Creativity (Comic John Clease's Thoughts On Creativity)

Introduction

Creativity is a new way of thinking that you improve what you do.

Creativity is not linked with IQ.

It involves being childlike and using the imagination, play, curiosity, enjoyment, etc

Creativity is a way of operating rather than a talent. It isn't something that you are born with as anyone can be creative. It can be taught, ie teach people how to create circumstances in which they will become more creative (for more details see other parts of this knowledge base, including tools and techniques to improve your creativity such as six thinking hats, Po, random word, etc).

Minds (closed versus open)

Closed mind involves reason and logic with deliberate, conscious thinking

"...figuring matters out, weighing up the pros and cons, constructing arguments and solving problems..."

Guy Claxton as quoted by John Cleese, 2020

The Western education system focuses on the closed mind by teaching students how to think logically, critically, analytically, verbally and numerically. This does not encourage creative thinking. In fact, it suppresses it.

It is the practical mind, ie get things done. It is good for implementation as it is focused.

There is no room for creativity in this mindset.

This mindset is usually the one you have when at work, ie doing routine tasks, etc. It is an active approach of getting things done; it is very purposeful and focused, ie tunnel vision; it can increase anxiety and stress as a result of working under pressure, like time, deadlines, quotas, etc

 Open mind

"...Proceeds more slowly. Is often less purposeful and clear-cut, or playful, leisurely or dreamy......We are ruminating or mulling over things, being contemplative or meditative. We may be pondering a problem, rather earnestly trying to solve it..."

Guy Claxton as quoted by John Cleese, 2020

This is a more patient, less deliberate approach than what the closed mind does. It is thought to be best suited to making sense of situations that are intricate, shadowy or ill-defined, ie

"...when we are not sure what needs to be taken into account, or even which question to pose - or when the issue is too subtle to be captured by the familiar categories of conscious thought..."

Guy Claxton as quoted by John Cleese, 2020

It involves being playful, using humour, curiosity, relaxing, imagination, allows pondering, daydreaming, more contemplating, searching for clues, etc

NB Allow switching between the 2 types of mind

Unconscious

The unconscious mode of thinking is important for creativity. The unconscious continues to work on without you realising it. For example, go to bed with a problem on your mind and when you wake up in the morning, a solution can seem to appear from nowhere. Another instance may be when rewriting things, especially when relying on memory, often results in improving what you have initially written.

"...This intelligent unconsciousness, then, is astoundingly powerful. It allows us to perform most of our tasks in life without requiring it to concentrate on them. Without it, we couldn't function at all. But that doesn't mean that our intelligent unconscious behaves in an entirely predictable way......you can't ask your unconscious a question, and expect a direct answer......The language of the unconscious is non-verbal. It is the language of dreams. It shows you images, it gives you feelings, it nudges you around without you immediately knowing what it is getting at......It is apparently aimlessness..."

Guy Claxton as quoted by John Cleese, 2020

Play and delayed decision-making

Some research has shown that knowing how to play and delaying decision-making for as long as possible are important for creativity.

- play refers to being enjoyably absorbed in the problem, challenge, etc and not necessarily trying to solve it. Becoming very curious about it for its own sake; it is rather childlike, ie becoming so absorbed in what you are doing that you are not easily distracted. You are exploring directionless.

"...Children at play are totally spontaneous. They are not trying to avoid making mistakes. They don't observe rules......because their play has no purpose, they feel utterly free of anxiety..."

John Cleese, 2020

Most adults are unable to do this. However, creative adults know how to play.

- delaying decision-making; it means

"...able to tolerate a vague sense of discomfort that we all feel, when some important decision is left open, because they know that an answer will eventually presented itself......Creative people are much better at tolerating the vague sense of worry that we all get when we leave something unresolved..."

John Cleese, 2020

By delaying decision-making as long as possible there is a chance of getting new information and generating new ideas that should result in a better decision. However, most people feel uncomfortable, ie they become anxious and worried as a decision has not been make......people like to be decisive!!!!

Interruptions can have 2 different impacts on creativity

- improve creativity as you have to revisit what you have already done and this can improve it

- decreased creativity as it has been shown that it takes around 8 minutes to return to your previous state of consciousness and up to 20 minutes to get back to a state of deep focus.

Interruptions can be external, eg an e-mail arriving in your inbox, etc and internal, eg you remember that you have forgotten to do something, worrying about making a mistake, etc.

In creativity there are no mistakes, just learning experiences, ie

"...you must explore, without necessarily knowing where you are going..."

John Cleese, 2020

How to create an open mind (5 ways)

i) play space (need to find a safe space where you can play; won't be interrupted; play keeps you fresh; get away from the daily pressures; it is limitless)

ii) time boundaries (establish a specific period of time for play; don't allow any interruptions; it is like meditation, ie need to be in the present and remove thoughts and worries that can distract you, so that your mind slows down, calms down and settles. Once this happens, you begin to focus on the problem you want to think about; This focus should go for about 90 minutes is. It is important to keep it vague and let your mind wander on the problem, but not elsewhere.

"... As the mind quietens, odd ideas and notions relevant to your puzzle start popping into your mind..."

John Cleese, 2020

The ideas might appear odd as they are not coming from your critical, analytical mind in a neat sequence, clear-cut or precise. They come a bit like feelings and dreams, ie images, before any logical connection in words happens.

Geniuses like Edison claim that their best ideas came in no man's land between being awake and being asleep, ie drowsy, dreaming frame of mind, etc

"...So when we are in touch with our unconscious, it sends us hints and gentle nudges, and that's why we have to be quiet......practising a kind of meditation..."

John Clease, 2020

This process involves a lack of clarity and some confusion.

NB Our rational, analytical mind dislikes this

NB points i & ii are used to create an oasis of quiet

iii) creative indecisiveness (maximise pondering time; don't rush the thought process as new creative ideas can take time to emerge and evolve; this involves exploring alternatives and experimenting; be patient.

You need to stick or play with the problem for as long as possible; tolerate any feelings of anxiety about it not being solved.

If you take a decision too early, the state of pondering end. So don't be in a hurry for a quick decision. Be willing to defer any decision as long as possible. This goes against your tendency to make a decision to reduce your anxiety and discomfort caused by not making a decision. You have to be willing to tolerate this anxiety and discomfort.

Once a new idea has evolved,then you bring your critical, analytical, fact-seeking mind to evaluate it.

Need to resist the temptation to be too critical in the initial stages of evaluating a new idea.

One way to determine if you need to start an evaluation is when you feel a bit overwhelmed and confused with the number of a new ideas. However, if you are starting to feel bored with your evaluation, it could be time to restart your creative thinking mode. You can oscillate between the open (creative) and closed (analytical) mind, ie iteration)

iv) confidence (don't be worried, anxious or fearful about making a mistake or wrong decision as you are experimenting; spontaneity is important; nothing is wrong; have faith in the process; be positive; be open to whatever happens even if it appears silly, illogical, irrational, etc.

NB Creativity will plummet if you are overconfident, ie being absolutely certain that you know what you are doing. If you feel that you have nothing more to learn, your natural learning decreases and you fall back on established patterns)

v) humour (don't be too serious or solemn; control your ego; be playful; humour is a good way of encouraging the brain to think differently and to go from a close to open mind; linked with spontaneity, play, etc; humour is a way of connecting to different, separate ideas to generate new ideas, meaning, etc, eg it is a stepping stone to new ideas; )

Some tips on being creative

i) focus on an area that you know and care about

ii) look for inspiration, ie build on somebody else's idea

iii) make an imaginative leap, ie your unconscious is totally unpredictable (many Nobel prize winners reported that their breakthrough idea seemed to appear from nowhere); it is about random connections

iv) resilience, ie keep at it and don't give up; interruptions, delays, frustrations, etc are part of the process

"...you can't have a new idea......until you're got rid of an old one..."

Gregory Bateson as quoted by John Cleese, 2020

v) have a beginner's mind, ie don't be dulled by familiarity; be careful of the law of diminishing returns; it is rare for somebody to maintain a constantly high level of newness; to keep coming up with fresh ideas, you need to nurture the unconscious mind

NB even the best minds follow in 3 stages

    - produced original work as they learn their craft

    - then as they master the craft they begin to express their mature ideas in their best works

    - then levelling off as their insights become more familiar

vi) coping with setbacks (they are part of the learning process; getting discouraged is a waste of time)

vii) handling feelings of fear, panic, terror, etc (redirect your energy away from these feelings; start working as a way to calm down and prime your unconscious, eg think of different approaches, gather facts, start researching, etc)

viii) your thoughts follow your mood

"...if we are depressed, we don't have cheerful, optimistic, energetic thoughts. And if we are happy, we can't take gloomy, pessimistic thoughts seriously. If we are angry......we want to plot our revenge. If we are anxious, we worry. If we are full of ourselves, we feel decisive. If we are feeling anxious, we cannot enjoy other people's success..."

John Cleese, 2020

Being creative is a frame of mind and to be effective it cannot be distracted or worrying about something else

ix) be willing to modify and even jettison ideas, ie as parts of the project develop, it may need modifying to improve

x) seek a second opinion (feedback)

"...You should seek a second opinion......when you have reached a point of sufficient clarity for someone else's judgement to be of practical help..."

John Cleese, 2020

xi) ponder with other positive people (don't allow negativity as this will make people feel defensive and decrease creativity; use positive statements like 'go on', 'explain more', what if', 'let's pretend', etc, rather than negatives like 'no', 'won't work', 'wrong', etc

xii) employ an unstructured process (encourage informality; take the opposite direction, eg allow the more junior participants to speak first; take away time restraints, etc)

Testing your new idea (2 ways)

i) use a closed mind approach to evaluate the idea, ie use the critical, analytical, rational, logical thinking processes plus iteration process until satisfied with the idea

"...involves making assessments, but if you are curious and keen to learn, the more experience you gain, the better your judgement will become......you'll inevitably make some mistakes, but even these will help hone your skills for the future..."

John Cleese, 2020

ii) implement, ie doing; go from planning to action

Some ways of killing creativity include

- not sharing information

- people playing one-upmanship and power games

- not allowing humour

- suppression of  different points of view

- feeling that you always right

- only criticise, don't praise

- focus on action, don't allow thinking time, pondering, etc

- put people under stress

(source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pb5oIIPO62g )

 

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