“Every child is an artist. The problem is staying a child when you grow up.” — Picasso
Creativity: Adapting traditional or devising new approaches, concepts, methods, models, designs, processes, technologies and/or systems.
Many of us think of creativity as something that artists, musicians and writers are gifted with doing and the rest of us are unproductive, unoriginal, and unimaginative. This is a myth! Creativity is just as relevant in the marketplace as in the art galleries. Creativity is the hallmark of problem-solving, continuous improvement and strategic thinking.
Daniel Pink’s book “Whole New Mind: Why Right-brainers will Rule the Future,” presents a compelling case for all of us to engage and increase our emphasis on creative, artistic, integrated, conceptual, big-picture thinking. Mr. Pink asserts that USA industry is coming out of the Information Age and moving into the Conceptual Age. In this new era, customer allegiance will go to those who design products and services that engage customers by creating meaningful experiences and satisfaction in people’s lives.
Probably one of the best examples of an organization doing just that is a San Jose, CA based company IDEO. They are recognized across the globe for their human-centered, design-thinking approach to innovation and growth. One of their hallmark success factors is what they refer to as “customer empathy,” understanding people’s experiences in interaction with a product or service. The firm engages teams of people from diverse disciplines such as engineering, human factors, industrial design and communications to generate innovative designs in products and services. The multi-disciplinary approach combined with customer empathy produces Renaissance breakthroughs in products and services for such admired organizations as Apple, Procter & Gamble and Steelcase.
The kind of creativity Daniel Pink writes about and IDEO demonstrates emerges when we break out of old patterns and habits of thinking to explore new patterns, novel ideas and possibilities. This sounds simple, but it isn’t. Breaking out of our own limiting perceptions, experiences, and beliefs takes intentionality. To help with that, we have included
Six Strategies for becoming more creative:
- Dare to be different. Don’t limit yourself to narrow thinking. Break out of assumptions, conventional thinking and industry orthodoxy to reach beyond the first solution. Try to expose yourself to diverse stimuli which provide new insight.
- Be curious, fearless and humble. Take the risk to experiment even if it results in failure. Every experiment is a learning experience that helps us continually grow as individuals and evolve as creative thinkers.
- Dream big! Explore possibilities, regardless of their feasibility. Rely on serendipity to help you connect the dots between unexpected variables. Instead of focusing on the practicality or the ‘how,’ focus on gathering your ideas that are out of this world. There is no pressure or limitations on your imagination, so the bigger and crazier, the better. Tune in to the right side of your brain, and give the left side a break.
- Look for patterns, abstractions, groupings, synergy, and integration. How do your ideas align with one another, or how can you dissect one concept and use its parts to enhance another? Try using a big sheet of paper or a white board, with web designs and different color pens to organize your thoughts and visualize how they might relate to or assist one another. It’s okay to be a little messy here; no one will see this but you.
- Utilize the creativity that surrounds you. Get outside into nature, listen to music, go for a swim or take a shower. Embrace tools such as pictures, games or humor, and be sure to get plenty of rest. The right side of your brain operates differently, and it’s important to nurture it on a regular basis.
- Network, network, network. Get out there! Learn across disciplines, engage in diversity, and participate in focus groups or think tanks that push you outside of your usual thought processes and into the unfamiliar. Ask questions and seek new solutions to today’s problems.
Don’t be deceived by false assertions voiced by others against you. All of us are born with both the right and left side of our brain. School systems, work experiences and the Information Age culture have driven us to focus on left brain analytical, logical, sequential and linear thinking patterns. But, it is never too late to begin exercising the other half of our brain: the right brain creative core. For those of you concerned that “you can’t” or it is too late. Consider these people who “couldn’t” but did:
- Winston Churchill failed the sixth grade. He was defeated in every public office role he ran for until he became the British prime minister at the age of 62.
- Thomas Edison’s teachers told him he was “too stupid to learn anything. He invented 1,000 light bulbs before creating one that worked.
- Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Today, Disney is touted as one of the most creative companies in the world.
- Oprah Winfrey was fired from a television reporting job because “she wasn’t fit to be on screen.” Now she is a billionaire impacting the world through television.
- Henry Ford ran three businesses unsuccessfully before becoming one of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time.
- Sir James Dyson persisted through 5,126 failed vacuum prototypes over 15 years before developing the Dyson vacuum, one of the best-selling vacuums in the USA. [i]
The reality of today’s world is that the left side analytical approach to life is not enough anymore. Taking strides to develop and use the gifts that your right brain has to offer adds to your value and potential as an employee, increases your opportunity to grow, and, who knows, the next bright idea to make a huge impact on society may be just around the corner. However, the only way to get there is the right side of your brain.
Worldwide Copyright TJ Associates, LLC Diane Kucala, September 2013