For many of us we have, for perhaps our entire lives, thought ourselves to fall into one of two categories, believing that we are either creative or not creative. We look at creativity subjectively thinking that if we can draw or paint well we must be creative, and that if we’re good with numbers or science-based schools of practice that we aren’t creative. However it’s been proved time and time again that this method of thinking just doesn’t hold. Scientists create novel and creative ways to solve the mysteries of cancer, elements, plants, history, and more! Accountants have even gotten “creative” with their bookkeeping (though we really don’t encourage that!). And then we have you, our reader who, for the most part, by your very readership of this publication are often considered to be creative. You may excel at painting, drawing, typography, design, photography, and/or many other traditionally “creative” disciplines.
As a creative you’ve probably been accused of having some wild and out there ideas by your so-called analytical counter parts that just don’t get all this “artsy fartsy” stuff that you do. They find it hard to digest because they’re so moored in their “there’s only one best way to get something done” and they won’t tolerate any slight deviations from their method. To them the creative process is a mystery and the idea of playing with ideas and products and teasing them into something new and novel is uncomfortable for them because they haven’t had the practice you have had with being creative and view themselves as uncreative people. This bulwark can be a massive hurdle to jump when getting a project passed the executive level, but there is a small salvation! Creativity can be learned!
In his new book, Breakthrough Thinking, Thomas Vogel introduces tons of exercises to help even the most regimented and analytical person you know find and embrace their creative side, opening up their minds to off those off the wall suggestions that may just have the solution their looking for. In the following excerpt Vogel describes how creativity can be learned and offers up an exercise on how to begin helping your analytical opponents find and explore their creative side.
Creativity Can Be Learned
Independent of different cultural frameworks and societies around the world, the belief that an individual is either creative or not creative is still widely represented. Many people still believe that only certain people are creative and that creativity is a special or elite skill that only some possess. But this misconception is now changing. In recent years more evidence that creativity and creative thinking skills can be taught, learned and practiced has appeared. Tina Seelig, executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program and author of inGENIUS: A Crash Course on Creativity, confirms that “everyone can increase his or her creativity, just as everyone can increase his or her musical or athletic ability, with appropriate training and focused practice.”
Based on my work with students and professionals in the area of creativity and creative thinking, I have been able to observe several trends. First, there are always those who consider themselves creative and typically associate their creativity with creative expression in performance, art, photography, poetry and other artistic media. For example, a former student, Cyril Urbano, says he has always known that he had a creative streak: “My creative expression was always seen onstage—whether dancing to some familiar tune, belting out a song in front of crowds or portraying a role in a stage play. Back then, that was all the creativity I knew—artistic self expression.”
The second group has a self-image that they are not creative. Former student Kristina Shigaeva says, “I remember on the very first day [of the Creative Thinking course], my professor asked for a show of hands of those individuals who thought that they were creative. I was one of the few people that didn’t raise their hand. At that point in time, I didn’t quite understand the concept of creativity the way in which I understand it now. Before [the course], I was convinced that creativity was something that you were born with; you either had it or you didn’t, and I was positive that I was in the latter category. It was reserved for those elite few that had a special skill like painting or composing music.”
Third, after completing a course in creativity and creative thinking, many students have gained a better understanding about their own creativity and the concept of creative thinking, which allows them to better evaluate creativity expressed and produced by others. Through increased awareness and practice, their own creative thinking not only has improved over time, but also has turned into a skill they can apply in their personal and professional lives. While individuals may differ in their levels of creative abilities, according to many scientists all are born creative. All young children have the ability to think divergently, a key attribute of creativity. However, over time they lose their creative abilities as a result of formalized training, socialization and self-inhibition, whereby they begin to assess and judge their own creative abilities by comparing themselves to others
The fact that a person’s creative abilities can easily diminish over time means only that you need to rediscover your own creativity and creative abilities and practice them on a regular basis. Former student Rebecca Schaefer Hempen says, “I never really saw myself as a creative person, but [through the creative thinking course], I realized that anybody—including me—can be creative.” Former student Trang Phan adds, “When I started [the course], I was skeptical because like most people, I believed that one is either creative or they are not. What I discovered was that creativity is an innate skill that we all possess. Whether or not we practice this skill determines our creative intake and offerings. In addition to creativity coming from within, I also quickly discovered that we could build our creativity through our environment and collaboration.”
It seems that there has never been a better time to embark on a personal journey of creative exploration and discovery. Regardless of your creative experience, there is always an opportunity to bolster your creative abilities by increasing your knowledge and by exercising your brain muscle on a regular basis.
Practice Your Creativity
Use the exercise below to spark your own creativity and show it to some of your “non-creative” friends and let them see just how creative they can be! To really test your limits try adding more circles!
Want more on how you can improve your own creative thinking skills and how you can help your colleagues understand that they too can be creative individuals and add lots of outside knowledge and different perspectives to the design process? Check out Thomas Vogel’s book, Breakthrough Thinking, available now at MyDesignShop.com!