It’s a common enough question. Most people realise that we need to be more creative. Creativity is about new ways of doing things and new things done. So in a world where change is certain, creativity is the method we have to be able to cope with and surf on that change.
There are numerous books written on the subject (three of them are mine) and immeasurable articles telling us the top tips on how we can unlock our creativity. Some put forward things they call tools (like MindMaps, Thinking Hats or other mind games). Some say there is a process you have to go through. And some say simply, ‘do something different’.
But it seems that there are a few things you need:
• some level of self confidence in your abilities,
• a lack of judgmental thinking (i.e. you’re open to ideas without labeling them right, wrong or can’t be done).
• focus (i.e. free from distractions that do not concern the task in hand)
It sounds easy. If that was all that was needed, wouldn’t more people have more brilliant ideas? Why are so many people, well, so uninspired? Surely there’s some other missing ingredient, some magic spark?
Creativity can be reduced down to connections being made between other ideas that make connections between different neurons in the brain which then results in some action being taken to manifest the new combination (the new idea).
So if we’re not having ideas, it’s that process that isn’t happening.
Let’s look back at the things we need and see why their needed and why one or more of them is often missing.
Self confidence in our abilities: this is the main reason people don’t manifest their greatness, don’t go for their dreams, don’t have the best ideas and don’t carry them through. Deep down at some level they have doubt. Doubt in some aspect of their ability, their personality or what they feel others might think. In some way all of us have doubt. We fear we won’t be loved or that we’re not lovable. We fear we’re not good enough and that paralyses our creativity. The origin of this doubt is complex, it can be a remnant from childhood, a defence mechanism to keep us out of embarrassment or a belief based on evidence from the past that may be real, but we fear failure so much that we can’t get past it to try again.
Non-judgmental thinking: we’re trained to think critically, to test and measure, to examine the facts and reject the false. That’s a good thing. But we sometimes jump too quickly to criticise and judge, squashing potentially great ideas when they’re in a delicate primordial state. This type of thinking shuts down the connection process in the brain.
Time: we’re all to busy. far to busy to find the time to sit quietly and think, or to take a walk or whatever it takes to allow our brains to make the secret connections we need it to make. One thing is certain – the brain doesn’t perform at it’s most creative under undue stress. It will find an answer, the task will be done, but at a cost. The brain will only make the most obvious connection, the quickest route to the solution. This is why we appear to work well under pressure. But in reality, that work is rarely truly ground breaking. Finding the right time is important too. It’s not likely the be after lunch or when you’re tired.
Focus: This is also connected to time. We’re so busy multitasking and live in a world of distraction that even if we think we’ve found a time slot to be creative in, we contaminate it with emails, tweets, other tasks, worry and interruptions. Creativity is a solo activity, a solo activity that also works when creative individuals create a solo team that acts as one mind.
If that is beginning to sound complex again, it can be reduced down to this: to be more creative we need to do whatever is possible to enable more and more varied connections between our neurons. Now since we can’t sit there and ‘do’ that, we have to follow the suggestions described above which create the opportunity for those neurons to connect and build mindflow.
If we do that, then the other tools DO come into play: read more, travel more, do different things, draw more, write more, play more.
If we are able to do that, when we are later faced with a new problem, such as ‘how can I make more money’ – we will have more resources (i.e. more connections in our neural net) to draw upon. Our brain becomes less like a railway track that always takes us back and forth on the same line, and becomes more like paths through the wood, that takes us left, right, back, forward, where paths merge and have dead ends but may well just lead to a secret glade where the answer to our problem awaits.
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