I wish I had a dollar for everyone I’ve ever heard tell me they weren’t creative. I would be one rich guy. And, whenever I hear that, I think about Luke.
I was part of a team that developed an innovation and creativity course for a major oil company. In one of the early classes, we went around the room talking about creativity. When it was his turn, an exploration geologist shook his head and said, “I don’t know if this class will help, I’m just not creative.”
I was standing in the middle of a U of tables. I heard a snort from behind me. It was another geologist, “How many patents have you got, Luke?”
“And you’re not creative?”
“Come on, John. Those were just little things, not like curing cancer or anything. Besides, it took me at least a couple of years each to develop each one.”
Two Big Fallacies About Creativity
Luke did a good job of outlining two of the prevalent fallacies about creativity. The first one is that it doesn’t count unless it’s a really big thing. Here’s the truth.
Creativity is about coming up with ideas. They don’t have to be big, world-changing, disease-curing, world-hunger-eliminating ideas. Just ideas. I bet you do that. You’re human, after all.
The other fallacy that Luke illustrates is the idea that good ideas show up whole, fully-formed, and ready to work. That’s ridiculous. Most of the time, that first idea needs a whole lot of work before it turns into anything useful.
Forget that story about Mozart writing down music like he was taking dictation. It was made up by somebody else, and it’s certainly not true. Instead, think about Beethoven’s notebooks, with lots of changes and crossing out. That’s how it works for most people most of the time.
Just like with Luke in his garage, that first idea must be tried, tinkered with and tried again before it’s anything to brag about. The idea may start the process, but it takes combination and experiment to turn the idea into something useful.
Creativity Is Something You Do
Creativity is more than just coming up with good ideas. Every human being on the planet does that. If you’re human, you have a brain, and your brain makes connections between things. That’s where ideas come from.
The people that we call creative are people who take advantage of that natural human, idea-generating activity. They do two specific things with their ideas. You can do them, too.
Two Things You Can Do to Squeeze More Juice Out of Your Ideas
If you want to get the most from your ideas, the first thing you have to do is capture them. If you don’t, ideas will fly away like butterflies on the wind. Ten minutes later, you’ll be beating your head against the wall, trying to remember that good idea that you had.
That’s why most effective artists, writers, engineers, and businesspeople have a way to capture their ideas. Some people use small notebooks. Others use index cards. My preference is for a pocket digital voice recorder. The method doesn’t matter as long as it works for you. Find yourself a tool and start copying your ideas.
Once you’ve got your ideas, you need to do something with them. Since you’ve captured your ideas, it’s easy to review them to see which ones you want to work on.
You can do that review daily, or weekly, or every couple of months. Go through the ideas you’ve got and decide which ones you should work on.
Please note that I didn’t say decide if there are any you can work on. There’s almost certain to be something in your list that you can get a little excited about and that will make a difference in some part of your life. Try it. Modify it.
If you’re like most of us, you’ve probably got an inner critic that will look at every idea you’ve got and say, “Nope. Really dumb. Don’t work on that one.” Tell your inner critic to piss off. You can’t get the benefit of your ideas if they stay in your head. Try them out. When you do, you’ll usually find that they need some modification. So, modify. Tinker with those ideas.
You get good ideas because you’re human. To get the benefit of those ideas, you need to capture them and then work with them.
Creativity in Business by Michael Ray and Rochelle Myers
Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Mapping Innovation: A Playbook for Navigating a Disruptive Age by Greg Satell