Over the years I’ve asked 1000’s of people whether they think they’re creative. It doesn’t matter where I am in the world, the response is always the same.
If I ask the creative people to put their hands up most of the room look away, or at their phones. A handful of people sheepishly half put their hands up. About 1% of the room proudly shove their arm up in the air and ‘admit’ to being ‘creative’.
Somehow, creativity has become the territory of the ‘creative people’. Why are so many of us embarrassed to admit that we might be creative?
Whether you believe it or not you are creative. Creativity is not about whether you can draw or paint. Creativity is about making connections and putting old ideas together to create something new. And creativity is fundamentally about solving problems.
Maybe if I asked ‘how many of you are good at solving problems?’ I’d get a different response.
Creativity can often be perceived as ‘fluffy’ or a ‘nice to have’. This is a flawed perspective because creativity is an important survival strategy. Changing demographics, increased competition, economic and political uncertainty and advances in technology are just some of the factors that affect every individual and organisation on the planet.
Today, organisations must be creative in the way they respond to the changing needs of their customers, clients, colleagues and the market environment or they will not survive.
How we access our creativity is different for all of us. The majority of us don’t have our best ideas when we are at work, stressed at our desks or put under pressure by our manager to ‘think outside the box’.
That’s because, for the vast majority of people, creativity isn’t something that we can simply switch on. Most of us have our best ideas when we are relaxed or in a playful state or with time to properly think. Often the best ideas happen when people talk, build on each others ideas, have time to ponder and collaborate to solve a shared problem.
Whilst all human beings are inherently creative, the way our brains process information can sometimes inhibit our creativity.
Our ways of thinking become more ingrained as we get older. Every experience we have reinforces our established neural pathways. This makes it harder to deviate from what we know, and think creatively – or from a different perspective.
I recently heard an analogy that our neural pathways are like roads. When we’re young they start as meandering pathways that can merge and criss cross. Then, as we get older we favour certain paths and those pathways get more ingrained. We form habits. Our thinking travels those established pathways more and they become more engrained. Those meandering pathways become super highways which are very hard to deviate from. If you’ve ever done anything on ‘auto-pilot’ you’ve experienced this.
And when we’re on auto pilot we’re not questioning anything, not challenging the ‘way things are done here’, not looking for better solutions and not thinking creatively. That’s why, despite being naturally creative animals, we need to practice our creativity and keep our neural pathways open to new ideas. We need to slow down, make time to ponder keep the meandering pathways accessible, enable connections between old and new, allow for exploration and different thinking. We must learn to challenge ourselves to keep off the superhighways of ‘how we do things here’ and keep making new connections and having new ideas and solving problems.
So practically, how do we improve our creative thinking and problem solving skills? What do you actually need to do?
I’m glad you asked. If you’d like to improve your creative thinking and problem solving skills then start by coming to the next Lucidity Network and Not9to5 event. It’s on Wednesday 5th February from 6-8pm and we’re focusing on how you can build your creativity skills to get better results in your work. Here’s more information and reserve your place here.