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How to Encourage Innovation and Creativity: Part 5 – Stay Grounded

by: Chris Knotts, PMP – ASPE Creative Director

This week we’re offering insights into how professional creatives keep the mojo flowing. Nurture the pillars of creativity in your day to day work, and the rest will follow.

Part 5: The more grounded you are in your life, the more creative power you will have.

I know this is a bit vague, but let me just say:  I’m a guy who loves to think about the big picture. The more I can understand about something, the more interesting my thought process becomes (at least to me). I personally think this is human nature. If you’re annoyed by my head-in-the-clouds attitude, I won’t mind. But hear this: at the end of the day, there are a couple ingredients in the creative process for which there is just no substitute, and which really just can’t be taught. However, they can be cultivated. So if you don’t possess them you’re not exactly out of luck, but you do have to work hard to cultivate them. The thing to remember here is that we’re interested in repeatable, reliable creative power on demand. So sure, Van Gogh and Edgar Allen Poe might have been creative geniuses, but they wouldn’t have been much good at doing business creatively because they weren’t very good at controlling their passions. That ability to control and leverage the creative edge is one of the things we’re seeking.

One of the magical ingredients is talent. People are born with more or less levels of creative talent, but I’ve learned over the years that even the most talented people don’t always end up being the best at what they’re doing. In fact, sometimes the opposite is true. Talent is something we could talk a lot more about, but for now suffice to say that I put less stock in talent these days that I used to, because I know the type of skills that come naturally to someone with a lot of talent can eventually be practiced almost as effectively by someone who works hard and simply practices their method. So the message is this: focus on creativity as a process. Practice it. You’d be amazed at how talented people will begin to think you are, even if you never thought of yourself as a particularly creative person.

The same is true of this last creative asset: your attitude. Attitude is a hard thing to teach, but I promise you: it is critical to the creative process. Someone who dwells in negativity, who is depressed, who is overwhelmed or frustrated is not — I repeat NOT — going to be a consistently effective creative problem solver. They will not be a consistently effective creative thinker. Consider Van Gogh. Was he a genius? Yes. Was he consistent? No.

How you define positivity and balance is for you yourself to decide, but I know that a balanced, happy person is the type of person for whom handy flashes of inspiration occur much more often. Those little flashes are critical to the creative process. Not because the next one you have might be your next big, bright idea (although it may). No, they are critical because a truly effective creative thinker has to continuously come up with many, many of these little tidbits in order to dump them into your gold pan and get on with the business of sifting through them. For someone who doesn’t live with a positive state of mind, this will be a much more daunting task. Furthermore, you have to figure out how to do it on demand, which makes it more daunting still.

If you really do think that structured creativity is a valuable skill, and you really are interested in practicing it, then you owe it to yourself to take hard look at the most fundamental qualities of your mindset and do what you need to do to start figuring out how to be a fulfilled, happy person.  Trust me, nothing less will do. At the end of the day, leveraging a creative process is a lot of hard work. It’s simultaneously generating lots of preliminary possibilities, sifting through them, developing the good ones, and constantly using this process to execute on your real-world projects. It takes a lot of motivation, and it takes a bit of passion about your work in order to fuel the fire. That’s why attitude is so important: it’s the precursor to doing all these things effectively.

In the days to come, we’ll look at more creative advice for creative work. In the meantime, we want to hear about your experiences solving creative challenges, and what you think is valuable. Email me at cknotts@aspeinc.com or send me a tweet: @chris_knotts. You can also follow my training firm at @ASPE_Inc – we love to hear from you.

Further Reading: There was a great article on NPR years ago by Bill Gates: “Unleashing the Power of Creativity.”

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