Issue #02: Picking Creativity apart

Creativity.

Put on the seesaw of sensible boyfriends to date, where the investment bankers and civil servants face the wild, unkempt writers and artists, the “creative” might sit beside the “entrepreneur” somewhere in the 3/4 area and sliding towards impractical.

It’s also now a popular buzzword. 60% the CEOs polled by IBM cite creativity as the most important leadership quality. That trumps Integrity (52%) and Global Thinking (35%).

Also often fluffed. Unlike skills like accuracy and conscientiousness, creativity doesn’t really sit well with structure or rules. It’s often about the moment when “inspiration strikes”. As to when it strikes is up to anyone’s guess.

well, unicorns didn’t pop out from a moment of inspiration.

Maybe “creating” seems more abstract than qualities like conscientiousness and academic skills, simply because coming up with unusual solutions, or new ways of seeing things, are not as formulaic. But it doesn’t mean that there’s no structure to it.

Writer and teacher Diana Senechal argues that no one can be creative without first learning about what came before. History reflects past and present problem-solving. And to innovate for the future involves a lot of study, reflection, and practice.

“Invention is the result of a long process. Take making music, for example. Before musicians can write new songs, much less push the boundaries of their craft, they first have to figure out basics—how to play, scales, notes, chords, how other people’s songs go, and how those songs are composed. There is a lot of practice that comes before mastery and only after that can innovation happen. Ideas must germinate in knowledgeable soil. They benefit from deep consideration, and valuable concepts can’t be generated without a profound understanding of underlying principles.”

The Cult of Creativity is Making Us Less Creative, Quartz

Like any other job, there is hard work involved.

Professionals create on a schedule because they know that their cumulative output matters more than any individual piece of work.

This requires discipline, and a ritual that works for you. And it isn’t enough to just find what works. Practice is as key as the ability to test, refine and grow.

“In order for jazz musicians to improvise, they need to know a lot of music theory related to the song structures they play. The best scientists are deeply immersed in their fields. Inventors spend years understanding the way the world works.

and any of us can use it.

See, we are natural problem-solvers.

Have you seen the big fields found on the fringes of neighbourhoods? Have you noticed how, despite best efforts to create paved walkways around the field, there usually is a mud path that cuts through it?

Humans naturally find what Tom Hulme calls “the paths of least resistance”. We basically take shortcuts when they make sense, and when these shortcuts become self-reinforcing, they reflect desire paths where design and user experience can diverge.

While this sounds more relevant to product and UX designers, there’s a lesson in there for all of us.

Creativity isn’t some big, unreachable concept. It doesn’t require being a maverick, or a recluse that doesn’t shower, breaks all rules and social conventions.

It’s often about deep understanding of the problem, who the solution is for, and a lot of research, before testing and refining to find a solution. A solution that is simple, elegant, and most importantly — actually solves a problem.

Fluffy? Not really.

That actually seems pretty damn practical, methodological, and relevant.

 
Xy Lim