Ask yourself: what does creativity mean to you? What does it mean to be creative?
According to the CreativeLive Creative Jobs Report, 36% of employed Americans want to leave their current position for a job that offers them the chance to be more creative--many are even willing to take a pay cut to do so. But what is creativity and how do you harness it?
For many, creativity is a total abstract notion. A tabula rosa--a blank state. Many believe creativity is a discipline that cannot be learned, and therefore, cannot be understood. I believe that is wrong. Creativity is not just a talent for the arts. Creativity is inherent in all things, from the way we behave in social settings, to the way we approach our professions, no matter what they are. From products all the way to the individual level, creativity is all around us. And understanding that value, and being able to tap into your own inherent creativity, that's what makes people shine in work and play. Here's how I do it:
1. Randomness: Like any process, you have to have the right tools, the right external stimuli to change your perspective. Because that's what real creativity is all about. Being able to look at the world from a vantage point other than your own. My friend, Brent Bushnell, CEO and Roustabout of Two Bit Circus says "in order to stay creative, I try to get as much exposure to random input as possible. Whenever I'm in Las Vegas, I try to crash random trade shows. Even if they have nothing to do with my immediate business, there's high likelihood that innovations in other sectors help to spur thinking about problems I'm trying to solve."
2. Novel Concepts: Understanding the utility and function of an idea, no matter how simple, and then applying it, is golden. This perspective can be applied to products, services, or just thinking on an individual level. To me, the most important innovations are those that are accessible to all and serve the greater good. Sure, having a smartphone that can talk is a great service that makes my life easier, but what is it's value compared to a cheap, efficient vaccine that stops a voracious virus, or a better way to transport potable water? Think of an innovation like the teen-invented Thermofier, a pacifier that also acts as thermometer. Brilliant. The more people an idea helps, the better it is for all of us. Creativity is a people-driven commodity like none other. As Richard Florida wrote in The Rise of the Creative Class, "While people can be hired and fired, their creative capacity cannot be bought and sold, nor turned on and off at will."
3. Openness: If you're only talking to yourself, you don't see other's takes. In a group you get a fresh perspective. There's also a degree of randomness that comes into play. The key is not to bat down ideas and say "Yes, but that's never going to work," instead creativity experts like Chic Thompson recommends using "Yes, And..." Chic is a master at this technique. At our annual MBA Innovation Challenge he was the best judge-mentor. He wouldn't go Simon Cowell on the teams presenting, but instead would extract the crucial nugget, and then build on the team's idea and help them reframe it so other judges would see the brilliance in the idea.
Real creativity isn't waiting for inspiration. It's 99% perspiration, like the great Thomas Edison said: better "I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won't work." It's all about working and pushing through boundaries. I want to know what creativity means to you. I invite you to share your thoughts with me here or online.