Sparking Creativity

I was recently asked an interesting question: how do you spark creativity? We all, at one time or another, found ourselves trying to solve a problem and no great idea for a solution pops up.

When thinking of creative sparks, some people have this image in their heads that ideas are floating in the air above us undetected, and that the “creatively privileged” can somehow pluck them and smack them on the table for all to see.

Of course, this is not the case. We are all born creative; just watch how any young child plays with an empty cardboard box and you’ll witness first-hand evidence of our innate creativity. While we often lose sight of some of that creativity during our formal education years, when we subsequently enter the workforce, we are reminded of its value and we want to become more creative again.

Only that is not an easy task to accomplish. The process is vague, difficult to study and follow. When we come up with a creative idea there is a moment of exhilaration, but very quickly the idea seems so obvious that we ask ourselves, “What’s the big deal? And why didn’t we think of that before?” The creative process is almost instantly forgotten, disappearing like a soap bubble.

This was shown clearly by one creativity researcher. In a clever test a few years back, he gave his subjects a set of puzzles and divided them into two groups. Members of the first group were asked to document their thought process step-by-step while they were solving the puzzles, while members of the second group were asked to document their thought process after they had completed the puzzles. The difference between the two groups in terms of their documented processes was marked; explanations from the first group were messy and included much trial and error; the second group described each process as a clean, efficient, logical, step-by-step march to the respective solution.

So, how can we spark the creativity we have lost sight of, while it in itself is illusive that cannot be defined and managed?

Let’s take one step back. The starting point is motivation – the desire and the perseverance to figure out a solutions to a problems, make things better, and create things that are fresh and new. When asked about his particular genius, Isaac Newton responded that it was “owing more to patient attention than to any other talent.” Fresh thinking is not easy. The mind looks for the path of least resistance. If it thinks it knows the rules and principles of a situation, it may resist to reach for different, unformulated intuition and innovative idea. We need the power of motivation to force our minds to think creatively.

The question then should change to how to spark motivation for creativity. And the first step for that is to recognize that we are all creative; it is in our reach to come up with innovative ideas. Then practice creative thinking; find a different path to work for the heck of it, find a new way to enter our apartment or a house. Go for adventure, make it lifestyle; learn to enjoy the fun, fulfillment and scary thrills it offers, the self-confidence and the ‘can-do’ attitude it builds.

Our motivation must be strong enough to overcome our discomfort with uncertainty and disappointments. At the end of the day, with all the brainstorming techniques and sense sharpening methods, we may not come with the great idea we hope for. Yet, our motivation must stay there even where there is no guarantee of success.

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