restrictions unlocks more creative ideas. Like the floating swimming lines in a pool, constraints bring order to our creative faculties. Instead of asking “How can you feed a family of four for a week?” consider asking “How can you feed a family of four for a week for less than $150 with only non-processed foods?”
- Defer – “Only God can judge me.“ I dislike this oft tattooed bumper sticker slogan. However, when it comes to creativity it’s what you have to tell yourself. When you do release your idea or creation into the world, remember that it’s the idea/work being judged by others – not you. Your ideas/work aren’t clones of you. Let them stand (or fall) on their own.
To get started, I recommend the following books:
- Creative Confidence – creativity is within all of us. how to get it out is the issue.
- Big Magic – reimagining “genius” and understanding fear’s role in the creative process.
- Creativity Inc. – understanding art vs tech, how truth is like oxygen for creative cultures.
At the end of the day, businesses exist to solve a series of seemingly never-ending problems. Workers are therefore employed not for their immense knowledge of a given problem, but rather for their ability to solve those problems. That’s why honing your creativity can have profound effects on your ability to reimagine and reframe a problem. Especially if you’re able to do it collaborate with others by showing them how to be more creative. Thus scaling the creative force that can be unleashed. Your problems won’t stand a chance.