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.
It was widely reported that in 2016 the World Economic Forum cited creativity as one of the top 3 skills organisations would need by 2020. The top skill which has been consistent in their reporting is critical problem solving.
Critical problem solving is much improved when a dose of creativity is added because many organisations get stuck in loops of thinking. The saying, ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got’ is so true.
Creative problem solving is an approach that offers opportunities to develop both critical thinking and creative approaches to problems. The result is that better and different solutions may be identified.
Risk is a part of life: something we all live with. Some people are more comfortable with risk, others have no choice. However. I propose that for change, development, creativity and innovation, a level of healthy risk is essential.
Risk and Fear
Risk, however, can bring with it feelings of fear. As I write this I remember reading the book by Susan Jeffers, Feel the fear and do it anyway . It had a very positive effect on me at a time in my life when I was about to leave a full-time job in one country for an uncertain freelance career in another. The fear around risk is that we may fail. However, if we never take a risk, we may never live life at our best.
This fear of failure is prevalent in organisations. Failure is often punished and the consequences of this is a reluctance to start or try anything new or different. This is detrimental to creativity and innovation. As people and as organisations, without taking a risk, we cannot develop and change. To enable creativity and innovation risk is essential.