What is Creativity?
Let’s start with some definitions. First, what exactly is creativity? Think of creativity as a process that happens up here inside your head. Your body functions with lots of processes like digestive processes, breathing, and so on. Creative thinking is just one more of them. But your brain produces lots of thoughts that aren’t creative. So what’s the difference? Creative thought is something that meets three criteria. It’s new, it’s useful, and it’s surprising. Let me explain these criteria. An idea is new if you’ve never had it before. Now, it may be new to you but not necessarily new to the world, others may have had the idea before you. Well, that’s okay because it’s still new from your perspective. Useful means the idea can be put into practice for somebody’s benefit. I call that process of innovation. Now, surprising is the tricky one. To be honest, I’m not sure how best to explain what surprising means. Maybe the best way is this. You know how certain ideas just strike you in a way that makes you slap your forehead and say gee, why didn’t I think of that? The idea is so cool, simple, and obvious, that you immediately see the cleverness and usefulness. You’re both delighted and surprised by the idea because it makes you smile or even chuckle. For me, those types of ideas get high grades. But how does the brain produce these ideas? What research shows, as well as my own experience, the brain does two things. First, it generates a concept and then explores the value of that concept. It’s something called geneplore, generation and exploration. First, the creative concept gets in your head when you force two previously unrelated themes to suddenly collide or come together. This collision might happen accidentally, or, as you’ll see in this course, you can force these collisions to happen any time you want. Think of this concept as a pre inventive form. You’re not sure what it is or what it does at this step, and it may seem ridiculous or absurd, but then something amazing happens, your brain takes that form and connects it with some benefit or solves some problem. The brain starts with an undeveloped form created by this collision, then searches your memory for some reason why that form would be useful. Hey, the good news is that your brain likes doing this, and it’s pretty good at it. All you have to do is get those concepts into your brain, so it can do its job. Later, I’ll show you how to do just that anytime you want.
Why Be Creative?
Many people believe they’re not creative. So a natural question may be why bother trying to be more creative? Well, they’re a lot of reasons and good reasons to increase your creative skills. It doesn’t matter where you are on the creativity scale. Just a small improvement in your creative ability will have a big impact on your day-to-day life. Think about how your brain spends its typical day. The truth is, your brain is generating ideas constantly. It might be thinking about the best route to drive home, or it may be thinking about the best route for your career. Big or small, the ideas you generate shape every aspect of your life. Making your daily ideas better, meaning more creative, makes your everyday life better. It’s that simple. Also, being creative helps you live longer, and can improve your quality of health and life.
Researchers found that only creativity, not intelligence or overall openness, decreased mortality risk. For example, creating artwork decreases negative emotions. It reduces stress and anxiety and improves medical outcomes. Being creative helps you become a better problem solver in all areas of your life and work. Instead of coming from a linear logical approach, your creative side can approach a situation from all angles. Creativity helps you see things differently and better deal with uncertainty. That makes you a more valuable employee, no matter what job you’re in. Being creative comes with many ups and downs and a high risk of failure. So you have to be vulnerable to share your ideas, and willing to take the risk that what you create may never see the light of day. Engaging in the creative process is a great confidence builder because you discover that failure is part of the process. Once we see failure as something that is survivable, and something that helps us grow, and that makes our work better, we can release the free and try new things, even at the risk of failing. Let’s face it. Life can be difficult at times, so I want you to see creativity as a buffer, and as a tool to work through the tough times. Taking the time to learn creativity is worth it.
Understanding ways to learn creativity
Becoming more creative, even just a little, will enhance what you do every day, at work, at home, or anywhere. Now let’s look at how you learn it. The answer may surprise you. It’s not based on how a genius inventor invents. It’s not based on the workings of the brain. Instead, it’s based on the voice of the product, what a product could teach us if only it could talk to us. Instead of studying the human brain, instead of copying the behaviors of famous inventors, we looked at something else. We looked at the output of the brain from all inventors, not just the famous ones. What would it tell us? Now you’ve heard the term voice of the customer, imagine if we had a way to listen to the voice of the product. Take this product. Now you’ll recognize it as a chair. Chairs have been around a very long time. Now, what if you could interview this chair, and learn its secrets? How it was invented, and how it evolved over many millenniums. Well, that’s exactly what my friend and co-author Dr Jacob Golden berg did for his PhD research. He studied highly innovative products, initially to see what made them different from one another. And what he found instead is that highly innovative products have more in common with one another. They tend to follow a set of patterns, and these patterns are like the DNA of a product or service that can be reapplied to any situation to generate a creative idea based on that pattern. That is what you’re going to learn about in this course. For me, using tried and true patterns is the most effective way to increase my creative potential, Better than anything else I’ve tried, which is just about everything. I want you to become a creative person who is structured and disciplined in the way you use your brain to generate an idea. But before you tackle that, I want you to learn what I know for sure doesn’t work.
Understanding the barriers to creativity
What holds people back from being creative? Is it a lack of time? Do you not have a budget for doing creative work? Or perhaps you work in an industry where there are lots of regulatory or legal barriers that seem to make it hard to generate novel ideas. For many people, these types of constraints seem frustrating and overwhelming. They appear to be strict boundaries that seem to limit your ability to be creative. But guess what? Surprisingly, constraints are not a barrier to creativity. In fact, constraints are a necessary condition for creativity to occur. Your brain works harder and smarter when given tight boundaries. The more constrained you are, the more creative you’ll be. So what is it that seems to limit our creativity? Well, the answer is a condition known as fixedness. Fixedness is a cognitive bias that limits our ability to see the world around us differently than what we’re used to. There are at least three types. First is functional fixedness. Functional fixedness makes it hard for you to consider an object doing a job other than what you know it to do. When you see a dry-erase marker, for example, you instantly relegate it to the job of, well marking. If you could force it in your mind to be available to do another job, you end up with a creative idea. Now one of my pet peeves is when someone takes a permanent marker and writes on a whiteboard. Okay, maybe I’ve done it once or twice. Now when that happens, take a regular dry-erase marker and write over it. Voilà, the permanent marks are gone. Now that’s creative. The second type is structural fixedness. This type makes it really hard to imagine objects having a different structure than what we’re used to. Let’s go back to our dry-erase marker. Why are these markers always straight? Well, that’s fixedness. What if you could imagine a curved marker or perhaps one with a grip? Instead of holding it like a pencil, we can bend it, so it fits in our hand better. Again, that’s creative. Finally, is what we call relational fixedness. This type of fixedness makes it very hard to imagine two objects having a relationship that wasn’t there before. As one object changes, the other object changes. Our mind doesn’t form these connections naturally because of relational fixedness. Let’s go back to our marker example. What if it could change colours automatically when writing on different areas of the whiteboard? Are there certain applications where that would be more convenient? When we find that application, we’ve generated a creative idea. We’ve broken through our fixedness to create new value. Now, we have all three types of fixedness, and they hold back our ability to generate new possibilities, but the good news is, you can break all three types. That’s what this course is all about.