Creativity is a phenomenon in which someone creates something new and valuable. The created thing can be tangible -as an idea, scientific theory or musical composition- or a physical object -as an invention, literary work or a painting-.
My intention with this article is that you learn how to be creative and innovative, the most important concepts to start a life of innovation and creation.
Although up to now you have considered yourself unimaginative or too rational, do not worry; creativity can be improved.
Although this article is the most complete I have written on this subject, I also recommend this about exercises to develop creativity.
“Only a few people have a natural aptitude for creativity, but all can develop a certain skill if they deliberately propose it.” -Edward de Bono.
1- What is creativity?
First of all, we must make it clear that it is creativity. Different definitions can be given although they all refer to the same concept:
-The ability to generate original and novel solutions.
– Creative thinking (fluency, flexibility, originality) + effective elements (interest, motivation, values) + character (discipline, tenacity, audacity).
-Ability to think differently than what has already been thought.
-Ability to use the imagination to produce original ideas that produce value.
2- Fundamental elements to be creative
Being creative, the first thing you will find is the negativity of the people around you and, probably, with yours. To be creative, it is essential to have confidence and respect for oneself and not be afraid of what others think when we express our ideas.
If you have an attitude without imagination, receptivity and dependent on others, you will destroy possibilities of creativity. Everything that has been invented, from the airplanes to the telephone or the footwear, in its day was an idea of someone.
Eliminating Prejudice: The myths of creativity
– Myth 1 : Creativity only exists in geniuses. Reality: we all have a potential and genetic creativity at birth and we can develop it through the social and cultural environment.
– Myth 2 : Creativity develops on its own in a stimulating environment. Reality: creativity needs to be cultivated and trained for it.
– Myth 3 : Creativity cannot be taught. Reality: anyone can learn the creative process and implement the ideas derived from it.
– Myth 4 : Depends on the job position. Reality: in all areas of life we can innovate. From the kitchen (new recipes), cleaning (invention of the mop) or new technologies (iPad).
– Myth 5 : It depends on the personality. Reality: depends on the training, environment, and attitude adjusted.
– Myth 6 : It is a risk. Reality: the risk is in the eyes of the beholder.
How are creative people?
There are certain characteristics of personality that define creative people. Knowing them will help you to model them and adopt those that you think can be adapted to your personality.
- Very curious, inhibited, radical.
- They generate many ideas.
- They have many questions and concerns.
- They take many risks.
- Very broad fields of interests.
- Collectors of unusual things.
- Lateral thinking.
- The determination to succeed, tenacity.
- Sometimes messy.
- Perseverance, commitment to the task.
- Attracted by novelty and complexity.
- Great sense of humor (often unexpected, quirky, irreverent, inappropriate).
- Very self-conscious and open to the irrational with himself.
- Intuitive / very emotional sensitivity.
For me, the four fundamentals that best describe the creative person :
- Nonconformist, he tolerates ambiguity, accepts chaos, is not interested in details.
- Described as “individualist” he does not worry about being classified as “different”, concerned internally, restless, he needs time to think.
- Think differently and admire by observing the world.
- Do not want to accept what the authority says without evaluating with much criticism.
Avoid critical judgment
Only through an open attitude can creativity be encouraged. In addition to your thoughts (for example the typical “go silly idea or it will have occurred to thousands of people”), the people around us crush the creative impulses. If it is already difficult to combat our negativity, if a person who criticizes our ideas destructively, creativity dies instantly.
Here I leave some eminent critical judgments so that you are aware that critics are not always right:
-Flying machines heavier than air are impossible-Lorrd Kevin, 1895.
-After the first six months, this device will not remain in any market that manages to capture. People will soon tire of looking at a wooden box every night-Daryl F. Zanuck, director of the 20th Century film studio, talking about television in 1946.
“Who the hell wants to hear the actors talking?” Harry Warner, president of Warner in 1927.
– “The horse is here to stay, but the car is just a novelty, a fad.” – President of Michigan Savings Bank.
The intuition is not superstition. These are decisions that we make based on organized information that we are not aware of.
For example a firefighter who knows when a ground is going to fall in a fire and senses that event seconds before it happens, which allows him to save himself. What has happened is that, due to his experience, he has gathered information about the environment such as the heat of the room, the state of the ground, the noise and other relevant information that has made him remember other situations in which the ground collapsed.
Intuition is not seen, it is felt and it is what is added to all the information gathered. You can not make safe decisions based on intuition because you can never collect 100% of the information. Even so, there is no correct answer for everyone and to be successful with a creative idea you have to take risks and lose your fear of failure.
“An essential aspect of creativity is not to be afraid of failure” -Edwin Land.
-If you always think in the same way, you will have the same results.
– Always question the status quo, enjoy the uncertainty, leave the comfort zone.
-Extranate yourself for every day and get inspired by it.
You can have creative ideas in all areas of life, even in creations from everyday objects.
(Enric Bernat-Inventor of Chupa chups).
Hellen Keller, famous American writer deaf and dumb wrote:
“I wonder how it is possible to walk for an hour through the forest and not see anything remarkable. I, who can not see, find hundreds of things: the delicate symmetry of a leaf, the smooth skin of a silver birch, the rough bark of a pine tree. I, who am blind, can give advice to those who see: use your eyes as if tomorrow they would go blind. Make the most of every sense. Enjoy the glory of all the facets and pleasures and beauty that the world reveals to you. “
Creative expert Edward de Bono said:
“A very important aspect of motivation is the strength of will to stand and look at things that nobody else cares about. The simple process of focusing on things that are normally taken for granted is a very powerful resource for creativity. “
Bandura calls self-efficacy the belief that we can obtain results from our actions and that we can achieve what we want.
Many people tend to think that they are rational or that they are creative and they are pigeonholed in those adjectives, however creativity can be learned and there is an effective process for it. People are naturally creative .
With the rebirth the individual was placed in the center of the universe, he began to think that creativity came from within the individual and that people are geniuses. However, to make believe that someone who is a resource of creativity creates too high expectations and builds an inevitable ego.
In ancient Greece and Rome people did not believe that creativity came from within the human being, but that creativity came, for unknown reasons, from external spirits. The Greeks called these spirits of creativity “demons.” For example, Socrates believed that he had a demon that spoke to him. The Romans had the same idea but they called him “genius”, a kind of entity that lived on the walls, went out and came to the artists.
What good was this? For example, they protected themselves from narcissism (not believing that the credit of each job was theirs) and from the pressure of having to always have good ideas. Creativity is something that is built, which also depends on your behavior, your environment, the people you surround yourself with and the culture in which you are immersed.
“Creativity is simply connecting things. When you ask someone how they did something, they feel somewhat guilty because they do not really know how they did it, they just saw something. After a while it seemed obvious to them. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they had and synthesize new things. “-Steve Jobs.
3- Creativity process: 6 steps
It is based on preparing for the process of creativity, working and being aware of the points discussed, getting used to different ways of thinking about solutions and running away from the routine to see different ways of solving problems.
It is very important to be aware of the inner voice of self-censorship and avoid it.
It is a moment in which you are immersed in a problem, you open yourself to any option, even to some that, in principle, are not related to it. In this phase it is very important to observe, listen and be open and receptive.
It is crucial at this stage :
-Avoid thinking about the common ways of solving a problem.
For example, the wheeled suitcase was not invented until 1970 by Bernard D. Sadow. Until then he had not thought of another way to solve the problem of having to carry heavy bags.
-Avoid the voice of self-censorship. “This can not work”, “Too hard”, “I just do not have the money to do it”.
-To deal with frustration: in reality, frustration periods are part of the creative process. It is inevitable to encounter moments in which you feel that you are not moving forward and that you do not come across ideas. “There’s always darkest before dawn.”
2-Start with a question about how to solve a problem, situation or improve something
In your work, in school, in the University. By asking yourself a question, you begin the process of searching for a creative solution. In my opinion it is the most important step.
The questions are guides to follow a creative life and the most useful are the open ones, since they allow a new answer.
Adults are afraid to ask questions because we think we are going to make a fool of ourselves or that we seem to know little. But then, how would we learn without asking?
You may have never heard the following questions even though the names are sure to sound :
-Why can not there be a reliable fast mail service? -Fred Smith (founder of Federal Express).
-What happens if I throw rubber on my waffle maker? -Bil Bowerman (inventor of Nike shoes).
“What would a wave of light look like for someone traveling by his side?” Albert Einstein.
-Why do not we remove the recording function and the microphone and put headphones into the recorder? -Masaru Ibuka (president of Sony).
In his time these ideas proved meaningless to others, however today we know that they marked an era. The next time you hear a question like that or do it to yourself, will you think the same way?
“Formulating new questions and possibilities, seeing old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and is what identifies the true advance in science” -Albert Einstein.
3 -Search / Research
The investigation is something natural in the human being, like a child that asks everything or the baby that takes everything to the mouth. Be curious, try to do new things, an experiment in the world and gather information related to the question to solve.
It is about reflecting on all the relevant pieces and avoiding the rational mind, letting flow the thought relative to the question to solve. Think in a different way, look from another perspective, think metaphorically and visualize a solution to the problem.
You may also be interested in these exercises to develop creativity.
4-Term of the investigation and incubation
There comes a time when enough information has been gathered to solve the problem.
It’s about digesting all the information and thoughts you’ve had. It is a passive phase in which your unconscious works more.
Throughout the day the mind is busy in school, park, work, talking with friends, reading or watching TV. Any time you can relax is useful for the creative process (a shower, a long drive, a quiet walk, your favorite activity). It is about simply allowing the mind to dream awake.
The eureka moment comes after a hard work in the previous phases. Usually comes at times when we feel calm and “daydreaming”, so it is important not to skip the previous phase.
“The genius is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration” -Thomas Edison.
It is about bringing the idea to reality and it is the most difficult step because you have to overcome the fear of failure and know how to turn it into something useful for you and for others.
It is often long and arduous. An important part is the diffusion and socialization of creation to know what people think of your idea.
Actually the process is very fluid . One person can take more time in the implementation phase and another in the information search.
The phases are not fixed; they can be in a different order, although it is convenient that you be aware of the phase in which you find yourself because it will allow you to enter the process more frequently and take the necessary actions.
7-Ask for feedback
As a complement to the implementation of the idea, you can ask for feedback from known or unknown people. This will help you to be aware of what can be improved or what you are overlooking.