It is said that creativity takes only 1% inspiration and 99% sweat. It’s a good thing to remember, but usually, we’re boiling with ideas and inspiration. What sees the light? There’s a gap here for most of us, and that can be very discouraging. Does that sound familiar? Are you creative when you are 99% inspired? Or might it be a sign you – on top of your creativity – are a perfectionist? I believe this is true, at least, for me. Please read on to find out how to improve your creativity. I can say it’s mainly about the right mindset and about some sweat.
It was during a summer day at a training at Host2Transform, where one of the participants insisted: ‘You have so many ideas, you deserve to focus on one of them, stick to it, and go for it.’ Hell, this resonated! I’ve always believed I am creative and talented. I make music, I collaborate on projects, I write, and I had a previous life as an artist. Somehow, I felt there was something missing. And it’s fine to continue in the old manner, while your beliefs are changing, but finally you’ll bump your head. Short circuit. This time, my idea about creativity has changed. And on that summer day, I realised what I’ve been seeing as creativity is talent.
Step 1 Creativity is not about talent; it’s a way of doing things
I hear this sentence often: ‘I’m not creative.’ Sometimes, followed by: ‘because I’m poor in drawing.’ This is creativity seen from an artistic perspective. But this person might be very good at communicating ideas or setting up projects. Isn’t that a sign of creativity? And even when you’re good at drawing or making music, it may look or sound talented, but doesn’t communicate . In business, we see it when a manager is not open to listening to others or a person who sticks to an idea and is not open to be challenged. A belief in talent (whether artistic or not) can be blinding. This made me believe that creativity is not about talent, but a way of doing things. It’s not about talent but about attitude, authenticity, and connection. So it’s basically everywhere. You need not become a Picasso to become creative.
Step 2 Imagining or actively involving another
Besides that creativity is everywhere, it is always about involving another. Talent without imagining or involving the other has nothing to say. And the reverse is even more pragmatic: you’ll be more creative when you imagine or actively involve another. Recently, I organised a Creativity session in Amsterdam and applied tools of Host2Transform with insights on creativity. It was experienced by the participants that doing things together enhances creative thinking, and in our daily business, we’re so used to finding solutions by ourselves and in solitude. And this solitude can be harsh if you are a perfectionist driven by fear: how can I perfect things, how can I avoid making mistakes? This happened to me preparing this session. This fear can be like a tornado destroying everything it contacts. But what happened? I discovered that, when I focussed on others (what would they come up with, wouldn’t I be grateful for their presence and responses?), a whole set of opportunities came in place. I became creative! This taught me that creativity is about forgetting yourself.
Step 3 Just do it!
One of my team members at work often wears clothing with the Nike slogan ‘Just do it!’ And she is like that. This is refreshing in a work environment, where this phrase is usually replaced by ‘Let’s think about it!’ The success of the Nike slogan may be because we all have a desire for opportunities; doing things is our purpose and our authentic drive. Kids know this, since they have this natural way of just doing things (and bumping their heads). ‘Let’s think about it!’ easily gets in the way and blocks creativity. And that can be a shame, but it doesn’t have to be. A good portion of thinking will be beneficial, but let the judge not be your inner critic. Involve others by asking for feedback and rethinking what you did. This is so much more powerful than all the thinking of a perfectionist. So I’ve set myself the task to replace my perfectionism by asking for feedback from others. And this taught me something I know from making music. It’s about listening. Why is it that good listening is a major factor for succes? And why is it often seen as one of the most important competences of leaders? Indeed! It’s all about communication and adaptation. ‘LISTEN, JUST LISTEN!’ I wrote as a reminder to stay quiet and receptive, while harvesting feedback from others during the session.
Just doing it will not make it in the long run; the adjustments to your own values and the needs of who you’re doing it for are important. I imagine creativity to be the perfect symbiosis of the child with the natural way of doing things and the adult, very capable of reflecting and grasping feedback from others to make genuine progress. This will definitely get you in a creative flow to develop something of value to others. That’s what creativity is all about; it’s about imagining or involving others. Embracing fears will be part of this, and maybe unlearning since our adult habits can stand in the way of ‘just doing’, but it’s a gift. How thankful! I’m getting more creative!