Creativity needs no tools, only pit-stops

- Manoj Kothari -

Every organization and every nation wants its people to be creative thinkers. Creative inspiration helps human beings survive in the face of adversity. Revolutions thrive on creative interpretations. Creativity is as innate to a human being as a smile and a tear. Still this has been an area of interest for individuals and organizations. There are numerous tools and techniques available to fire up the hidden sparks in the people, that includes so called ‘hats’ and ‘shoes’. But techniques don’t interest me. Believe it or not, so-called 'techniques' have an inherent problem of killing the ability to think creatively. Mind becomes complacent, the moment someone provides a ‘technique’ and a well-defined way. My interest & proposition is in understanding the natural course of creative thinking and recognizing those natural stages in the journey, where the shifts happen. Zen Buddhism suggests that one cannot ‘teach’ and ‘transfer’ the knowledge. That has to be found through self-exploration. All teachings are but a hint at the reality. Spirit of unchartered exploration is a must, for transcendence from the ordinary. So here are some in-between stages that all the travellers of creative journey, must know of.

Creative Block

Creative Block is what it reads. It is favorite of ad-industry and the design practictioners. This means that a person is stuck as he/she is not getting any more mutually exclusive ideas. Every new idea that comes to the mind is just another corollary to the previous one. When I am ideating with the team for any situation/problem, my goal is to have at least 30 ideas in 30 minutes- raw, weird or vulnerable, everything is welcome. Despite loud and clear mandate to generate rapid ideas without judgement, people get stuck. Everyone faces a Creative Block, at some point or the other. What do you do? First thing is to know that you or your boss is not beyond it. It is for real. Coming out of it needs different starting points– not just competition references & statistics i.e. think biomimicry, brand meaning, ergonomics, parallel domain inspiration, ancient sciences, think in terms of color, think no-limit solution or use a seller’s point of view, use a metaphor or typography to convey the meaning, write a short limerick to tell a story within the context, use art references etc. These pointers are some of the triggers that can be used to generate mutually exclusive ideas. This is called ‘thinking through the buckets’. Bucket thinking helps in micro-detailing the ideas as well.

Positive Disintegration

If you look up Wikipedia entry on this phrase, you would run into a long psychological mumbo-jumbo around personality development. In that realm, Positive Disintegration essentially means that our personality growth occurs through a series of psychological disintegrations and re-integrations through our life time, usually resulting in a dramatic change to our conception of self and the world. And this process, elevates our everyday functioning to higher levels. In this sense, one does come across a point of no return in a creative thinking process as well. Millions of factors seem to be at loggerheads with each other and the mind struggles to make sense of it. Every time you see the light at the end of the long tunnel, a counter advice appears to destroy it all. When this happens, it is wise to first-of-all, recognize that this state is a reality too and a good thing to happen. It is a natural state and the best way to go through this is to be patient with the delirium. It means that you have tried-hard and now you are just about to go over the hump. Mind starts shedding the non-essentials and starts connecting the essentials. One has to believe the power of human mind here, which can not remain in the state of turbulence for ever. It returns to 'homeostasis' quickly by making non-linear connections and help you settle down. Have you been through such situation during your creative journey?

Evidences & Structure

Everyone has an opinion and a point of view on a situation. You propose an idea and you see swords are drawn out instantly. Rarely does a team come across a situation where you proposed an idea and everyone is not only supporting it but also help you to refine that. It is but a human nature. “Thou shalt not believe, what others suggest”, is an unwritten commandment. In fact, I often say that in our professional consulting work, getting a brilliant insight or an idea is not the biggest challenge; it is to convince that client team about the importance of that idea/insight. The same challenge the client teams face within the organization. They propose a brilliant idea to the boss/bosses after several months or work and the boss seems to refer to some isolated incident/reference/idea from his previous visit to an international conference.

The way out of this situation is two-fold a) Do not use ‘your’ opinion or judgement, use the evidences from the field (customers’ voice) captured in terms of audio/video/written notes in ‘verbatim format’ to convince others b) Do not just propose an idea, but show the long tail of the idea - i.e. how will that be implemented, possible variants, SWOT and price impact. People can comment on an idea but usually their minds are not ready to travel through the nitty-gritties of the idea. A well-structured solution usually sails through with lesser opposition. And this is an art that trained engineers know well. Make sure that the ideation team has an engineer or a person with engineering bent to hold that long tail of the idea and work through the details.

Transitions

'Transitions' are always eventful, if you notice, in every dimension of life. People look for a creative solution to a problem or for a challenge, usually by staying focused on ‘A to B’ process (the brief and the solution). One would like to reach there irrespective of the possible digressions. However, the in-between situations hide the million-dollar ideas. If you are too focused on the end-goal, you may just trample the in-between situations under a broad brush of ‘process'. If Professor Clayton Christensen was not paying attention to the in-between happenings and the meanings of his famous milk-shake consumption research project, he would have never discovered ‘Jobs to be done’ framework for innovation. It would have been another market-research job done by just another consultant. We are anyways aware of discovery of penicillin and other similar stories for ‘watch the in-between process’. Every person on the journey of creativity, must embrace 'transition' with full mindfulness.

Go through the journey. But be watchful of these pit-stops. Creation and innovation is taking shape while we are passing them by. Movement is a necessity. ‘Pause’ is the wisdom.

Manoj Kothari

Turian Labs