How Can I Become More Creative? Tips and Tricks for Activating your Creative Powers
How Can I Become More Creative?
Tips and Tricks for Activating your Creative Powers
Creativity is often not achieved effortlessly, but this article provides you some helpful tricks you can carry around in your sleeve. Let’s go.
But wait, before I continue…who cares about creativity really and why should we? Isn’t it just more mumbo jumbo? There is so much of that nowadays!
“If it does not sell, it isn’t creative” - David Ogilvy
To create is to achieve. Being able to awaken and implement your creative powers embodies an essential component of success, not only in your career, but also in your life in general.
This quote from Creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihali always motivates and inspires me: “the love of the creative process for its own sake is available to all. It is difficult to imagine a richer life.” (Page 106)
Each and every one of us is similar to a fingerprint: we are all complexly individual and so when it comes to activating creativity, most of which plays out in our inner dynamics, there is no panacea for creativity; each unique person requires (and deserves) a unique approach. Our creativity can separate us from the pack and lead us to a triumphant and a fulfilling life.
Not only those in leadership positions need to be creative and use creativity to solve problems. Our creativity can prepare all of us, regardless of our occupation, for our future.
Learning about how creative ones are able to activate their creativity can often pleasantly tickle us but is perhaps seldom very helpful. Their ideas can range from the bizarre to the banal – for example: writing in the nude (Victor Hugo), to hanging upside down (Dan Brown), to riding in a carriage or walking after a good meal (Mozart). Bob Dylan once said he let his hair grow long so that the hair would not obstruct the thoughts in his head. Supposedly, Hemingway said defrosting his refrigerator helped him combat writer’s block.
But what is a creative moment?
Good design is obvious. Great design is transparent. –Joe Sparano
Thus far however, my research has confirmed time and again that creative moments often reflect what Mozart observed: “Whence and how the ideas come, I know not; nor can I force them.”
Often creative flash occurs when an expected pattern of association becomes altered or changed. When the unexpected happens our surprise distracts us. In this fleeting vacuum of consciousness something new creeps in and then, ideally, can establish conditions for a creative episode. This split second “whatever-it-is” can be experienced as an “altered state”, a mystical, or even a religious experience.
This self-created “expected pattern of association” (also known as “your individual map of the world”) is responsible for how we experience, digest and define particular situations or events in our environment. It can also determine the amount of alternatives that we perceive we have regarding these situations.
Great! Now what?
Boiled down, thinking about this question might help: How can we gain some sort of control over this routine, expected pattern of association? How can we re-shuffle the cards we have dealt ourselves- our own map of the world - in order to create something new and, hopefully better?
“To define is to limit.” – Oscar Wilde
We can begin by considering the effects of classifying and categorising and how to untangle the web of templates these have created in our thought and perception processes.
Why? Because our map of the world, this “pattern of association” can be influenced by how something gets classified or categorised either by ourselves or by another.
In his book, The Undoing Project, Michael Lewis quotes the psychologist Amos Tversky: “It is generally assumed that classifications are determined by similarities among objects” but then he continues “the similarity of objects is modified by the manner in which they are classified. Thus, similarity has two faces…it serves as a basis for the classification of objects but is also influenced by the adopted classification.”
Lewis then expands upon this: “A banana and an apple seem more similar than they otherwise would because we have agreed to call them both fruit. Things are grouped together for a reason, but, once they are grouped, their grouping causes them to seem more like each other than they otherwise would. That is, the mere act of classification reinforces stereotypes. If you want to weaken some stereotype, eliminate the classification.”
Indeed, stereotypes, prejudices and biases can all prevent our map of the world expanding. In turn, this often strangles the activation and magic of creativity.
“People who accomplish a great many things are people who have freed themselves from biases. These are the creative people.” – Milton Erickson
Every day all of us experience how these limitations can play out in real life.
In his book, Lewis analyses how biases and prejudices caused by classifying and categorising have played a devastating role in professional sports for generations.
In 2005, Daryl Morey developed a new selection model and began to challenge the traditional methods the National Basketball Association (NBA) used to select which new players they would choose. To evaluate and thus categorise and classify players he began using statistical models to evaluate the measurements in force at that time in the NBA model.
In other words, this new approach with statistics would break the pattern of associations of the selection model being used at the time.
The old model used rather arbitrary and intangible benchmarks to reach decisions - even nicknames! Morey discovered that a player’s “negative sounding” or “positive sounding” nickname could taint the talent scouts’ judgement of that person’s ability to play basketball: thus often lead to a biased decision. “I made a new rule right then” said Morey “I banned nicknames.”
It did not stop with nicknames. Lewis writes: “A scout watching a player tended to form a near-instant impression around which all other data tended to organise itself.” This is known as “confirmation bias”. “The human mind seems to be “just bad at seeing things it did not expect to see….a scout would settle on an opinion about a player and then arrange the evidence to support that opinion….whatever prejudice a person brought to the business of selecting amateur players he
tended to preserve, even when it served him badly, because he was always looking to have the prejudice confirmed.”
Scouts found it difficult to adapt to the new system and protested when it was suggested they should put far less weight on their observations and “gut feeling” and instead weight the statistics higher. One scout commented using observation and intuition to evaluate players was “like [being] a guy addicted to crack.”
Just one of many examples in the Lewis’s book is Jeremy Lin, of Asian heritage, who was rejected repeatedly because he did not fit in with the traditional model. Everyone, including Morey, thought he was unathletic : “And I cannot think of any reason for it other than he was Asian.” Lin then turned out to be an excellent, successful player.
Although there is no perfect model, thus far the results of replacing the former stifling model with the statistical model have been positive. Daryl Morey’s team, The Houston Rockets are very successful and other teams have also improved after having adopted similar statistical models.
Achieving that flash of creativity requires busting the boundaries and ruffling the feathers of the categories and classifications which are part of your map of the world and this is not possible without courage and rugged rigour. Nobody grows in their comfort zone.
But how can we push back the barriers of our own, often self-created classifying, categorising system which is responsible for our prejudiced and biased “map of the world”? Or, is our map so ingrained upon our neurology that it is a fait accompli -something we cannot change?
According to Professor Peter Kruse, “When you want to produce creativity you can ask yourself: what are the parameters, the framework in which creativity appears? But you cannot “make” creativity. “ The directive “Be creative!” is “at least as absurd as saying “be spontaneous!” Then, you are shocked and ask yourself “How is that possible?” adds Professor Kruse.
To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect. -Oscar Wilde
What is within the realm of possibility when it comes to “creating creativity” is diversity. Kruse says that we must “…increase the diversity in a system either culturally or stylistically….” According to Kruse this diversity means: “Intelligent systems work with internal stress relationships and cope with tenseness and are able…to create the possibility to switch back and forth between new patterns, and this we call creativity…Increase the stress in the system! Accomplish diversity! Then you create the possibility to change the process patterns. Do not create uniformity. Harmonious systems are dumb systems.”
“Uncreate” uniformity to create chaos to create creativity
In other words, expand your map of the world by broadening your perspectives and by experiencing different, non-routine things. Although this might cause confusion and stress at first, this will often lead to new ideas, that is, you will have created something new by “uncreating” uniformity.
This often requires being able to explore and accept the friction created by things that are often not easily understood, for example, paradoxes, contradictions, nuanced differences. Being able to cope with this friction, and to “rub two sticks” together, is what sparks creativity!
OK. Now that the barriers have been breached, what now? Implementation, that’s what.
The above method will often get you only some twirling mass of gunk which we call an impulse. If it all stops there you will sense, at best, only bits of an idea – a spark - which will often stops short of what needs to be done be create creativity. It can flutter away like a butterfly.
This creative impulse has to be incubated and receive a breath of life. But how?
Success is like science: if you have the conditions, you get the result. -Oscar Wilde
In order to do incubate and create the right conditions it is helpful to establish different perceptual positions and thereby create a more complex network. As a total process, creativity involves coordination of a network of three components.
Professor Kruse and Walt Disney both used a similar network and template with only mostly minor lexical differences.
Kruse says he builds a network in his brain with three different human characteristics, which are also perceptual positions:
The Creator, The Owner and The Broker. For Walt Disney they are The Dreamer, The Realist, The Spoiler.
The Creator/Dreamer – has the vision, disrupts and disturbs by spontaneously creating a great number of new impulses and patterns.
The Owner/Realist - possesses objective knowledge and is instrumental in evaluation and implementation
The Broker/Spoiler – is the sceptic, the critic, the devil’s advocate in the second or meta-perceptual position. They try to rain on the parade and can also provide for disruption.
“In this way…one can build intelligent systems whose collective intelligence is greater than that of the individual intelligence of the single participants” says Professor Kruse, who helped establish Self-Organisation Theory in applied psychology.
Creating creativity successfully often involves expanding your own “map of the world” and disturbing and disrupting your methods of classifying and categorising in order to “uncreate” uniformity and destroy harmonious, “dumb” systems. This will spark new, creative impulses.
In order to implement and create creativity, it is essential to then immerse, curate and incubate these impulses within a network which involves, for example, three perceptual positions /“personalities”.
Link to the interview with Professor Kruse (in German)
Encyclopedia of Systemic Neuro-Linguistic Programming and NLP New Coding
Robert Dilts, Judith DeLozier, NLP University Press, Copyright 2000
Creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihali, HarperCollins Publishers, 1996
David Ogilvy – (1911-2003) was one of the original advertising gurus and founder of the eponymous agency which still has worldwide presence to this day.
Professor Peter Kruse – (1955-2015) was a German psychologist and also taught Organisational Behaviour at the University of Bremen, Germany