Flex Your Creative Muscle

We constantly talk about the need for innovation in business, but rarely mention that creativity is a prerequisite of innovation.

We can all be creative, but some find it a lot easier than others. Why?

I think there are commonly two things which get in the way of people achieving their creative best: fear and atrophy.

Why fear? Well some people can become very uncomfortable in the freewheeling uncertain space in which creativity happens. Sometimes it is because they like the certainty of facts and figures. Sometimes I think it is because of negative experiences in their past. “Oh don’t be silly” an adult might chide a child who dreams of an upside down world, or one where there are fairies at the bottom of the garden. “Grow up” they tell them “be sensible”.

I often describe my approach to enquiry is “child like”, meaning I pack away all that adult certainty and adult need to demonstrate how much I know, and replace them with curiosity and an assumption that what I don’t know far exceeds what I do know.

Perhaps the other reason why some people are uncomfortable in that whacky, anything goes, creative land, is because they are such a stranger to it, and that is how the atrophy sets in.

I honestly believe that creativity becomes harder and harder the less you practice it. I find it is true on both a micro and a macro scale. If I immerse myself in logic and facts in an analytical piece of work, I find it harder to switch to doing some creative thinking. More worryingly if I don’t do some creative thinking for a few days, it becomes more difficult. Fortunately that rarely happens, and it need not happen to you either.

I think the solution to both problems is to allow a little creativity to creep into the corners of your life. Places where you can feel comfortable with it. As you practice it there, you will become more at ease with the process and will start to find it creeping into your day job. You don’t have to let it in, it will just push past your conscious, sensible, logical self with a whacky association. And, association is what creativity is all about.

For that reason I think a great place to practice your creativity is in humour. For most of us humour is not a serious affair and one in which we have a license to be silly. Lots of humour comes from an unexpected association between two things. Practicing finding those associations is a great way to exercise your creative muscle and have fun.

Find an association by meaning (‘word association football’), rhyme (‘association station’ … a special platform where random meetings are held to a timetable), alliteration (‘Ascot alliteration association’ … a word game for smart people) , or sound (‘a social atom’ … a nuclear family). Jumble words up like the Reverend Spooner (‘womble jurds / gourds’ … what Wombles carry their drink in) or Mrs Malaprop (‘Junket words’ … particularly sweet words appropriate for after a romantic dinner).

Go on, give it a try, what have you got to lose apart from some flabby creative muscle?


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