I recently had the great delight of joining Simon Paparo on his ‘Making Creativity Practical’ podcast and chatting about some of my favourite topics – creativity.
For those that missed the live session, you can read the transcript below. Alternatively, feel free to email me at email@example.com and I will send you a copy. If you are interested in some of the research studies or online tests I refer to, scroll to the bottom of the transcript for the references.
Transcript – ‘Making Creating Practical’ Podcast, February 2018
Simon (presenter on ‘Making Creativity Practical’ podcast): Hi Alana, it’s great to have you here on the ‘Making Creativity Practical’ podcast.
Alana: Thanks for having me.
Simon: For those listening, we’re here today to hear Alana’s reflections on creativity. Alana – I believe you have an autobiography coming out soon?
Alana: Yes, that’s right. I don’t want to spend too much time talking about it – you can read about it on my website if you like.
Simon: For those listening, are you happy for me to read a summary of the publication?
Alana: Sure, thanks.
The answers are as varied as Alana’s experiences but the thread connecting them all is her desire to be part of something bigger than herself and serve others.
At times self-depreciating, wise and funny, this personal story highlights the lengths one person will go to in order to contribute to the community and find meaning in their life. Alana shares her experience working in a range of community development, marketing and communications roles across the not-for-profit, small business and local government sectors. She also highlights the many ways one person can make the world a better place and strengthen the local community – from writing to clothing companies to ask about the ethics behind their supply chain, to teaching yoga and meditation to disadvantaged residents, to being involved in shaping local community services as a board member of an organisation.
Alana lives by something comedian Billy Connolly once said – “When you do something you feel vocationally drawn to, it’s not like a job. It’s your raison d’etre. It’s the reason to wake.” She hopes that her story will remind people that living a life of meaning if within their power – if only they are curious enough!
Alana: Thanks Simon.
Simon: I’ll have to get a copy!
Alana: Thanks! That would be great. I must say that writing this book wasn’t easy – I had such a fear about writing a book about my experiences. I even wrote a poem about it!
Simon: Let’s hear it!
I wanted to create something new really quick
So much so the thought of it made me sick
I could not bear to wait for the idea to arise
I feared my lack of innovation would lead to my demise.
Prior to writing the book, I did a lot of research into creativity and innovation as I wanted to understand the role it played and could play in my own life.
Simon: Yes, you certainly did. And that’s part of the reason we’re here today. Perhaps you could share with us a time when you were creative, drawing on Amabile’s ‘theory of creativity’?
Alana: Absolutely, practical examples are always good. I’ll cite some of the references as we go where I can – otherwise I’ll make sure they are provided as part of the transcript.
An example where I was creative
I demonstrated my creativity skills when I successfully organised the Inaugural ‘Skilled Volunteer Meet’, a networking event connecting community organisations with profesionals looking to volunteer their skills and experience. I was responsible for developing the concept for the event which included launching the new Boroondara Volunteer Skills Bank, a program matching resident skills with skilled volunteer opportunities, as well as Board and Committee roles with community organisations. I also oversaw the design, marketing, communications and promotions for the event, and designed its format which involved over 35 community organisations pitching skilled volunteer projects to over 90 local professionals with skills in IT, HR, marketing, communications, graphic design and governance, etc.
Armed with knowledge of the needs and interests of skilled professionals and resource poor community organisations, I was confident the Skilled Volunteer Meet networking event would create a meaningful and engaging space for both stakeholders to interact and exchange details. My skills in facilitating large groups of people and delivering creative and fun events which have a ‘skill-sharing’ or ‘match-making’ component, combined with my expertise in online marketing meant that I had the know-how to organise, sell and promote this new initiative.
In pitching this event to senior management, and ensuring its execution, I employed a number of creativity-relevant processes. As I was working with a number of unknowns and ambiguity (for example: Would community organisations pitch volunteer projects and would skilled professionals come along to the event to offer their skills and experience? What would success at the event of the night look like?), I attended and researched other similar initiatives to gain ideas. I also facilitated a number of brainstorming workshops with my team and other stakeholders whereby we used divergent thinking to generate ideas (Hulme, 2010) about the event’s format, key messages and value proposition to each stakeholder. This assisted us to expand our field of vision and not to be trapped by our usual problem framing and pre-existing set of solutions (Ogilvie and Liedtka 2011 p.21), and ensured we were not constrained by existing knowledge (Cambridge International 2011, p. 55).
Aware that re-framing a problem can unlock innovation and open a vast array of solutions (Seelig 2014) we moved away from asking ‘how can professionals looking to give back to the community utilise our current services?’ and instead asked ‘What time of events and programs would we need to develop to engage professionals looking to volunteer?’ This required taking new perspectives and skills in generating ideas, key processes conductive to novel thinking (Amabile 2012).
As a result, we decided to organise an evening event (as opposed to a day one) focused on connecting professionals with short-term, flexible projects that they can apply their skills and experience to (as opposed to volunteer roles which require a require commitment over a period of time).
As someone who is passionate about connecting people with opportunities to participate in the community, I was very motivated to organise an event and launch an initiative which would be of great benefit and interest to community organisations and professionals.
There were also a number of other factors in my work environment which assisted to stimulate creativity. My manager was very encouraging of our efforts to experiment with new ways of facilitating opportunities for skilled professionals to volunteer and said on a number of occasions, ‘This is a new event, we will try whatever format you decide on – it does not matter if we don’t get it right the first time, we’ll learn for next time.’ This attitude created a safe space to test and explore, and gave me the freedom to carry out my work with fear I would be reprimanded if the event wasn’t a success. As the day of the event drew closer and it appeared that it was going to be well attended, my manager offered additional resources by way of staff time to assist to organise and deliver the event. This assisted to enhance my creativity and motivation (‘motivational synergy’) (Amabile 2012).
A missed opportunity to be creative
I missed the opportunity to be creative when tasked with the job of organising my sister’s hen’s (bachelorette) party with her three other bridesmaids.
While I have skills in organising and delivering events, along with the capacity to generate new ideas, my level of motivation for the task was fairly low despite my love for my sister and desire to ensure she had a great night. As her bridesmaids are close friends with each other and communicate regularly, they chatted about ideas for the hen’s party constantly when they caught up which was generally without me. When I did check into the group chat we had set up for the purpose of organising the event, I found myself just agreeing with the suggestions put forward without much thought because I sensed they were ready to move onto the next aspect of the event, having already discussed the plans face-to-face. As I do not find hen’s parties particularly interesting, enjoyable or satisfying to organise (Amabile 2012), my intrinsic motivation was quite low. Interestingly, my external motivation was higher than my internal motivation as I felt ‘required’ to participate in the process although this did not result in me feeling particularly motivated overall – as research has shown, salient extrinsic motivators can undermine intrinsic motivation (Amabile 2012). I also found myself constrained by my existing knowledge about, and experience organising hen’s parties (an impediment to the creative process) which impacted my creativity levels, despite the knowledge and understanding of the domain (Cambridge International 2011, p. 55).
Simon: So interesting. I’m curious to know your views on Ken Robinson’s talk ‘Can creativity be taught?’ He has quite a few things to say and he says them well, doesn’t he?
Alana: Yes, he is certainly a gifted orator.
The main three insights I gleaned from Ken Robinson’s talk is that creativity: (1) is a process involving trial and error (2) can be assessed and (3) can be taught and nurtured and if it is, will transform teaching and learning. In essence, he suggests that teaching people how to think in a creative way will prepare them to response to the inevitable challenges of the future.
Robinson puts forward a convincing argument that creativity – the process of having original ideas that have value – usually involves crafting a number of iterations of something before a final version is reached. In this way, creativity involves a number of phases, some of which could include blockages, until what you have in front of you ‘feels right’ (Robinson 2014). As someone who has first-hand experience in creating new initiatives of value through trial and error, and can speak to the value of ‘creating a time/space oasis so the mind to be in ‘open mode’ to ponder different solutions (Cleese 1991, Popova 2014 and Chu 2017), Robinson’s message resonates strongly with me. As Robinson asserts, I do not believe creativity just happens (Robinson 2014) and that when it does, it is usually because the right conditions are present and you have stuck with the problem longer (Cleese 1991 and Chu 2017). It is also the case that a new result or solution does not appear from nothing, but is related to all the work preceding it (Bocchi et al 2014).
Another insight is that creativity as a process can be taught although not in the form of ‘direct instruction’ (Robinson 2014). Rather, teaching creativity involves moving away from being told how to do something or rote learning to a more expansive understanding of teaching whereby exploration and experimentation are encouraged (Robinson 2014), and students feel comfortable and safe to try new things. This is aligned to the findings of other studies which suggest that schools that are successful at stimulating creative learning value and celebrate learners’ creative and innovative contributions and develop codes of behaviour and classroom procedures that value and promote creativity, among other things (Cambridge International 2011, p. 57). In this way, mastering creativity is no different to learning any other skill or discipline where encouragement, mentorship and the availability of opportunities to learn are essential.
My own experience supports his view that teaching creativity involves adopting a more expansive and enriched understanding of teaching – that is, creativity cannot be taught by rote the way timetables may be learnt. Time after time I have witnessed that new initiatives are created only in environments where learning is just as important as the outcome and making mistakes is seen as part of the process rather than viewed as failure.
Creativity is a discipline which can be assessed or evaluated was another insight from Robinson’s talk provided the criteria for originality and value is identified and the assessment is undertaken by people with knowledge of the discipline or area (Robinson 2014). While I do not disagree with Ken’s assertion that creativity can be assessed, I do wonder how objective this assessment can be given one’s peers within a particular discipline can have a range of views about what they might constitute as novel or of value. While arguably a response or product is creative to the extent that it is seen as creative by people familiar with the domain it is produced (Amabile 2012), there can be degrees of familiarity depending on people’s experience (or perception of) which can make assessing creativity difficult.
Alana: Now Simon, I’m interested to know – have you ever rated yourself on your level of creativity and innovation?
Simon: No I haven’t, I’d say I’m a pretty creative person – I’d be curious to do this worksheet though.
Alana: Great. Perhaps I can share what I found out about myself? The self reflection worksheet asked you to indicate how much you agree with a number of statements. There were five that I could improve on which I can share briefly now (the larger number in bold in each row is the assessment I have given myself).
Creativity and Innovation: Self-Reflection Worksheet
How much do you agree with the following statements? 1 = Completely disagree; 10 = Fully agree. Leave comments if you want.
|1) I am a creative person||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||
|10||I am creative in many ways, open to exploring new ideas and ways of doing things. I have room to develop this skill further though.|
|2) I have access to a ‘space-time oasis’||1||2||3||4||5||6||
|8||9||10||Generally yes – but it’s not always something I proritise.|
|3) I regularly spend time in my ‘space-time oasis’||1||2||3||
|5||6||7||8||9||10||As above. I regularly meditate but I see this as separate.|
|4) Most people would think of me as being open-minded||1||2||3||4||5||6||
|5) I know how to ‘play’||1||2||3||4||5||
|7||8||9||10||I do know how to play – but this is something I could do more of.|
|6) I am a humorous person||1||2||3||
|6||7||8||9||10||I appear to be more humorous than what I actually am!|
|7) I often operate in Open Mode||1||2||3||4||
|8) I am experienced in the 4-step design thinking process||1||2||3||
|6||7||8||9||10||I have a theoretical understanding of this process – and am looking to developing my understanding of this process further.|
|9) I know my dominant thinking style||1||2||3||4||5||6||
|8||9||10||I am aware that I am a predominant left brain thinker although I have a number of right brain tendencies as well.|
|10) I have no problem in changing my perspectives when called for||1||2||3||4||5||
|8||9||10||I am very open to ideas and suggestions.|
|11) I have a good imagination||1||2||3||4||5||
|12) I am good at critical thinking||1||2||3||4||5||6||
|13) I am highly motivated at what I do||1||2||3||4||5||6||
|8||9||10||I am lucky – because I really believe in what I do for work, I feel motivated most of the time.|
|14) I have a passion for what I do||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||
|15) I often use tools to help me solve problems||1||2||3||4||5||6||
|8||9||10||When I feel comfortable with them. I have used the BMC tool quite a number of times over the years.|
|16) I have a good set of creativity tools in my toolbox||1||2||3||4||5||
|7||8||9||10||The toolbox is growing and I’m looking forward to practising my new tools.|
|17) I don’t have major creativity blocks/barriers||1||2||3||4||5||6||
|18) I am good at lateral thinking||1||2||3||4||
|19) I have ‘creativity playmates’ whom I can trust||1||2||3||4||
|20) I have many good ideas but I never implement them||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||
|9||10||I implement a lot of my ideas – sometimes it all becomes too much though. I may need to prioritise these good ideas.|
Creativity playmates I can trust. While I have worked with a number of creative people in the past and continue to do so at my current place of work, I think I could be more proactive in asking for advice and feedback from a group of creativity playmates. As I am of the view that creativity is a process embedded in a network of relationships, influencers and interactions, an evolving process that involves continual exchanges in one’s environment (Bocchi 2014), developing and maintaining relationships with people I trust whose experience I value and can learn from is crucial for me to build my creativity skills.
Experience with the four step design process. While I have a theoretical understanding of how the four step design process works, I have less practical experience in how its application can generate new solutions and innovations in a way that helps minimises risk and maximises opportunities (Ogilvie and Liedtka 2011, p. 20). I would like to be in a position where it is a framework I draw upon instinctively to identify new insights and solutions with my team.
Spend time in my ‘time space oasis. I could improve my ability to apply creative and innovative thinking to my work and life more generally if I regularly spend time in my space-time oasis. Without carving out this time, my mind will rarely be in ‘open mode’, and will instead remain in closed mode, reducing the likelihood I will come up with something original (Cleese 1991 and Popova 2014). Setting aside this time on a regular basis needs to be integrated into my daily life so that it becomes part of my routine like brushing my teeth or exercising. I will not be able to innovate in my personal and professional life if I do not transition from the hectic, event-driven work day (‘closed mode) into a state of relaxed, creative attention (Burnett 2015).
Improve my lateral thinking ability. I could improve my lateral thinking ability when it comes to day-to-day processes and operations at work. While I am motivated to develop new initiatives, I am less interested in making improvements to existing ones, which means it is not always first nature to think laterally when it comes to everyday tasks. Now that I am more familiar with a number of creativity and innovation tools that can be applied to make iterations and improvements to existing processes, I am confident my lateral thinking ability will improve.
Be more humorous. While I can be humorous at times, I tend to take what I do very seriously which means I am more often than not in ‘serious’ (outcomes focused) mode rather than humorous mode. The irony is that this approach can be an impediment to creativity, keeping me in a closed mode of operating where new insights are unlikely to occur. I am aware that laughter can help solve problems that demand creative solutions, by making it easier to think more broadly and associate ideas and relationships more freely (Goleman 1995). I need to remind myself that I am more inclined to think innovatively when I am in a more relaxed, expansive and less purposeful mode (Cleese 1991 and Popova 2014) and that being in this mode facilitates and supports creativity.
Simon: Fascinating. I’ll have to take the test too! I’d love to ask you about some of John Cleese’s reflections on creativity. I believe you’ve read some of the materials he has written about creativity.
Tell us your main takeaways from these materials, and why.
Takeaways from the materials
The main points I took from these materials are that the creative process:
- Relies on the mind being in the ‘open mode’ of operation whereby a wide-angled, abstract view of the problem is undertaken, and the mind is given the space to ponder possible solutions (Cleese 1991 and Chu 2017). The mind is then required to switch to the ‘closed mode’ of operation to implement the solution.
While on some level I was aware that problem solving involves the brain being open to a range of possibilities, I have always been quick to force my mind to find a solution, worried that I am not being productive if I fail to reach a solution quickly. Cleese’s articulation of the interplay between the two modes of operating and the important function each mode plays in the creative process will mean I will be more patient and kinder to myself next time I try to solve a problem.
- Involves tolerating discomfort and being prepared to stick with the problem (Cleese 1991 and Popova 2014).
This point normalised the ambiguity inherent in the creative process and reassured me that with time, a solution (assuming it exists) will come.
- Takes time and during this time, anything might happen including mistakes.
This point highlighted the importance of allowing time and creating space to experiment and explore possibilities before zooming in on a solution. Making mistakes and taking risks goes with the creativity territory and nothing will hinder creativity more than an obsession with getting things ‘right’ the first time.
- Involves playfulness and humour.
While I can appreciate that being relaxed means a person is more easily able to shift from closed to open mode, these materials highlighted the importance of humour and playfulness in creating a mood in which curiosity for its own sake can rise to the surface (Cleese 1991 and Popova 2014). In addition, humour also releases tension which helps to facilitate perceptual flexibility, a critical component to creativity (Ma 2014).
Simon: What does your ideal personal space time oasis look like (at home)? What are the potential pitfalls to successfully implement your personal space time oasis? What are some good principles for constructing one in the workplace?
My space time oasis – home and work
My ideal personal space time oasis at home is early morning (between 5:30am – 6am) before the household wakes after a 30 minute yoga session. I hold off on checking emails and responding to text messages – following my yoga session, my focus is on whatever task I have planned the day before whether it be meditating, drafting a report, reading a document or writing an assignment. Potential pitfalls are other people I live with waking early and walking through the communal space where I do yoga and wanting to talk, my phone ringing, or my mind’s ‘reminder service’ informing me that there is something more urgent I should be working on and me giving into these thoughts. If either of these scenarios arise, my space time oasis could be reduced or I could find myself being pulled away to something else for a period of time before returning back to the ‘plan’ I had set for myself the day before.
In constructing a time oasis at work, good principles include:
- Consistency – that is, consistently setting aside quiet time in a space separate to where you normally sit or where you are unlikely to be disturbed (for example, every Monday and Wednesday morning between 8 – 10am). This could be expanded to the whole team whereby everyone knows that during a set period during the day, colleagues requested not to interrupt each other.
- Communication – that is, informing your team and stakeholders that you are not available for a window of time in order to think, or to finalise a piece of work.
- Role modelling – that is, encouraging other colleagues or members of the team to also find their own space time oasis whether that means sitting in a different location or working from home for a period of time
- Sharing – that is, encouraging members of the team to share the value of their time oasis by asking them to reflect on any insights they experienced or achievements they had during the time.
On a regular basis, I employ a number of different strategies to construct a time oasis in my workplace. In some instances, I arrive at work two hours before anyone else in my team does, working in a small meeting room where I know I will not be interrupted. Another strategy is to log out of my emails for a period of time (and inform my team I am doing so) to ensure I am able to obtain a state of flow on a task rather than be continually disrupted by emails and the actions they contain.
Simon: That’s great, I have even more respect for John Cleese now. What a brilliant man! I’m curious – are you predominantly a left- or right brain thinker? How does your dominant thinking style help or hinder you in your daily life? What are your plans for developing your thinking style in a certain area, if any? Do you think you have a particular personality type? And how does knowledge of this help you when it comes to things creative?
Alana: This stuff is always so interesting. For those listening, I’ll make sure I provide Simon with the links to the online tests so you can see what your thinking style is too.
As someone who prefers to express myself in words, enjoys creating plans and approaches things in a linear, sequential and logical manner (Intelegen 2013), I am predominantly a left brained thinker. This thinking style serves me well in my capacity as someone who is expected to deliver a range of government funded services and programs on time and within budget, writes reports and strategic plans, and oversee a team of three people who expect structure and routine in their work day.
I am not sure I need to develop my thinking style in a certain area; the online tests revealed that I embody a number of right brain tendencies including creativity and curiosity (Brain Test, no date) that assist and motivate me to explore new ways of doing things and learn from others. While I may be a predominant left brain thinker, I do have the capacity to think creatively and view situations from different perspectives, and generate and imagine new ideas (Psychologia, no date). This was highlighted in the results of the Psychologia online test where I achieved high scores for Original Thinker and Inventor (even).
That said, I could activate my right brain more by creating opportunities for creative, hands on activities (Intelegen 2013) such as playing an instrument, painting, dancing or writing, or doing puzzles (India Times 2017) which would assist to grow my visualisation and creativity skills.
Now that I know I am a predominant left brain thinker, I will be conscious that my initial instinct in solving a problem is to zoom in on detail, where I attempt to line things up and arrange them in a logical order (Intelegen 2013). However, adopting Cleese’s view that the brain needs to be in ‘open mode’ when pondering a problem to generate a solution (Cleese 1991) which involves tolerating the discomfort of not knowing, my capacity for creativity would be built if I shifted away from the detail and instead, regularly provide my mind with the space and time to scan the bigger picture and ‘connect the dots.’ This could involve allowing myself to understand a problem using visualisation, a process whereby information is transformed into images that you can see (Ogilvie and Liedtka 2011, p. 49).
The knowledge that as a predominant left brain thinker I still have the capacity to think creatively in a number of areas of my life makes me curious about whether there is untapped creativity within me waiting to be unleashed – if I would take the time to do activities likely to develop my right brain thinking style. Knowing that predominant right brain thinkers I work with are likely to want to start with the answer (Intelegen 2013) and this is not always possible when creating something new, I will ensure I provide as much information as I can about the background and big picture relating to the situation.
Simon: Yes, I think I’m more of a right brain thinker. I’d be happy to teach you how to think like me, if you like!
Alana: Let’s make it happen!
Simon: People often talk about ‘connecting the dots.’ In fact, this was something that Steve Jobs talked about. Can you share the last time you connected a couple or more dots. In hindsight, what were the underlying factors that made it possible to make those connections?
Alana: I can give you a practical example from my life if you like.
When I decided I would not deliver the 8 week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and 6 week Learn to Meditate courses in 2018 in order to focus on my full work and studies, I felt disappointed that the hard work I had channelled into building my business was for no reason especially as I was now receiving 10 – 15 registrations per class. I spent a good couple of weeks wondering whether I was mistaken in thinking I did not have capacity to deliver the courses before resigning myself to the fact that it was best to let go and accept the situation (as I taught in my mindfulness classes) and move on with life. That said, something within me felt that I needed to trust that an opportunity might present itself if only I gave it some time (Cleese 1991 and Popova 2014) so unconsciously I kept a ‘light hold of the situation in a friendly and persistent way’ (Cleese 1991 and Chu 2017).
Not long after I made my decision I caught up with a friend who I had met while doing the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction teacher training. Over coffee, we laughed together and shared what we had been up to since we met, both curious about each other’s teaching plans. During this conversation, my friend indicated she was interested in teaching but was not able to generate enough students to make it a viable business venture and it was in that moment I joined the dots – I could use my website to generate registrations for courses she would deliver. I made these connections because I was able to connect experiences I had already had – Promoting other people’s courses on my website in exchange for a commission was something I had done using my website previously, and I had skills in online marketing as well as knowledge of how business arrangements within the mindfulness arena work – and synthesise new things (Jobs 1995).
Simon: I’m a bit of a risk taker myself – I run my own music business and know the risks inherent in developing something creative. Do you think that risk taking and creativity are connected?
Alana: I would love to hear some of your music someday! Perhaps we can play some after the interview?
A strong link exists between creativity and risk taking. Creativity, by its very nature in developing new ideas that have value (from the perspective of people familiar with the domain in which it is produced) (Robinson 2014 and Amabile 2012), involves risk, that is, taking the chance you will fail. Countless studies demonstrate that creatives such as Picasso and da Vinci did not succeed at a higher rate than their peers, they just produced more (and in doing so, took more risks). (Sutton 2011, p. 102).
The connection between creativity and risk taking can be seen within an organisational setting. If it is the goal of an organisation is to explore new possibilities, then constant experimentation (that is, risk taking) will be required (Sutton 2001, p. 98). This view is supported by the connection between inaction (which by definition involves no risk taking) and failure and its very opposite, action (which involves taking risks) and succeeding (Sutton 2011, p. 99). Another way an organisation could generate creativity is by taking a hiring ‘risk’ whereby someone with limited relevant experience or training is employed on the basis that they will not be blinded by how things are ‘supposed to be done,’ a common blockage to creativity (Sutton 2011, p. 99). For some organisations, where creativity and innovation is fundamental to their culture, such exploration, testing and trialling will not be considered risky – it will simply be how they do does business.
Achieving greatness in any field involves taking risks. What is less clear is how much risk is too much, and how best to mitigate that risk (Ellsberg 2017). Developing something original does not always involve taking enormous risks straight away, or a number of small risks in different areas at once. The results of the creative process are not likely to be any less innovative because you took small risks (i.e. created something small, that is, a minimum viable product) before waiting for feedback from the world to proceed (Ellsberg 2017). Testing a minimal viable product gives you the opportunity to test ‘leap of faith’ assumptions about usage, market need and distribution before larger risks – i.e developing the full product – are taken (Google for Entrepreneurs 2014). Taking risks in stages (as opposed to all at once), is likely to result in a better outcome because of the learnings gained along the way. While creativity tools such as the four step design process are used to maximise opportunities, they also help to minimise and manage risk by understanding and engaging customers or users to test and trial multiple prototypes before new solutions go to market (Ogilvie and Liedtka 2011, p. 20).
While activation of the creative process is not possible without risk, I do not think risk taking behaviours are necessarily linked with being creative as a person. One research study, in exploring the different domains of risk taking, found individuals who possess a creative personality and mind-set are more likely to take risks exclusively within the social domain but not in other domains (Tyagi et al 2017). For example, while creative individuals would be more likely to present a radical plan to a social group, a social interaction which involves a high degree of risk, they would not necessarily take risks in other areas such as finance (Tyagi et all 2017).
Simon: Well we are about to come to the end of this session. Finally, what else would you like to share with us about creativity? It might be something you’ve already mentioned that you’d like to leave us with, or perhaps you have another insights you would like to share?
Alana: One of the most interesting insights I have gained is that creativity is not innate or a talent you are born with – rather, it is a way of operating (Cleese 1991 and Popova 2014) that can be cultivated. With practice, time and the application of tools such as design thinking and lean start up, the creation of new ideas that have value is possible. As someone who spends a lot of time in ‘closed mode’ in the mistaken belief that I will become more productive and better able to implement solutions if I do so, I now understand that while there is value in this mode of operation when implementing a solution, creativity relies on the mind being in the ‘open mind’ of operation where it is given the space to ponder possible solutions (Cleese 1991 and Chu 2017).
I also found it fascinating to discover that creativity is exercised in the appreciation of four changes, or the potential for bringing a chance in one of those into being – a need; the way that need is currently being satisfied; the cost of supply; the economics of supply (Hulbert et al 1997, p. 67). Connected to this is the important role empathy plays in creativity – while it makes sense now, I was not aware that understanding people and their needs rather than focusing on the problem to be solved should be the starting point when generating new insights (Burnett 2015).
Simon: Thank you so much Alana. Thank you everyone for tuning in. I look forward to having you join me for March’s ‘Making Creativity Practical’ podcast.
Amabile, T., 2012, Componential theory of creativity, Harvard Business School, Boston.
Bocchi, G., et al, 2014, ‘Eureka! The Myths of Creativity’, World Futures Volume 70, Number 5 – 6: 276-308.
Brain Test, no year, ‘Which side of your brain is more dominant?’, viewed 12 February 2018 <http://braintest.sommer-sommer.com/en/>
Burnett, B., 2015, ‘Design thinking at work’ [Webinar] in Innovation Masters Series at Stanford University on 11 March 2015, viewed on 12 February 2018 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U499U4TcyY8>
Cambridge International, 2011, ‘Innovation and Creativity’ in Developing the Cambridge Learner Attributes, Cambridge, viewed on 20 February 2018 <http://www.cambridgeinternational.org/images/426483-chapter-4-innovation-and-creativity.pdf>
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