Where does creativity come from? You, baby!
“That’s a great idea!”
“Did you think of that?”
“How did you think of that?” Typical comments you might hear if you come up with a great idea. So, how DID you think of it? “I dunno, it just came to me!” you say. Well, almost. There are reasons for creativity. People accuse me of being “creative” (among other things). So much so that I’m starting to teach others. Which is pretty cool considering I’m still a student myself. How much do you study creativity? Answer: Not enough. Seeing a great idea is one thing – HAVING a great idea is another. Big difference between the guy that invented the pet rock and the guy that bought one. One (the inventor) is a lot more fulfilled (wealthier) than the purchaser (you). Well, in my quest to understand the roots of personal creativity, I’ve questioned myself and studied my environment to come up with the elements of what drives and or inspires my own creative process. I’m not telling you this is the be-all-end-all of the creative mind, but it is an introspective look at someone who on more than one occasion has been accused of being creative. As you read, please rate yourself on each element to see how high you are on the “creative-capable” scale. 1.
Brains. Stupid people aren’t very creative. The smarter you are, the more likely it is that you will have (or are at least capable of having) smart, bright ideas. All you need to do is understand where ideas come from, and how to create the atmosphere to make them happen.
Attitude. Negative attitude blocks creative thought. Ever finish an argument with someone, five minutes later you think of what you could or should of said? Of course. Everyone has. The reason you didn’t say it in the heat of the argument, is that your creative attitude brainwave was blocked by your negative attitude brainwave.
The habit of observing. Looking at things and circumstances is one thing. Seeing an idea within them is another. When something goes wrong or something goes right, those are both opportunities to think and see in terms of yourself. Two word lesson: pay attention.
The habit of collecting ideas. The second you think of something that has the least amount of creativity attached to it, document it. Write it down on a napkin, your palm pilot, a piece of paper, or your computer. Try to expand the thought as much as you can the moment you get it. One of the most amazing and frustrating elements of life is how quickly creative ideas come and go.
Your self-belief. In order for a greater amount of ideas to flow you must first believe you have the capability of creating one, If you tell yourself you are creative, more creative things will happen. Don’t think that saying, “I am a creative person”, is bragging. Look at it rather as an affirmation, telling yourself that new ideas are always on the horizon, and/or on the tip of your tongue.
A support system. Surround yourself with people who encourage you. The more you hear, “it’ll never work” the more you’ll believe it – and vice-versa. You need people around to tell you that your ideas are good. Of course, not all ideas are good. Occasionally, maybe more than occasionally, ideas will be clunkers. Maybe even borderline idiotic. Just remember at some point someone said, “I think we’ll be able to fly from coast to coast in 4 hours,” and someone else was laughing his head off. The concept, “it’ll never fly” is a totally erroneous one.
The creative environment. Set your own place for creativity. Some people can operate in the noise, some people can’t. Fighting environment is equally as non-productive as fighting with another human being. Both will eventually get to your attitude and impede or prevent your best ideas from springing forth. You will in fact be “impeeved” (new word).
Creative mentors and associations. The best way to inspire yourself is to hang around others who are creative. Someone you know casually can be just as important in your life as a mentor. The casual acquaintance may be someone who is spontaneous, creative or humorous. A mentor will be someone you can ask deeper questions of, that might provide insight, and not just instant.
Studying creativity. The more you read, the more you will understand how others have learned and taught creativity. If you have not read the classic Michael Michalko’s book
Thinkertoys or his new book
Cracking Creativity or any Edward de Bono book,
Six Thinking Hats,
Lateral Thinking, or a compilation of his thoughts entitled,
Serious Creativity, I recommend you start from there and immediately progress to Dr. Seuss, the champion of creativity for both adults and children. No kid can read or digest Michalko or de Bono. Every kid can read, re-read, think about, learn from, AND digest
The Cat in the Hat,
Yertle the Turtle,
Green Eggs & Ham,
Horton Hears a Who, or any of the Dr. Seuss legendary classics. My library has more than 25 volumes. OK, I’ve given you the titles. All you gotta do is buy them and read them.
Studying the history of creativity in your industry. In order for you to figure out what is going on today, and project your brilliant ideas into the future, you need to have a firm grip on what happened yesterday and why. As an expert in sales, the books I find most inspirational were written somewhere between 50 and 70 years ago. There’s always a new wrinkle in something old.
Using creative models. If you look at the concepts presented in the book
Six Thinking Hats or
Six Action Shoes it’s a classic model in creativity where the author, Edward de Bono, uses colors of the hat or the shoe to convey a process. The easiest example of the model is a concept brought out in
Thinkertoys called S.C.A.M.P.E.R. Scamper is simply a new way to look at an existing idea, and asking yourself questions to improve it. Each letter in the acronym represents a different perspective to see creative ideas from. The letters are Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Maximize, or Minimize, Put to other use, Eliminate, and Reverse or Rearrange. If you take any object, thought, or project and put the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. model to use, you will come up with new and creative ideas. The object of the model is to learn the practical science so that you can see there’s a way for you to learn creativity, rather than simply be creative. Learn rather than be. One does not replace the other. One is simply an additional method or supplement to the other. Sometimes you do things or think things without really knowing “why”. The “why” is never as important as the “is.”
Risk Failure. There’s an old expression that says, “no risk no reward.” I say, “no risk, no nothing.” All creative people take risks. It’s the nature of the process. Daring to think something new or try something new. The best example of creative-failure I can give you is Thomas Edison, he’s also the best example of creative-success. He thought, he studied, he tried, he risked, he failed THOUSANDS of times, and he succeeded big time. Thousands of brilliant inventions and ideas. Tens of thousands of failed ideas and inventions. Wherever your creativity takes you, risk comes along for the ride – it’s a natural part of the process. Enjoy the thrill of it like you would a roller coaster ride. Fail to get a hit in baseball two out of three times for 20 years and you’ll go to the hall of fame with a .333 batting average.
Seeing your creativity in action. There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing your idea put to use. No matter how small or grandiose people tend to brag (be proud of) and take ownership of “there idea”. “See that over there?” “Yeah, I thought of that.” Even if it’s just moving something from one end of the room to the other, setting up a new configuration of the same equipment or creating a slogan, there is HUGE PRIDE in “seeing” your idea.
The ridicule factor. Whatever your great idea is, there will always be someone ready to throw cold water on it. IGNORE those people. They are jealous because they have no ideas of their own. And for those of you that think all the good ideas are taken, look at the sport of ice hockey. It’s more than 150 years old. The hockey (goalie) MASK is only 30 years old. Wouldn’t you think that someone could have come up with it in the first 120 years? Finally one guy (Jacques Plante) got tired of getting hit in the face with the puck! Hello. And once again, necessity became the mother of invention. And he created the first hockey mask. There are a ton of other equally obvious ideas out there – your job is to be thinking about them. There were millions of people who knew the game of Ice Hockey, but only one who imagined a better, safer way to play it. Which leads me to the end. And the quote I found inscribed in the front of the book Thinkertoys. I have read the book several times, and ordered a case of them signed by the author, Michael Michalko. In it he had written, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” I rest my case. The rest is up to you.
Free GitBit… Exercise your brain to build your creative muscle. I offer you 7.5 creative exercises you can use the nanosecond you retrieve them. Go to www.gitomer.com (register if you’re a first time user) and enter the word CREATIVE in the GitBit box. Jeffrey Gitomer, author of The Sales Bible, and Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless. President of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at 704/333-1112 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org