Published on June 11, 2020
It always saddens me whenever I hear someone say they’re not creative, as if it’s a gift that is only bestowed on a privileged few.
That’s a hugely common misconception about creativity; that to be creative is to paint a pretty picture, or to write an incredible story. Because creativity is so much more than the arts. Science, technology, mathematics, engineering, even sport – almost any discipline you can imagine requires an element of problem solving – and that is what creativity is – the capacity to think differently. The ability to look at something old and see something new.
Creativity is what human brains do. It’s an innate quality within each and everyone one of us. It’s the driving force that has propelled our species from cave dwellers to space explorers.
The modern human brain came into existence in Africa about 200,000 years ago, after undergoing a dramatic evolutionary expansion that saw the gap grow and widen between the area that takes in information (inputs) and the area that reacts to that information and effectively tells us what to do (outputs). This development is what allowed us to disengage our primitive mammalian instincts, to forge new pathways and make new connections.
The size and complexity of our brains allows us to process information in almost limitless ways, and the innumerable pathways through these networks is the foundation for our creativity.
With the enlargement of the human brain came the expansion of the pre-frontal cortex – the source of our imagination. It’s this that sets us apart from other animals and makes us uniquely creative.
The pre-frontal cortex allows us to imagine a world that doesn’t yet exist by disassociating our thoughts from the present and effectively travelling to another time and place to try out fresh ideas and consider new possibilities.
Every second of your life, inputs are taken in and combined with the information that’s already stored in your brain. What you see, hear, taste or touch is blended and bonded with thoughts, emotions, memories - new and old - so every experience you have is fresh material for your brain to create with.
Unfortunately, being creative isn’t quite as simple as letting the world wash over you. Like any discipline, you have to work at it. At times it can feel like a struggle, and that’s because to think creatively you have to fight a fundamental quality of the human brain.
We’re extremely mobile creatures and we burn a lot of energy, so we have to act as efficiently as possible. To ensure we do this, our brains are hard-wired to always take the path of least resistance. The human brain weighs only 1.4kg, but it uses around 20% of our energy. Thinking requires effort, so our brains will automatically follow the neural pathways that represent what we’ve done before.
Creativity, however, only emerges when we get off those well-trodden paths and go for a hike through our neural networks to explore new territories. And that requires effort.
It could be what Thomas Edison meant when he said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." Thankfully there are a few things we can do to encourage our brains to put the hard yards in.
Try something new
Our brains are like incredibly powerful computers, but when we’re born the hard drive is mostly empty. Slowly, over time, we fill it with memories and experiences. The richer and more diverse these experiences are, the greater our chances of coming up with something new and exciting.
From a neurological perspective, being creative isn’t about making something out of nothing. Instead it’s about repurposing something that already exists.
Inspiration is often referred to as a lightning strike – a eureka moment – as if it’s a random act that we have no conscious control over. Although it may sometimes feel like that in the moment, in reality, inspiration comes from experience. From getting out into the world and using what’s around us to inspire new ideas.
Our brains are novelty seekers, they crave what’s new and exciting, because what’s old and familiar becomes less stimulating over time. So, go for a walk. Better still, take a holiday. Read a book. Watch a movie. Do something. Anything. Just so long as it’s new.
Let your inner child out to play
We are constantly told by society to ‘grow up’. To put childish things aside and conform with whatever societal norms are being pushed on to us via TV or social media. To become adults, we've been taught that our inner child – representing our child-like capacity for innocence, wonder, awe, joy, sensitivity and playfulness – must be made to sit on the naughty step for the rest of our ‘oh so mature’ adult lives.
Nonsense. All this attitude does is stifle creativity. It is, in my opinion, the main reason why so many people say they’re not creative. Because they simply don’t believe they’re allowed to be any longer. Or perhaps even, because they’re afraid to do something that society may consider childish. And when we allow that to happen, the magic of imagination becomes buried underneath the responsibilities and burdens of adulthood.
To reconnect with your imagination, you need to let your inner child out to play once in a while. Allow yourself to daydream. Do something impulsive. Listen to a favourite song or album from your childhood. Rediscover your curiosity and question the world around you.
Being creative is a lot of fun, but the process of creating something can be agonising. Creativity is a very personal process, because the outcome is based on our own unique experiences. Sharing what you create with other people can feel like baring your soul, and the prospect of having your ideas rejected can be terrifying.
Our brains are inherently risk-averse. They’re been wired that way for hundreds of thousands of years. It’s one of the reasons why we’ve been so successful as a species. The problem is that our brains interpret rejection as risk. 200,000 years ago, being rejected by your tribe could be the difference between life and death. Those primal urges are as strong today as they were in our cave-dwelling days. So, it follows that your brain is going to make damn sure you don’t do anything that could put you in that position.
Back then those fears would have been well founded, but today they’re most likely irrational. And that’s fine, so long as we recognise that pattern of thinking for what it is. The reality is that most people’s successes rise out of the ashes of their previous failures. To be creative, to think outside the proverbial box, you have to be willing to be wrong.
Rationalising that anxiety and accepting that you may be wrong more times than you’re right is one of the toughest lessons you can learn as a creative, but it is also the most liberating. As Robert F. Kennedy said,
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
Cultivating creativity in the workplace
Creativity is the most potent, transformative tool that we have at our disposal. It has the power to change people’s lives and transform the world.
We now live in an era of unparalleled creative potential. The jobs that will exist 10 or 20 years from now don’t even have titles. To succeed in that future, we need to cultivate creativity, to proliferate options, to get off the path of least resistance and take risks.
For a business, there’s no richer source of creativity than its own people. They have an intimate understanding of what works and what doesn’t. This gives them a unique perspective on a whole host of things; from working more efficiently, to improving products and services, or strengthening relationships with customers, clients and suppliers.
The problem is, inspiration can strike at any time, so capturing those ideas while they’re fresh can be a challenge, especially for larger or less agile organisations. We work collaboratively with our clients to uncover their creative ideas and translate them into a wide range of creative solutions, from designing a set of values and competencies, producing printed collateral such as presentations, brochures and training materials, to digital media, video production and animation. We also specialise in brand identity design for internal and external audiences.
We also run creative workshops, working with your teams to inspire and ignite conversations, to engage and motivate them to be innovative and encourage diversity of thought. Many a ‘crazy’ idea in one of our facilitated sessions have gone on to be the creative solution that improved workplace culture and often top line growth.
Relationship science is central to our internal communications service because we know that, whether you’re trying to engage or maintain relationships with colleagues or customers, the same universal ‘laws of attraction’ apply. Everything we do comes from heart… all we have to do to communicate a consistent brand message at every touchpoint and literally...follow our heart.
Get in touch today if you like to uncover your hearts desire and creative juices, we are here to help… firstname.lastname@example.org