The myth about creativity
The common misconception about creativity is that only some people are (or can be) creative. This is a myth and simply not true; everybody can be creative. Look at children! They have endless creativity and fun, why don’t we as adults? So, the question is, how do we get it back? As Ursula Le Guin has put it: “The creative adult is the child who survived.” How do we unlearn the things we have learned on our way to adulthood? It is all about allowing your mind to be free and look at the world with wonder, without judgment, just like when we were children.
How to be more creative?
Design thinking is one approach that can be used to unleash creativity, helping those who are not designers to think more like designers. Design thinking is an approach to collective problem solving, giving the best results in teams with a diverse set of participants from multiple disciplines. It is a mind-set for inquiry and problem solving as well as a culture that fosters exploration. Creativity is all about openness and willingness to learn and improve. Watch this video to learn more.
“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” – Mary Lou Cook
Judgment and evaluation are an important part of creative progress, but one must first get started by creating ideas and having something to evaluate. The best ideas come from trial and error, as well as thinking of things in ways no one else has thought of before.
Tools for creativity
In order to reach to the core of creative self, one can try different types of tools, exercises and facilitators to help. To unleash creativity, having too much room does not make it easy to explore the best options efficiently; it is good to have a frame of user-centricity by studying a situation and people in it. One needs to free themselves from judgment to create a variety of ideas, by research, inspiration and wonder. The best ideas are selected and in a fast manner explored by visuals, drawings and prototypes, failures learned from and multiple ideas evaluated. The reached solution suggestions are then improved on and optimized for maximum impact. More information about tools for unleashing your creativity from Mindshake and Interaction design websites.
Tom & David Kelley have introduced a concept of Creative Confidence; the notion that you have big ideas and the ability to act on them. It is about believing in yourself and being brave enough to think, try and innovate. It is important that the environment supports creative efforts by providing time, tools, space and other resources. Everyone can create with others, if they are willing and open to believe in themselves.
“There is no innovation and creativity without failure.” – Brené Brown
Tom & David Kelley emphasize choosing creativity and believing that we can create and engage relaxed attention. It is an important part of the process to ask – like we did as children – “why”? and “Why not”? Read more about creative confidence from Design kit by IDEO.
Supporting creativity in organizations
Management has a very specific role in nurturing creativity within their teams. Allowing for failure and encouraging to try things out are fundamental to finding the best solutions for problems and possibilities. Creative culture is about living with uncertainty and ambiguity, leveraging new opportunities from it. It is about curiosity; it is a way of thinking and working, occasional workshops won’t cut it.
“There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.” – Edward De Bono
Teach employees to be creativity ambassadors to others, facilitators and encourage them to unleash their creativity. As an educator, teach students to not give up but push forward when failing. As people, be brave, look at the world with wonder and excitement and don’t be afraid to fail and learn. Many unforeseen elements can be used creatively, as long as you keep your mind open and look at the world with wonder, through the eyes of your inner child.
Written by Service Innovation and Design MBA students Niina Luostarinen and ES.
Barnhart, B. (2021). 22 Insightful creativity quotes. Vectornator. https://www.vectornator.io/blog/creativity-quotes/.
Brown, T. (2008). Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June, 84-95. http://www.ideo.com/images/uploads/thoughts/IDEO_HBR_Design_Thinking.pdf.
Buchanan, R. (1996). Wicked problems in Design Thinking. In Margolin, V. & Buchanan, R. The Idea of Design. A Design Issues Reader. Cambridge: The MIT Press.
Kelley, D. & Kelley, T. (2013). Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All. Crown Business.
Kolko, J. (2015). Design thinking comes of age. The approach, once used primarily in product design, is now infusing corporate culture. Harvard Business Review September 2015, 66-71.
Mootee, I. (2013). Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation: What They Can’t Teach You at Business or Design School. Wiley.
Thanks for bringing up the concept of Creative Confidence! I have always been the type to ask questions and to intuitively know that there is a solution out there, even if I don’t have it fully figured out yet. I’ve just never known this equals creativity and is a useful trait, instead of something annoying (always asking) or out of focus (no ready answers). Maybe I am, after all, a child who survived 🙂
Brilliant post. Especially liked the part about supporting creativity in organizations and the call to embracing a company culture of creativity and curiosity.
I found you blog post very interesting and inspirational. As I consider myself one of those “not-so-creative” persons, it was encouraging to read your views about how everyone can be creative.
I wonder how much of our creativity is blocked by unconscious, internalized rules about what is accepted or expected behavior. For example, curiosity and asking questions are not always encouraged. Many of us have our inner children tamed. It surely is difficult to unlearn behavioral patterns.
In you post failure is mentioned several times, as it’s an unavoidable part of experimentation and creative process. Do we have room and time for failure in our lives? At least at work I think businesses still expect to get things right at the first time. That’s ok if you’re producing something like pens or spare parts, but like you write, for innovations and creative process there must be room to try out new things – and if you fail, try again 😊
Nice post which got me thinking about who or what is killing that creative kid in us. Seth Godin often speaks about the purpose of schools and what exactly are we trying to achieve with them. His basic idea is that schools’ purpose has been, and unfortunately still is, to produce adults that work well within a given system.
The western education system was established in the second half of the 1800s when industrialization had really kicked in, and various roles in factories (systems in this case) needed to be filled with more or less skilled workers. Partly because of the scientific management models used in the production lines of those factories, the workers needed to follow the process to be productive cogs in that system. In other words, they needed to do exactly what they were told and not think too much themselves. So, the schools needed to produce adults (and quite often kids) wo were able to do just that. That’s what Seth Godin’s criticism about schools and their purpose is about, at least in general.
My own experience with elementary school especially is somewhat similar, even though I was born in the post-industrialization era. The “projector slide drills” aka kalvosulkeiset was the most used teaching method of most of my elementary school teachers. You basically needed to copy the stuff shown on the slides, memorize it for exams, after which you could forget everything about it, at least until you had to possibly memorize some parts of it for the next exam. And it was all good and actually encouraged, even if nobody dared to say it aloud. Neither genuine problem solving, nor creativity needed. Just do what the boss (the teacher) tells you to do, and whatever you do, don’t question the methods or the importance of the subject matter.
There was some time reserved for creativity in the arts classes though. But even in the woodwork (puukässä) class you were first shown the end result, then told the process to achieve it, and then you just needed to do exactly that. Those who were able to follow the process and produce the most similar end results, were rewarded by the teacher. So in a way, you were quite literally encouraged to be an obedient little factory worker. No wonder then if the nine years in elementary school managed to kill a huge chunk of one’s creativity. And, it really didn’t change that much in high school either. I really hope it’s different for kids in school today.
I think I’m still trying, at the age of 39, to convince myself that I’m creative and there is nothing wrong about it. And that it’s something that I have always been, even if I was forced to forget it. Schools, of course, are not the only institutions to be blamed about this, and it might actually be the western culture, and the capitalist system, that kills our creativity with mass-everything, but I think I leave that for some other discussion.