Unleash Your Creativity
We used to think that creativity is a gift that some of us are born with. But apparently it can be trained and developed. We can capture and cultivate inspirations from our surroundings, but the environment could also have a negative impact on creativity. Just as described in this interview article, individual ideas can be inhibited in a group setting, where the leader takes charge and the others just follow. We are all accustomed to sitting still in class and listening to the teacher. Sadly, that can also suppress creativity. A challenging situation is also improtant to stimulate creativity. That’s good news. Life would be pretty boring without any challenges anyway.
Excerpt from Scientific American Mind How to Unleash Your Creativity:
There are four different skill sets, or competencies, that I’ve found are essential for creative expression. The first and most important competency is “capturing”—preserving new ideas as they occur to you and doing so without judging them. Your morning pages, Julia, are a perfect example of a capturing technique. There are many ways to capture new ideas. Otto Loewi won a Nobel Prize for work based on an idea about cell biology that he almost failed to capture. He had the idea in his sleep, woke up and scribbled the idea on a pad but found the next morning that he couldn’t read his notes or remember the idea. When the idea turned up in his dreams the following night, he used a better capturing technique: he put on his pants and went straight to his lab!
The second competency is called “challenging”—giving ourselves tough problems to solve. In tough situations, multiple behaviors compete with one another, and their interconnections create new behaviors and ideas. The third area is “broadening.” The more diverse your knowledge, the more interesting the interconnections—so you can boost your creativity simply by learning interesting new things. And the last competency is “surrounding,” which has to do with how you manage your physical and social environments. The more interesting and diverse the things and the people around you, the more interesting your own ideas become.
People who want to be more creative have to realize that many new ideas will at first meet great obstacles. When Robert talked about “challenge,” you could read that word “challenge” in two ways. You need to challenge yourself, that’s true, but you also have to realize that the world out there—society, the audience for your new idea—will perhaps need a lot of time to get used to it and may initially not want to reward you. It’s important not to become discouraged. You have to keep at it!
When I do seminars on creativity, I teach stress-management techniques to help people cope with the rejection that goes hand in hand with creativity. You have to learn not to fear failure and even to rejoice in it. When I’m failing, I say to myself, “I’m in good company. I’m in the company of some of the most creative and productive people in the world.”
In the laboratory, failure also produces a phenomenon called resurgence—the emergence of behaviors that used to be effective in that situation—that leads to a competition among behaviors and to new interconnections. In other words, failure actually stimulates creativity directly. It really is valuable.
There’s also a stereotype that creativity is just involved in the generation of ideas. But after the ideas are generated, you then have to evaluate them, sift through them, embellish them, repair them, revise them and get them tested, which all means that the creative process is actually quite complex.
Let me give you an example of an exercise I do with people that boosts group creativity. It’s called “the shifting game.” In this exercise, half of my teams stay together for 15 minutes to generate names for a new cola. The other teams work together for five minutes, then shift out of the group to work on the problem individually, then come together for the last five minutes. Even with all the moving around, the shifting teams produce twice as many ideas as the nonshifting ones. This happens, I think, because groups inhibit a lot of creative expression. Dominant people tend to do most of the talking, for one thing. But when people shift, everyone ends up working on the problem.