Creative: Where do good ideas come from?

It’s the beginning of the year again and for some reason, the idea of innovation and creativity always comes to the fore. It’s a topic that gets a lot of pickup from disparate backgrounds.

For me, creativity has always been about being artistic, so trying to be innovative in tech has been a bit of a challenge. So why is creativity important and how do we harness it in our every day lives?

Thanks to the following guests for participating:

Mark Earls, one of the leading thinkers about brands, marketing and mass behaviour, and co-editor of Creative Superpowers. Here is the full interview:

Esin Huseyin, Creative Copywriter in advertising company VaynerMedia

David Waters, coach and psychotherapist from The School of Life, a global organisation offering advice on life issues to professionals. Contact School of Life for more information.

Here are some of the resources from the show:

Gordon Prize-winning author and academic Dr Tina Seelig at a Ted Talk in 2012:

The Second City Executive Vice President Kelly Leonard at a Ted Talk in 2016:

Books looked at this week:

Laura Jordan Bambach, Mark Earls, Daniele Fiandaca, and Scott Morrison: Creative Superpowers: Equip Yourself for the Age of Creativity

Dr Tina Seelig: InGenius: A Crash Course in Creativity

Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton: Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration–Lessons from The Second City

PS. I do not receive commission for reviewing books and talks.

Transcription

Exploring how we can master ourselves by looking at how experts say it is possible with your host Suswati Basu.

Intro music

Welcome to the seventh episode of How To Be…with me Suswati as your timid presenter, guiding you through life’s tricky skills by taking this learning journey with you.

It’s the beginning of the year again and for some reason, the idea of innovation and creativity always comes to the fore. It’s a topic that gets a lot of pickup from disparate backgrounds. Einstein said it’s “contagious, pass it on”, whilst poet Maya Angelou said “the more you use, the more you have”. For me, creativity has always been about being artistic, so trying to be innovative in tech has been a bit of a challenge.

So why is creativity important and how do we harness it in our every day lives? Advertising Creative Copywriter Esin Huseyin tells me what it’s all about for her.

ESIN HUSEYIN

The first book by a group of amazing authors is Creative Superpowers: Equip Yourself for the Age of Creativity.

Written by a host of names including digital designer Laura Jordan Bambach, one of the leading thinkers about brands Mark Earls, Utopia consultancy founder Daniele Fiandaca, and marketing expert Scott Morrison: this book is a guide into hacking your creativity.

Mark Earls was kind enough to speak to me about creativity this week. For the full interview, visit www.howtobe247.com for all resources. Here’s some his thoughts on the topic.

MARK EARLS

Mori-hiro Harano of Mori inc. suggests listening and learning to collaborate with others rather than stuffing your head with information. Bambach takes this further finding others to bounce your ideas off. Not to mention finding time to process your thoughts and connect the dots through relaxing.

The guide also recommends throwing out old ideas that doesn’t work to make room for new ones that might.

Being creative is also about being brutally honest says Harano, as bad ideas and products can be a huge waste of creative resources.

Apparently only 20 per cent of our work produces 80 per cent of results, so they actually say to stop trying to be creative. Hugh Gary, director at Storythings says our prefrontal  cortex, the part of the brain responsible for logic is not particularly suited for creative work, so it needs switching off to get the creative juices flowing.

Whilst Kerry Friend, creative director at Bear Season, says the tip to hacking your creativity is to be really bored paradoxically. After all, when your brain is feeling understimulated, there’s nothing it loves more than a good distraction. Also creating chaos through sprawled magazines and knick knacks apparently help because it may help the unconscious trigger something.

The idea of street wisdom is wonderful and recommended by David Pearl, founder of a social enterprise with the same name. Taking strolls can be helpful because sometimes the streets can be a source of inspiration. But this also requires engaging with your surroundings, so focusing on your senses, what you can see, hear, and smell. The next stage is trying to answer a question that’s been bothering you. The final stage is to share your insights with someone.

I’m glad Earls recommends copying others after all “great minds think a like” and “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. I love painting from other beautiful artwork, after all it’s a guaranteed masterpiece. Also, you do end up learning techniques you can use elsewhere. Originality is these days a myth – it’s now about finding a twist on things that already exist.

In the end, is a bunch of exercises and techniques that could be used as a way to open up your creativity from the tomato timer technique where you work straight for 25 minutes on the timer, to the What would Google Do exercise, which makes you think of a business problem from different perspectives.

John Forbes Nash Jr. was an American mathematician who made fundamental contributions to game theory, as well as differential geometry. Played by Russell Crowe in The Beautiful Mind, the character talks about stunted creativity.

BEAUTIFUL MIND

Gordon Prize winning author and academic Tina Seelig talks about kindling your creative spark in InGenius: A Crash Course in Creativity. From new thinking habits to new environments,  Dr Seelig sees creativity as a habit and not as something you’re born with.

Here’s Dr Seelig at a Ted Talk in 2013.

TINA SEELIG

Dr Seelig says it’s never too late to be creative. But a good way to start is with habits such as combining seemingly unrelated ideas to create new results or reframing problems we face by stepping outside of it.

She also suggests to never stick to first ideas and wait for new ones to come through brainstorming. However, firstly the space needs to be right, so a large room and floor space where you can cover the wall with paper and sticky notes. Next you need the right crowd with a maximum of eight people from all different walks of life or teams and departments.

Making discerning observations is something we can train ourselves to do apparently. And it just takes practice! You can also awaken your observation skills by immersing yourself in different surroundings altogether such as taking a walk outside, perhaps using a new route in order to shake ourselves out of autopilot.

Dr Seelig says failure is inevitable, so why waste time worrying about it? Instead, see it as the next step towards your solution. Personally I didn’t know Instagram started off as a location sharing app with an experimental feature that allowed sharing of photos. Lo and behold.

And it’s also about attitude, apparently if you believe you’ll reach success, you will.

Workspaces that encourage interaction and collaboration between employees foster creative problem solving, so foosball tables are actually a great way of generating playful ideas.

Making creativity a game, so adding challenges such as time constraints, competition, rules, with rewards can actually spark ingenuity.

The last book will be brief but gets an honorary mention. Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration–Lessons from The Second City is written by Second City executive vice president Kelly Leonard and CEO Tom Yorton. The book uses the idea of using Improvisational comedy in the business world to foster new ideas.

KELLY LEONARD

That was Leonard at a Ted Talk in 2016. For those who don’t know, The Second City is considered one of the best comedy clubs in the world, showcasing talent such Mike Myers and Tina Fey.

Leonard and Yorton says using comedy to diffuse tension, respect others ideas, building a safe and collaborative environment, it’s easier to fail fast and fail together if it happens. They also suggest rotating leaders during the creative process ie. Getting the best person for the job.

They also suggest build your listening skills by not using the word “I. Have your team form pairs and start a conversation about any topic. The only rule: no one can use the word “I.” in doing so, each participant will better focus on the other, and in the process, both will improve their listening skills!

Given we’ve gone through a fair few tips here, we’ll sum up what we have:

Creative Superpowers has tips such as:

  • Collaborate with others
  • Process your thoughts through relaxing
  • Be brutally honest with one another about your ideas
  • Use others’ great work for inspiration
  • Use all your senses while going for a walk
  • Try to solve a problem whilst walking
  • Learn to be bored

In InGenius, Dr Seelig suggests

  • Learn to reframe problems from different angles
  • Celebrate failure as a learning opportunity
  • Learn to observe everything around you
  • Attitude is everything
  • Embrace messy spaces
  • Turn creativity into a game with parameters

Yes, And is all about working in a team

Don’t use the word I

Rotate leaders

Use comedy to diffuse tension

Listen to everyone

I’m going to try walking and being more mindful, perhaps write down interesting things I saw during the walk too. Also recommend more collaboration. How will you be creative?

Coach and psychotherapist David Waters from The School of Life, a global organisation offering advice on life issues to professionals is no stranger to creativity. We actually had a session on creativity with him through our workplace, to discover how to innovate in tech. If you want more information, check out the schooloflife.com/business.

If you enjoyed this please hit subscribe!

DAVID WATERS

Published by suswatibasu

Suswati Basu is a writer, journalist, producer and feminist activist residing in London. She has written for the Guardian, Huffington Post and the F-Word blogs, and has worked for various media outlets such as the BBC, Channel 4 and for ITV News/ITN. She currently works as a senior intelligence expert.

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