Being creative is good for the soul. This is, I know, a sweeping statement. However, let me explain what I mean by this.
Creativity is about using all parts of our brain, both our logical, rational minds and our intuitive, more ‘open to possibility’ minds. This surely can’t do us any harm. In fact, I would argue that by doing this, we are more likely to be taking wiser decisions and living our lives in a fuller way.
So, what does it mean to be creative?
That depends upon each individual. Each of us has our own possibilities for becoming more creative. Some people will have an interest in the arts, some will be interested in developing creativity and innovation at work. Some will be developing their writing or photography, and others may express their creativity through activities such as cooking or sewing. There are many ways in which we can develop our creativity. What is important is to search out and find your own path to being creative. If nothing else it will offer you a richer experience which you can carry with you throughout your lives.
What are the benefits of creativity?
A blogpost I shared last year offered some benefits of creativity and they are summarised here:
Working creatively can be motivating. It energises and can build up a strong sense of self-confidence.
Creativity can re-ignite our passion. When we are lost in working creatively we are in what Csikzentmihalyi calls a state of flow. Being in a state of flow leads to a sense of happiness. It is a form of mindfulness in which we are in the present, absorbed by our creative pursuits, and not focusing on the past or future.
Developing a creative pursuit can open ourselves up to new opportunities and possibilities. A sense of positivity can result from creative pursuits. It is great to see and reflect upon something tangible that we have achieved. Who knows where this may lead in terms of personal change and development?
Becoming more creative is about doing things differently. Enjoying doing things differently will impact on our whole life and generate more sense of fun in our lives.
Working creatively can reduce stress levels. There is some evidence that stress levels fall when we are absorbed in a creative task, whatever our level of ability.
By becoming more creative we can become more productive at work. We begin to challenge the existing way in which things are done. and search out new and better ways of doing them.
By introducing a creative approach in the problem-solving process, we find that our skill at solving problems develops immensely. Creative problem solving enables and encourages us to see the big picture and not to go down the same road each time we encounter a problem.
Finally, being more creative will be less boring and you will have fun!
Bene Brown had this to say about creativity:
“I’m not very creative” doesn’t work. There’s no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t. Unused creativity isn’t benign. It lives within us until it’s expressed, neglected to death, or suffocated by resentment and fear.’
So, suppressing our creativity can be negative for us.
During the recent lock-downs due to the COVID pandemic many people have turned to creative pursuits, and there seems to have been an upsurge in interest in these.
So how can you become more creative?
- Start by reflecting on what creative activities in your past have brought you joy.
- Start with small amounts of time and dedicate this on a regular basis to that activity. It need not be ambitious to start with, half an hour a day is good. Build up a habit of doing this.
- Find a buddy who has a similar creative interest and support one another. Arrange to meet/ chat regularly so you can make progress.
- Seek out workshops/training to follow to develop your creative pursuits. There are lots around that have free offerings. For example, social media, such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter have interest groups or people to follow in different creative fields.
- Seek out other more experienced people in your creative field to follow and to gain tips on your development.
Finally, just do it. Start small and take baby steps and you will start to reap the benefits.
Barbara is an executive coach, leadership and creativity facilitator. She has coached women and men in a variety of corporate settings, and has developed a unique approach to using creative techniques in her coaching and workshops to enable change at a group or individual level. She has recently co-authored a book on creativity for leaders, called Creativity Cycling , with Dr. Tracy Stanley.
Many organisations talk about creating a vision for their future. However what many do is to create a vision statement. This just doesn’t work for me. Visions need to be inspirational and for this to happen they really need to soar above the limitations of words.
For this reason, I usually recommend creating a future vision through image work, at least in the first instance. To check out ideas for creating a vision using drawing, take a look here. In my next blogpost I will take a look at some other tools for creating vision, such as collage.
Ok, so you have an inspirational vision and you have shared or even better co-created it with your employees, colleagues, family. What next?
One process that you can try, is to create a storyboard to show both your future vision, where you are now, and the steps to get there. This seems to be versatile enough to satisfy people who need a structured approach, and is also attractive to people who dislike a structured approach. For this latter category it can be fun to complete all the boxes using images.
To complete your storyboard
Take a large piece of paper and create 6 numbered boxes as shown.
- Put your vision image into box 6, and in box 1 you put a picture to represent where you are now.
- Brainstorm the gap between where you are now and your future vision. Find other people to work with on this.
- Turn the ideas coming out if this brainstorm into actions.
- Put all the actions down on a separate piece of paper and then work out where they fit on the journey from box 1 to box 6.
- It is often difficult to take those first steps from box 1 to box 2 . It’s a bit like stepping into treacle and you may get stuck. Working backwards from box 6 can help in this process. so ask yourself, what is the last action I need in place before I achieve my vision.
For people who are less structured, this can remain as a loose journey based upon some big action steps. Drawing them can be fun and inspiring.
If you are a more structured person then you can work with defining each step and adding targets etc to them. Bullet proofing can be helpful at this stage to check out what can prevent and what can help achievement of the final vision.
This process can be used in many different ways. for example, I have coached people to use it to develop their strategy, or to map out their personal and professional development. It is also very useful as a process withing creative problem solving to pull together the different stages of the process.
I hope this has given you some ideas for working with putting vision into reality. The next step to take is to do exactly that – take some action!
Barbara is an executive coach, leadership and creativity facilitator. She has coached women and men in a variety of corporate settings, and has developed a unique approach to using creative techniques in her coaching and workshops to enable change at a group or individual level. She has recently co-authored a book on creativity for leaders, called Creativity Cycling , with Dr. Tracy Stanley. The use of storyboarding and how it fits into creative problem solving is covered in this book.
I hear many people make statements like, ‘I am not creative’. Well, I believe we are all capable of being creative. This blog offers a overview of how to be creative, tapping into my learning from creative writing.
To be creative, we need to allow our imagination to be free to roam wherever it will, and not be censured by our logical, rational mind. In this way our ideas can flourish and not be shut down prematurely.
This can be very difficult, however it is worth pursuing if we want to develop our creativity. In creative problem-solving workshops we work on suspending this critical mind by introducing tools and techniques that allow the intuition in. Image based techniques fall into this category.
When we work with word-based tools, we can often revert to a logical rational mode which censors ideas. It’s only at the evaluative stage that we start to consider the appropriateness of our ideas and apply some logical thinking to them.
As someone who has always encouraged imagery to express ideas, it seems a contradiction in terms to talk about creative writing. However let me show you what I have learned from creative writing that can be applied more generally to creativity.
Some guidance on ways in which you can encourage ideas to flourish.
- Write daily, preferably at a fixed time, and for a similar amount of time. I have made this a ritual in my life, so I write in the morning for at least an hour when I have a coffee. What can you create as a ritual around your writing?
- Take a random word or phrase and use this as a starting place to write from, then free-write and see where it takes you. Allow yourself to move into a state of flow.
- Observe people and notice details about them, note them down, then write about them, developing a story around them. Who are they, what were they doing at that place, where do they live etc? If you keep a notebook with you at all times this helps.
- Write longhand, and don’t edit as you go along. Editing allows the rational logical mind in. Perfectionism is the enemy of achievement, so leave the editing as late as possible.
- Be happy to write badly, trust to write rubbish. Don’t judge. In time these ramblings will develop into words you can use and develop ideas and projects from.
- Incubation works well. When you have written something and have come to a point of closure or stuckness, put it aside and leave it for a day, a week, even a month before looking at it again. You will then see it in a fresh light and will know whether and how to move on. Insights will have occurred in the meantime which can be very helpful.
- Don’t be hard on yourself. We are our worst enemies when it comes to self-censure.
- Reward yourself for small achievements.
Finally, what are the main points to take from this and apply to creativity in a general sense?
- Allow your imagination the freedom to roam. In writing we can do this by using daily writing times, in creativity we can use techniques such as image work. don’t leave room for the censor to enter!
- Don’t be afraid to incubate your ideas. Leave them, put them to one side, do other things, then come back to them. This can be for any amount of time. Trust your intuition here.
- Allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes.
What would you add to this?
Barbara is an executive coach, leadership and creativity facilitator. She has coached people in a variety of corporate settings, and developed a unique approach to using creative techniques in her coaching and workshops to enable change at a group or individual level. She has recently published a book on creativity for leaders with Dr. Tracy Stanley, entitled Creativity Cycling .
The myths of creativity and age
There are a lot of myths around concerning creativity and age. Not least the myth that older people are stuck in their ways and that this is a barrier to creativity.
Creativity is a wide-ranging word and can be defined in many ways. We often use it to refer to the arts. However, creative behaviour at work can enhance the performance of individuals, teams and organisations. Creativity can mean different things to different people. Csikszentmihalyi says the recognition that something is creative is often reliant on the field in which this creativity is displayed. Whether or not the idea or product is accepted. Generally, creativity is defined by a range of characteristics, which normally include newness and appropriateness.
Last month I wrote about stage 1 of the creative problem solving process (CPS). Today’s post is about the second stage, exploring options to resolve the problem.
The first part of this stage 2 is to open up to all possible approaches to resolving the problem. There are many techniques which you can use to do this, and a lot of them are based upon brainstorming.
Brainstorming is something that is much abused and I want to share with you ways in which you can improve it.
Let’s start with your experience. I am certain that you will have experienced that time when someone has suggested that you all brainstorm a topic. It might be, for example, ideas for the next marketing campaign, or ways of handling customer feedback.
So, it goes something like this –‘lets brainstorm’ -then you all get together and throw a few ideas out. One of the ideas gets picked up and a discussion follows. During this process you may not have noticed that one of the more introverted members of the team is very quiet. At the end of the 15 minutes allocated, you have a direction to move on, however is it the best? and have all members of the team felt that they have been heard? I would bet that the answer is no these questions.
Last month I wrote about the Creative Problem Solving process (CPS) and its importance in tackling complex problems. Picking up from there, I will now review the first stage of the CPS process, which is to gain an understanding of the problem. This stage consists of a divergent followed by a convergent phase as shown in the diagram here.
This is crucial because often the wrong problem is ‘solved’ if there is not enough time spent on determining the true nature of the problem.
A typical example could be the following:
You have been told that there is a problem with the productivity of a team who also have a high level of absenteeism. The team leader has assumed that the problem is to do with levels of motivation. She has asked for them to be offered an increase in pay as a solution as this team are crucial in the setting up of a new product line. After a process of fully exploring the problem, it is established that the levels of motivation are low. However this is considered to be an effect, not the cause of the problem. The cause is that the team have been recruited with a low level of competencies needed for the current tasks they are performing.