Why do we find our most creative times are sitting on the toilet, taking a bath or painting a wall? Why is it we dream so vividly and imaginatively yet hardly ever capitalise on this creativity when we’re awake. And why upon why do we feel so energy-sapped when we most need energy, say for instance, at work?
Notice too how effortless thinking becomes when we hit a groove of fascination. Letting go of our ‘editorial control’ through times in life is a freedom we rarely grant ourselves.
I was blessed to be invited to an Institute of Public Administration of Australia breakfast recently featuring Jason Clarke, innovator extraordinaire. The ‘breakfast for the brain’ was a great investment of my time. The following are some of the gems I recorded.
What Geniuses In History Had In Common
Most of the geniuses in history jealously guarded their methods of creativity, viewing these methods as almost magical and not to be tampered with. They not only found the way to release their imaginations, they trusted the method and protected it, not seeking to overly analyse why it worked. They didn’t get distracted away from this; they saw it as part of their intrinsic life purpose. They were not afraid of devoting time to it.
They were big fans of capture. Everywhere they went they had pen and paper to capture thoughts--then, importantly--they’d do something with the thought. They acted. Most ‘mere mortals’ get creative thoughts and then don’t do anything about them. The best innovators take the next step consistently. The gift was matched with work.
Notably, the thoughts and stimulus for creativity and innovation came from the external world, perhaps mostly from the extraordinary things to personal experience; things we don’t see very often--things that surprise us.
3-Phase Process (Experience-Create-Express)
Something is experienced, something new or unusual from the norm and it stays there, and is perhaps forgotten. The creation phase is when there is an ‘epiphany’ and suddenly there’s a spark, a salient link to the experience--we remember the experience in the context of our imaginative thought and find a use for the experience; this is the impetus to get to work… we therefore express the idea; we tell someone about it or we write about it and develop it. It takes courage and faith to express. We then act on the feedback refining the idea.
Time and Space (and the Right Environment)
We need time and space to get our imaginations working; the busyness of work is one of the biggest threats here. This is why we come up with our best solutions to work problems when watering the garden or doing the dishes. Our minds need to be relaxed.
We need to get into a space where we can be surprised; this is where deviations from the norm are good; when serendipity is applauded and celebrated; and, where curiosity must abound. If our mind wanders, we must follow it, not rebuke it. We must expect inspiration when we least expect it.
Hotter / Colder, not “Yes” or “No”
Many leaders pour cold water on enthusiastic help with a curt “No,” when a ‘hotter / colder’ approach might fit a lot better because it’s not limiting. Asking someone for ‘more of this,’ or ‘less of that’ is less constraining and a much better way to encourage people to bring their brains through the gate.
Write, write, write some more… right!
A simple way to purge our minds of the junk thoughts that cloud any semblance of real imagination is to take three pages of paper and just begin writing; it’ll be gibberish to begin with but then some really good stuff will often emerge a little later on.
Music for the Right Mood
Music sparks the right flavour of thought. If we wish to be inspired we listen to uplifting music; if we want to capture something deep, likewise.
Whinging and Dreaming (together)
A whinge, an irritation… these are only good if we’re prepared to dream up a solution to change it. Randomness and chaos are not always bad things.
The bridge between dreaming and doing is IDEA. We need to diverge before we converge again. This is a great acronym for charting the process from the idea to the implementation of the fully grown thing.
Most of all we need the idealism to not just be what we are, but dream about what we could be.