I started this research in 2013.
I was determined to understand everything there is to know about creativity. How to summon it. How to enhance it. How to protect it from the that-will-never-work crowd. I was determined to learn all about creativity so that I could be a useful and helpful support-system for my incredibly creative team.
And I still am determined. Only now, I also am determined to understand creativity, for me (and for you, too).
When I started this research, I was convinced that creativity was something someone else had. I believed myself to be rigorous. And hard working. And unrelenting in my efforts to disprove hypotheses. A scientist. And technical. Passionate, for sure. A writer, but not an artist. Not creative. Not innovative. Not like them.
So I was doubly-dedicated to my research because I was hell-bent on staying out of their way. Of doing everything in my power to support their creativity so my lack-there-of didn’t delay their progress.
Then I came across Elizabeth Gilbert's new book, where she wrote that creativity can be grasped by anyone:
"The essential ingredients for creativity remain exactly the same for everybody: Courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, trust - and those elements are universally accessible." - Big Magic
But as much as I trust her, and her experience, that didn’t feel true in my case. And that is the wonderful thing about research: It will disrupt your whole perspective if you let it…
I continued my work and I learned from Emily Best that problem-solving is a potent form of creativity. And she has a point. Developing solutions where none existed, that’s problem-solving. Developing is a synonym for creating. So if problem-solving is creativity and I’m a problem-solver, I guess that means I am creative, too?
I learned from Eric Ries that science is a fundamentally creative activity. And I’m a scientist! I know all about generating hypotheses and novel ways to test them. Hypotheses are just ideas. And novelty is uniqueness is creativity.
It will probably seem ridiculous (and I don’t even mind) but you have to understand how life-changing that realization was for me. I am a problem-solving scientist. I have a double whammy of creative energy coursing through me. And I had no idea.
I use the language of science, and program management, and business, and bureaucracy. I’m all about the rigorous methodologies, and agile, and use cases. Pilot projects and transitions and viability. I had immersed myself so heavily in the technical and sterile and regimented that I forgot about the spit-balling, the brain-storming, the running out to the edge-of-reality and pushing toward fast-failure.
The language of our industry had covered up the spirt of our work. My work. My creativity. Even when the synonyms were all right there in front of me.
So now, I focus my attention and my research on how to summon and enhance our creativity. All of ours (that means yours, too). How to invite vulnerability and design brave spaces for collaboration. By selecting the right people. By keeping the attendance list diverse and just-big-enough. By ensuring we’ve built trust and community before we need it.
I spend my days thinking about how to protect our new ideas while they are still misshapen and ugly (and especially how to protect yours). By respecting and then strictly limiting discussion about why it won’t work and giving space and light and air and energy to all the reasons why it would be incredible if it did. By sheltering the baby-ideas and ensuring that they are fully tested before they are cast by the wayside (even though most new ideas will ultimately be cast by the wayside).
I monitor the ebb and flow of excitement and motivation and boredom and overwhelm. I ease burdens where I must. Remove unnecessary decisions where I can. Provide structure and accountability. And play and laughter and fun. I take every opportunity to promote our physical, emotional, and mental health. Because they are so fundamental to our creativity.
And the research continues…
I am learning from Adam Grant how task-timing and distraction promote creative problem-solving. And I am learning from myself and from our community how to be even more open, bright, and free to think. So that we are at our best. To problem-solve. And experiment. To express the creative energy within all of us (yes, all of us, even you).
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Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
Mastery by Robert Greene
Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant