In an increasingly competitive economic environment, business leadership and employees look for creative solutions to do more with less.
Creativity may be learned
Edward DeBono in “Serious Creativity” defines creative as, “bringing into being something which was not there before.” Ken Robinson in “Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative” says, “Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value.”
Ancient Greek and Eastern cultures believed creativity belonged to the gods. Human-produced poetry and works of art were seen as imitations of divine creation. Renaissance poets and artists were thought to be divinely inspired, gifted by the gods. The idea that humans, beyond those who were gifted, could learn creativity emerged post-Enlightenment. However, it was not until Graham Wallace’s work in the early 20th century that creativity was defined as a five-step process. If creativity could be learned through a series of steps, then creativity would be available for all of us.
Creativity is part of who we are
We are creative beings, endowed with curiosity, passion and mental capabilities to be creative. David Bennett in “Exploring Recent Findings in Neuroscience that can Enhance Adult Learning” advocates that humans are biased toward creativity. We are creative because of the design and function our brains. Information enters our brain from multiple sources and it’s stored in numerous locations. According to Robinson, when we recall from memory, information is combined with other data to create new patterns of thought. We recall very little and our brain fills in the rest. Our ability to innovate is a result of recombination of information, most of which may not have been previously related.
Our biggest barrier to creativity is what we think about creativity. Just as we are biased toward creativity, we are also hesitant to be creative. Robinson reports this paradox: “Most children think they’re highly creative; most adults think they’re not.” He attributes this change in attitude to our culture and educational systems, which teach conformity rather than innovation.
Reluctance to exercise our innate, creative talents is due to many factors. Chief among them are self-limiting beliefs such as:
Creativity begins when we give ourselves permission
As a child, I wanted to learn how to ride a bicycle. I don’t recall negative thoughts such as:
I do recall positive experiences such as:
Learning to ride a bicycle is a good example of how to apply our innate creativity to achieve something new. My experience with a bicycle may be summarized as three conditions to create our desired objective:
Environment supports creativity
For creativity to flourish in business and our personal lives, we need creativity champions. In the business world, champions include leaders who will run beside you and coach your creativity with words of encouragement. Company leadership may mistakenly establish creativity departments rather than mentor or coach creativity for all employees. Each employee is capable of creative thought. Champions in your private life include people who will encourage and enable your creativity. Find champions and gain their support.
Tools to apply creativity
Every trade or profession has tools for your creative efforts. DeBono, for example, is a generalist on creativity and his tools are based on lateral thought. Traditional Western thought is linear, logical, and consistent. Lateral thinking, on the other hand, interjects possibilities that are non-linear, illogical, and inconsistent such as a joke. A joke is humorous because of the punch line, which is related to the joke’s linear story. Punch lines, however, are injected seemingly out of nowhere, and therefore lateral to the logic of the joke’s story. The surprise of the punch line creates the humor.
DeBono recommends tools to invoke lateral thought such as mind maps, vision fans, and provocation. Use DeBono’s training wheels or find tools for your trade, profession, or personal vision to learn creativity for your specific needs.
Practice to learn
See the path ahead of you as you attempt to ride your creative idea. Talk about your idea, have a vision, and sense your objective to put your intention in multiple locations in memory. When you grip the handlebars for your journey, feel the bumps in the path beneath you and experience the emotions of the moment. Find passion and excitement in the ride. Focus on the end of your journey as you swerve from side to side toward your ultimate destination.
Use your creative time in short bursts. Don’t try to be creative in one afternoon. Ride every day with frequent breaks, to change your perspective and your surroundings. It’s important to get up from your desk, walk to the window for distant views, and reflect on your vision. Movement changes your mood and feeds creative energy.
Balance your life to stay upright on your chosen path. Maintain your social life, family and friends to help you when you fall. Accept failure as part of your experience. There are many Band-Aids in your box of learning. Use them. And, when you are ready, remove your training wheels and ride to what you have created.
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Richard Wilberg, MS, PLCC, ACC
Life Coach for Personal Fulfillment and Career Success
About the Author
Richard Wilberg is a creativity coach, musician, writer, photographer, and former business leader who lives in Madison, Wisconsin.