Have you been wondering whether or not you are creative? Then try this simple test. Very simple really … one question: Are you a human being? If the answer to that question is “yes” then you are undoubtedly, whether you feel it or not, highly creative!
Actually, if perchance you are a dog, cat or other creature that has evolved brain function to the point that you are now reading this article, I suspect you are also creative. Also, if you are an extra-terrestrial life form, with intelligence evolved to the point you have traveled to earth and are reading this blog, the chances are you have high creativity. If you are an artificially intelligent machine?… well, I will leave that question for others to debate.
All joking aside, my point is that every single one of us, whether we consider ourselves to be creative or not, is blessed with a high degree of creative intelligence. By this, I mean we all have the capacity – both individually and collectively – to generate new ideas, perspectives and solutions to deal with the situations we encounter in life. This might run contrary to some things we see and read – that would have us believe that creative people are somehow special and different from the herd. That is the point. The myth of the creative superhero is both misleading and disenfranchising. It diverts our attention away from a simple and empowering truth – that ordinary people have enormous (and largely untapped) creative potential.
Are some people more creative than others? That may well be the case. However, rather than anything that is inbuilt – like their brains being wired differently – there are three things that, for practical purposes, set the people we consider to be creative apart from others:
- First, they allow themselves to be creative. That is to say, whereas many of us spend a lot of time and energy putting barriers in the way of our creativity, the “creative” person is less prone to doing this. They will let there ideas flow.
- Second, because they consider themselves to be creative, they spend more time thinking in this way. They are more practiced. Their creative “muscles” are stronger because they get exercise.
- Third, they tend to have a “language” through which their creativity is expressed – be that music, painting, writing, mathematics, programming, business or whatever. Their ideas find expression and take form, such that we can say admiringly, “Wow, isn’t that really creative!”
The first two aspects concern attitudes and behaviours. We can choose to believe (or not) in our ability to be creative. We can learn and adopt the behaviours that promote our creativity. We can encourage and support these attitudes and behaviours in others. If we are managers and leaders in organisations we can choose to create an environment which supports the attitudes and behaviours which promote creativity.
The third aspect, the ability to give form to your creative ideas, actually has little to do with creativity per sec. It is really about having a “skill” which has been developed through learning and practice. We can take an example from the world of music. You could learn to play an instrument. There is a physical skill to learn – positioning of fingers, shape of mouth, breath control etc. You also need to understand what notes are produced when you do certain things. You may also learn to read music. You could also learn some theory of music – harmony, scales, modes and so forth. Up to this point, you have done very little, if anything, that involves creativity. These are mechanical and memory skills that require learning and practice. However, you have now developed a rich language in which you can express your creativity through composition, improvisation and interpretation. Similarly, businesses can develop effective processes for taking raw ideas, identifying potential winners and developing new products and services – or processes for leveraging creative thinking in problem solving.
The good news in all the above is this: If we want to be more creative personally – or we want the teams and organisations that we run to be more creative – we can take positive action. We can make changes in our personal behaviour and support behavioural changes in others in order to promote and reinforce creativity. Now, I’m not saying this is necessarily easy. If your upbringing or environment has been one that has discouraged creative and original thinking, you will find that change difficult. If your organisation spends 90% of the time discouraging new ideas and initiative taking in 90% of its people, it will not turn into a hotbed of innovation overnight. It will take time, patience, persistence and practice. You may need to seek the support of coaches, facilitators and mentors. However, if you persist you will succeed. You may not end-up becoming Beethoven, da Vinci, Einstein or Shakespeare. Your organisation may or may not make the Forbe’s list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies. However, you will be generating a much higher volume of new ideas. There will correspondingly be more high-quality ideas. You will become more innovative and agile. You will become more confident and adept in your ability to both shape the world and deal with what the world throws at you.
So, having read through this, what do you now think?…