What We Think


How creative am I?

As leaders, as managers, as parents, as contributors to society, we know that creative thinking is an increasingly important skill in this VUCA world. So you may be asking yourself, how creative am I, really? Will I cut it? Do I need to sharpen up?

Firstly let me be clear: by creativity, I don’t mean being able to draw. If you’ve ever said: “I can’t draw a stick man” or “I don’t have a creative bone in my body” then you’ve been referring to artistry. Visual, literary and performing arts all take a level of creativity but they don’t define it. Creativity is more than artistry. It is the application of imagination to solve a problem or create something useful. So you can struggle drawing stick men, but be a brilliant problem solver and a true creative thinker.

So, how creative are you? If you are a human being, you are creative. That’s a given. It’s how our brains are wired. But as for how creative are you at this point in time… this depends on what you’ve been doing with the superstructure in your skull for the years you’ve been alive. If you’re like most adult humans, you have stacked and boxed most of your creative desires, curiosities and passions in a neat mental filing cabinet, labelled Ancient History or For Children Only and let them grow dusty and rusty. You’ve been trained through your primary education to write in monochromatic (monotonous to your brain) blue or black pen, on straight horizontal lines (akin to prison bars for your mind, according to Tony Buzan.) No doubt, you have continued this straight-jacketed habit, as have I, for most of your adult life.

If at this point, you’re thinking, “Are there other ways to write things down that don’t involve straight lines and black pen?” then your creativity may be somewhat asleep. If you are wracking your brain trying to recall those imaginary lives you dreamed of when you were young and struggling to locate your true passions now, then I’m afraid your creativity may be in a deep sleep or even a in a coma.

The question you should be asking yourself is not, “How creative am I?”, but “How creative am I, now?” I believe that the answer to the first question is the same for all of us: infinitely! I don’t think that there is an end to how creative any of us can become. The good news is that developing our creativity is both a process of peeling off what’s stopping our creativity, as well as building in skills, habits, practices and influences to grow our creativity. “How creative am I now?” helps us understand our starting point and hopefully give us the impetus to get going on our creative journey.

Here are a few more questions to help you gauge how creative you are now.
Do you lean in to discomfort, or tend to take the easy option?
Do you flick to your phone calculator rather than add up the bill in your head?
Do you ever change up your surroundings or do you like to keep things the same?
Do you learn about varied and different things or just stick to the basics you need in your industry or role?
Do you record your dreams or not recall them at all?
Do you immediately google anything you want to know, or try to recall it or ask a friend?
Do you challenge yourself
Do you ever experiment with cooking or stick to what you know?
Do you take different routes back from work or stay with familiar routes?

There are many more, but these should hint at how creative you really are being in this season of your life. You may even be a talented artist, but have become stunted or stale in your creativity. Creative minds are dynamic and energised, and need to be continually stretched and challenge not to stagnate.

Posted 43 weeks ago

Waking up my creative thinking. Step one.

What is it about the first step that can make a new endeavour so hard? Even unachievable.  The stony silence of the blank page. The indeterminable dread of the empty spreadsheet. The mysterious darkness beyond the lighted path. Your mind grappling with where to place your foot: How? When? Where? Should I? Can I?

I am experiencing this first-step fright as I undertake simultaneously to begin a journey to develop my creativity, whilst at the same time developing learning to help others do the same. Two wise people recently said to me, on two separate occasions, “Stop going on courses and trying to get more qualified, you banana*! <my addition*>  You have everything inside of you that you need. Just start.” (You know who you are @TanyaVanderWaal and @LisaLinfield.) It was just the kick in the pants I needed.  

So here goes.

I have this weird sense that my whole life has been a slow process of waking up. I love waking up. Let me clarify. I love waking up to being aware of new facts or understanding something that I didn’t understand before. Whenever I learn something new, I take a mental look around and think, ‘Wow, how have I not known this before? I’ve been fast asleep in relation to this. But, I’m unconscious no more. I see it now!’

As a learning experience designer and facilitator, I love watching people wake up to new things; seeing the proverbial 'lights going on.’ It’s a privilege and a joy to be part of that process. There are mini wake ups, like from little naps, where a salesperson grasps a handy new selling method or a manager connects the dots between her role and the company strategy. Then there are the big wake ups. I’m talking about Sleeping Beauty waking up from one hundred years of a strange coma requiring no life support or cryogenic freezing. It’s the wake up you feel when you recognise a hidden motive in your life, discover a real talent or unearth your true purpose.

Waking up your creativity thinking is a big wake up. Not just because it’s so thrilling but because at a neurological level, when we start firing up our brain to think creatively for a specific task, we are training it to think creatively in other areas too.  The new brain science is fascinating but a bit too big of a subject to get into here. Suffice to say, recent studies  show that when you think creatively, the 'Big Three’ networks in your brain (the default network; the executive network, and the salience network) start to operate as more of a team. When  researchers from Harvard, Yale and others last year compared brain scans of people engaging in creative work compared to those that were not trying a creative task, they found more connections being made between the areas commonly associated with those three networks. So waking up creativity starts to rewire our brain and build new connections that help us to think differently in the future.

What I love is that the creativity spills from the area that you are focusing on, to other areas in your life. If you start expressing your creativity in a hobby, you will see that creativity starting to come out in your work. When you get creative with your kids, you’ll notice your creative problem solving starting to improve.   Waking creativity is an ongoing process that is a virtuous circle. Starting to experiment with your creative thinking begets more creative thinking. Yay!

Come with me!

So although I think I do some creative thinking already, I really want to boost my creativity and see what happens.  It’s an experiment! It’s not going to happen overnight, I know. It will involve some persistence, grit and hard work. But right now, I’m all about the small, little steps for today. One day at a time. I’m psyched for this ride. I invite you to be a travel-buddy with me as I apply some of the many great tools, exercises and practices out there to develop creativity and share with you what works for me. Bon voyage to us!
April 16th, 2019 3:08pm 

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Why Creativity is the Most Important Skill in the World

by Paul Petrone for LinkedIn

Recently at LinkedIn Learning, using the power of our Economic Graph, we determined the skills companies need most.

And there was a bit of a surprise at the very top of the list: creativity.

Technically, creativity is the second-most in-demand skill in the world, with cloud computing at the top. But cloud computing is a hard skill, which means it applies to only a section of the workforce and doesn’t have the staying power a soft skill has.

Conversely, learning how to think more creatively will benefit you the rest of your career. And, macroeconomic trends suggest creativity will only become more important moving forward.

Hence, it’s no stretch to say creativity is the single-most important skill in the world for all business professionals today to master. Why?

Let’s start with the what.

What it Means to be Creative: The Ability to Solve Problems with Relevance and Novelty

When many people think of creativity, they think of artists, graphic designers, writers, painters, etc.

But that’s not what it means to be creative, because creativity doesn’t mean artistry. Yes, an artist could be creative, but so could a software engineer, a mathematician, a salesperson or a CEO.

What does it actually mean to be creative? LinkedIn Learning Instructor Stefan Mumaw, who has authored six books on creativity, has this definition: “Creativity is problem-solving with relevance and novelty.”

Let’s break that definition down into its two parts:

  • Relevancy: Relevancy means actually solving the problem. As in, it was relevant to the problem at hand, and provided an actual solution to it. A solution without relevancy is no solution at all.
  • Novelty: Novelty is harder to judge, but it’s when you are able to solve a problem in an original way. A way that isn’t what’s expected or has been done before.  

Putting it together, creativity is really just solving problems in original ways.

Mumaw also believes creativity isn’t strictly innate. Yes, like anything, some people are naturally more creative than others. But, by putting the time in, you can learn how to be more creative.

“Creativity is a skill and any skill that you can undertake, the byproduct to it being a skill, is that you can get better at it,” Mumaw said in his course, Creativity Bootcamp. “And we've never really thought of creativity as being something that we can get better at. But you can.”

Why Creativity is So Important Today: Process-Driven Jobs are Going Away

Using that definition of what creativity is, why is it the most important skill for professionals today?

It really comes down to commoditization. Today, basically anything that can be automated has been automated or soon will be automated, which cuts down on a lot of process-orientated tasks.

Use the example of the news industry. In the old days of newspapers, it took teams of people to set the layout of the paper, create the printing press, print the paper and then deliver it to subscribers. Today, with most news dispersed electronically, virtually all of that process-driven work is automated.

What’s left? Journalists who can tell news stories that cut through the noise and connect with people. That takes creativity; i.e. a relevant and novel solution – what are the stories that aren’t being told already that people want to hear?

That same phenomenon is happening across every industry and every function. Software companies don’t just want someone who can write code, they want someone who can dream up new softwares to fix old problems. Companies don't want business analysts who just crunch numbers; they want analysts who can think of creative solutions based off what the numbers are telling them.

What this all means to you: There’s no Better Investment You Can Make Today Than Strengthening Your Creative Skills

As AI continues to become a bigger part of this world, process-driven jobs are becoming even more obsolete. No longer will companies pay people to do the same task again and again; robots can likely take on those tasks.

Instead, companies are most interested in finding people who can think of new, better solutions.

So, if you want to “future-proof” your career, there’s no better approach than focusing on thinking more creatively. Stop settling for solutions that worked previously and push yourself to think of newer, better ideas.

And, despite what you might have thought before, creativity is a skill. And, like any skill, it means you can get better at it – if you work at it.

© Copyright Creativity Wake-Up 2019