When I first got asked to speak about creativity I thought it would be easy. After all, I’ve managed to spend my life pursuing creative endeavors. But I quickly learned that doing and teaching are different things entirely. In order to speak about creativity I needed to develop something called ‘take-aways’….aargh. So I did what I always do when faced with a problem, or new project. I booked time with myself. 9:30 am on a Monday morning I scheduled an hour to sit in my favorite thinking chair, pace back and forth, lie on the floor, sit in the closet, whatever… and let my mind wander. When my mind wanders I think about interesting and often unrelated things. But with a goal in mind, the unrelated and interesting eventually lead to connections. My first connection was the thought that creativity is most often NOT a bolt of lightening strike of genius. It’s most often the result of step by step action, the first step being the above described which is – Calendar time to let my mind wander.
Yesterday I worked with a team of sales managers at a large hotel/convention center. They usually go at 150 miles an hour and give 150%, which to them means frenetic energy. When they have team meetings they quickly cover agenda items that are to-do lists, get their marching orders and then go back to their individual work without any time for reflection. So other than specific tasks, nothing really changes for them. They’re not solving problems or improving systems, they’re just being active. I centered our team building song writing session around the SLOW. I purposely avoided moving in a straight line, but rather encouraged them to brainstorm, to let their minds wander, to speak whatever came to mind – thus imitating the creative process I pursue when I’m by myself. Eventually, the random banter, ideas and laughter led to emerging themes, preoccupations, new ideas and eventually a really good song – a NEW take on their shared story.
Most importantly the group experienced that creativity has step-by-step elements and is obtainable for everyone if they make time to partake in the process. I lead groups through this process in a team building environment, but it’s best to begin doing this on your own. So I’m going to outline a few initial action steps below to get you started. And then I’ll hope to lure you back here again soon with the promise of some more steps to come.
Initial Action Steps to Become More Creative
- Schedule time to think, to let your mind wander while turning over a problem, a task or a goal.
- Did I say schedule time? Yes, you have to make it formal. Be realistic and start with 15 minutes at a time.
- Pick a subject like; Today I’m going to dream up some ways to shorten my client intake form.
- Don’t expect to quantify results. A new thought, or a new way of viewing an old problem are results in and of themselves.
- Don’t judge your ideas, you’ll only inhibit your natural ability to create.
- Write down any ideas that interest you and keep an idea folder. Check it often so you can use old ideas to build new ones.
- This is enough to get you started: Schedule time, pick a subject to ponder, don’t be results oriented, don’t judge, notate your thoughts & repeat!
Please come back here and comment about your experience with step-by-step creativity. Let me know if you came up with any ideas, good or bad, and where they led!