With all this talk of creativity, it’s very helpful and important to understand exactly how I’m defining it–especially as it relates to business.
Creativity means seeing something others do not see. It means making connections out of things old and new that no one else has made. It also means sharing your ideas and vision with the world.
Sharing New Ideas With the World
The creative process can’t exist in a vacuum. You can’t come up with amazing ideas on your own, stuck in your own thoughts and worldview. The best idea means nothing at all if it hasn’t been shared with other people. Your creativity and ideas need to be incubated, put into action, and shared.
What Creativity Means for Children
Earlier, I mentioned how incredible the wonder of a 3-year-old is. There is no one more curious than a child, which is why it’s such a shame that for most people, natural creativity and wonder is squashed.
There’s a popular Facebook meme, attributed in some variations to Phyllis Diller, that says, “We spend the first 2 years of our child’s life teaching them to walk and talk, and the remainder of their childhood telling them to shut up and sit down.” For me, this says it all.
Children are told to stop asking questions and to give the answers. The unuttered meaning is to, “stop being creative and be more like an adult.”
Children who are active, exploratory, dreamy, or different in school are told they have a discipline problem. Many of these children are given medication to calm them down. But, are we really medicating and numbing the most creative and important future members of society?
Regardless of your feelings on the topic, it’s impossible to know exactly what we are squashing by making children conform before their time.
Being creative means being with people who think differently. As humans, we naturally tend to conform to those around us. But, as you’ll find out, the most creative people in the world are those who seek out different views and opinions from their own. They hang out with people of different backgrounds, life stories, political and religious views, and lifestyle choices. They don’t accept the status quo, and aren’t afraid of taking chances and being different.
What Innovators Know
Even experts need to hang out with those who are not on the same level as themselves. The shop owner who sometimes takes on the role of sales clerk will have a better, more creative understanding than the shop owner who never shows up and doesn’t interact with the customers.
The expert, high-level CEO who takes the time to interact with everyone from the mail clerk to the janitor will be much more innovative, creative, and effective than the expert, high-level CEO who locks himself in his office and only talks to other high level employees and others of his income level.
Being creative means going outside of your comfort zone. It means going outside of your box and doing things you’ve never done before. It means meeting new people and gaining new experiences. I don’t care who you are or what line of work you’re in; this is something you need to do. Being around the same people, with the same thoughts, and the same set of expectations, leads to a dull lack of innovation.
Paying Close Attention to What’s Happening
Being a creative person also means paying attention to what’s happening right now. Getting stuck in the past, looking at the same data, and refusing to try new things dulls your senses. It dulls your perception of the world and gives you inaccurate data from which you try and fail to create. This is about mindfulness-- being present and absorbing the world.
It’s not enough to just generate new ideas. You have to put them into practice and see them through to completion. It’s not abnormal to be fearful of your ideas, but it’s deadly to squash them before they have a chance to thrive. The more you practice developing your creativity, the more confidence you will have in your creativity.
The Science of Creativity
For the more logical readers, it can be really helpful to understand that there is a science to creativity. Creativity is not an airy-fairy, wishy-washy, magic. Scientists have identified an area in the brain called the superior anterior temporal gyrus (aSTG). This area shows a spike in activity when someone has an insight. This area of the brain helps connect even distantly related information and data.
There are some people who are much more likely to have this area of the brain activated. Researchers Mark Beeman and John Kounios found that watching funny videos, such as clips of Robin Williams, improved success by 20%. We’ll talk about some reasons why that might be the case, a bit further on.
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