Who Killed Creativity?

A lot of people I've seen come up with some really good concepts for new businesses or ventures end up not believing in their own ideas. Why? There seems to be a stopping point in the development process, one which comes with the notion that the term Creative doesn't apply to them. I've seen a few friends give up right at the point of initial concept, comfortably seated in the notion that they won't succeed in taking it any further because they're "just not very creative". The problem could be in understanding that their own definition of the word is too narrow or exotic. Maybe it seems too grand a term, one that's been shelved in favor of other skills we believe more suited to the formal corporate world. Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson would even argue that it's dead. In this Ted Talks video, he'll tell you schools killed it. Personally, I don't think the body's cold. It's merely dormant and contained.

Everyday creativity- the kind that can lead to a fulfilling business or career- can come from a mild case of apophenia, defined as "making new connections where none previously existed". It can be used as a problem solving skill, a tool to help craft your next piece of writing, or a catalyst for developing a new uses for common items. (Anyone remember the Pet Rock?) A case of apophenia is worth cultivating in helping find ways to develop and market your new ideas.

As a kid, one of my favorite games was Sesame Street's "one of these things is not like the other". It was simple enough that I was regularly rewarded with Cookie Monster growling, "yooou so smaart" at the end, but my real appreciation came because it appealed to my need to make connections in order to make sense of the world. Linking is where my own brand of "creativity" started. I'm not a creative. I'm a synergist, and that's a term I find a lot less daunting.

These days I exercise my apophenia as most of us do, as a people watcher and a hoarder of information, juxtaposing snippets of one against the other, tossing all of the pieces together against what's been gathered before. Thinking of ways to solve the problem of useable goods from foreclosures ending up in dumps is a very simple example of linking a problem to a solution. Connecting Budget Car Rentals to Harley-Davidson to rent motorcycles was how American Road Collection linked desires to fulfillment. The basic ideas aren't the least bit complex and required no more than 3 links.

1. Cars are rented.
2. People like driving motorycles but don't always own one.
3. Rent motorcycles.

This is right about the spot I've seen a lot of people stop their creative process. Once the high-level Big Idea has been generated, the same skill used to develop it isn't applied on a micro level. But the method is the same. Continued linking within each segment can lead to new ways to view each piece of the puzzle, and each step in executing a plan. If your links break, make new ones. Mindmapping is an excellent tool to help you visualize your links, and Sentinel World is an excellent place to learn how to get started on the process.

Apophenia has a flip side. For some, this thought process veers into the territory of consipiracy theories and magical thinking, but for most of us, it simply allows a true form of creativity to begin and is a first step in a path to finding and executing the next Big Idea. Besides, Big Ideas always seem like magic.

Further reading:

New York Times article
Where to Get a Good Idea:Steal It Outside Your Group


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