Creativity in business is a hot topic. There is a growing recognition that our existing paradigms of business are no longer effective and our data-driven, analytical and manufacturing output is not keeping America competitive or profitable. So businesses are turning to conceptual thinking to build better strategies, business models, and product/service offerings. Consider the explosion of Daniel Pink’s work, from A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future and the new Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. He challenges us to approach things differently. Or places like the Visual Arts Center in Richmond, VA that offer programs like Creativity at Work to help business leaders “think with a fresh mind and see with new eyes.” Thank goodness for people and places like these, for they act as important catalysts and change agents for our culture.
Yet for many organizations – and individuals – creativity seems elusive. We are so busy getting things done, answering emails, going to meetings, managing our personal life, and well, just being busy. Layer on top of that the incredible amount of visual and audio overload we are subjected to, and are minds often are at the point of sensory explosion. So how do we find creativity, nourish it and maximize it?
There are a multitude of excellent resources and exercises available to kickstart creative thought and I am a huge supporter of brainstorming, collaboration, tactile stimulation and play.
But here’s another thought, maybe even a radical one for the times we live in. Perhaps creativity can’t always be found in a place of constant activity.
Perhaps our creative spirit is really demanding that we unplug, decompress, and be still and silent. Turn off the TV, shut down the computer, hide the i-phone and just be. Tame the constant dialogue in your mind and let all the stuff go. Be receptive to what is around you. And just wait. Let your mind wander (no, not back to your to do list) and see where it takes you. Do you notice the gentle swish of the falling leaves? Does a certain color jump out at you? Are you amused by the quarrel between two squirrels over an acorn? Wait some more. Be still longer. Suddenly, an idea will jump into your mind, seemingly out of left field. But all you have done is create a space for your inherent creativity to breathe and thrive.
How much more effective can we be if we stop multi-tasking and purposefully throw ourselves into just one thing and do it really well? What problems can we solve or ideas can we dream up by being respectful of our creative spirit and giving it time to stretch and grow? Yes, we need stimulation and activity and creative exercises. They are an important part of the process. But we also need to be intentionally inward, mindful of our own spirit, and open to the ideas that live within us.