I was recently asked an interesting question: how do you spark creativity? 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.
We are all born creative; just watch how any one-year old child plays and you’ll be convinced. 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. But, 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 we didn’t think of that before?” The creative process is almost instantly forgotten, disappearing like a soap bubble.
The starting point to spark creativity should always be motivation. Fresh thinking is not easy. The mind does not want to use known rules and principles alongside a good measure of unformulated intuition and even rebellion. We need the motivation to force our minds to think creatively. For the creative thinkers, it is lifestyle — fun and fulfilling, giving confidence and a ‘can-do’ attitude. It is motivation that allows their creative minds to spark.
A creativity researcher ran an interesting 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.
Creativity is a messy process that hides itself very well. To be creative, we must accept the mess and be comfortable with its uncertainty. We must accept that at the end, we may not come with a great idea. And while we can sharpen our creative sense by using various techniques and methods of brainstorming, these are only tools, not guarantees.