How original are you?
To think unconventionally about problems and situations, we often have to REDEFINE.
There are exercises waiting for you on pages 42-45 of Creativity Uncovered.
That means we have to
- Give up previous interpretations of objects and their uses
- Think of things in their broadest meaning (pig = animal = living creature; pig = farm animal = pet = pork = skin = leather)
Let’s recap: to be creative, we need to become fluent, flexible, original in our thinking.
John F. Kennedy said:
‘The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men (and women) who can dream of things that never were.’
In a way that is what the original thinker is all about – dreaming of things that never were. But dreaming is not enough, though. Creativity also implies GETTING IT DONE.
Do you remember all the bright ideas (your own, those of people you worked or lived with in the past) that never came to anything? Someone once said dreaming should have deadlines! Creativity has to show results, outcomes, and changes. In other words, somewhere along the line, our ideas will have to be
- Developed into something more than an idea on paper
- Sold to different role players who will have to buy-in
- Implemented properly by following a certain process
- Made more attractive (maybe) to be more acceptable to some
- Evaluated and their merits established when we relate it to other ideas
In a nutshell, we need to
REFINE, DEVELOP, ELABORATE
You may be thinking: some people kill off ideas by over elaborating. We don’t disagree, some people love adding on and adding on and on… Nevertheless, most ideas die a premature death because they just never ‘get off the ground’, and thoughts like ‘it’s just such hard work’ and ‘who’s going to do it?’ destroy their chances of survival. This is probably the most ‘unglamorous’ skill of the creative thinker, but just as essential. Winston Churchill hit the nail on the head when he said,
‘Many men stumble over discoveries, but most of them pick themselves up and walk away.’
Developing and elaboration means not walking away, spending some time with your good ideas to ensure that they see the light of day.
Here are some of the questions you may have to ask regarding your idea:
- What preparation does it involve?
- What do I need to make it work?
- How much will it cost?
- Who will be involved?
- When ( (launched, implemented, presented, etc.)?
- How will I go about it (action steps)?
- How can I break down resistance to the idea?
Sounds boring? Think about this though: how exciting will it be to
- SEE YOUR IDEA IN OPERATION,
- YOUR PRODUCT ON THE SHELVES,
- THE CHANE YOU INITIATED CHANGING LIVES?
You can practice your refinement and elaboration skills with the activities in Creativity Uncovered. Purchase it here if you want to become proficient in these skills.
So, creativity sometimes requires some hard work.
The end result is well worth the effort – keep that in mind.
Another critical skill to develop in order to become a creative thinker is
OPEN, RECEPTIVE THINKING
When we are confronted with new situations, most of us jump to a conclusion about what is going on and what will happen next. We do this before we understand the situation fully, before going to any trouble to find out what the real problem is and without considering the wider situation, facts hidden at this moment, alternative approaches. ‘Jumping to a conclusion’ really means WE STOP THINKING. Why should we think about it any more when we have MADE UP OUR MINDS? No wonder so many opportunities for creative thinking go unnoticed and unused.
Or, we are guilty of stereotyping!
Because we have certain beliefs and preconceived ideas about people, places, and situations our perception becomes clouded and distorted. Some of these stereotypes are
- Women are emotional
- Men are egotistical
- The elderly are demanding
- You can’t swim in winter
- Pink and red don’t match, etc.
You can surely add some of your own. Another block to open thinking is the unwillingness to accept uncertainty in conclusions, the insistence on ‘clear cut’ solutions and rigid categories and on everything ‘fitting in’ somewhere previously understood. What we are describing here is an intolerance to ambiguity.
Recognize some of these blocks in your own thinking? You can start opening your thinking by doing some of the following:
- Break the habit of making decisions purely because ‘that’s the way you have always handled it’
- Do not condemn suggestions, people, ideas purely because they are unfamiliar or don’t fit into a category you recognize
- Identify your closed language habits (look at the excuses list in chapter two)
- Don’t jump in with premature decision – let it flow first
- Be honest about your prejudices and stereotypes – try to change your attitude
- Revisit all your old habits and see if you can’t start making small changes (your route to work, the time you have dinner, what you believe you don’t eat, the position of your favorite chair, how you punish your children, etc.)
- Be open to surprises
‘We go through life constantly surrounded by opportunities cleverly disguised as problems.’
Open thinking implies that we stop seeing PROBLEMS and start seeing OPPORTUNITIES.
The exercises that follow this chapter in the Creativity Uncovered book are designed to help you open your mind.