Posts Tagged ‘right brain’

Unlock Your Hidden Creativity: Step 2 – Create, don’t just Edit

May 10, 2011

Creativity is serious business. It’s about creating new things, coming up with new ideas, establishing new ways of doing things. It’s what can give successful companies a sustainable competitive edge.

Many individuals and organisations, though, settle for editing existing versions of products or processes, never really coming up with anything new, just with a load of stuff that’s a small shuffling step or two away from where they started.

Here are 3 top tips for genuinely creative thinking … as opposed to sticking to familiar patterns and making minor amendments to the status quo.

Please bear in mind that I’m NOT giving a list of techniques here – you can do a Google search for that and come up with dozens of techniques and processes like brainstorming, SCAMPER, role play, blah blah blah … I’m focussing on fundamental pre-requisites to creative thinking. If you don’t have your head in the right place to start with, even the best creative thinking techniques won’t help you.

1. “Set phasers to ‘stun’!”
Before I start, I wouldn’t mind betting that some readers are already thinking, “well, you can’t just come up with new ideas and implement them! You have to do a risk assessment / scenario plan / costing strategy …”    WOAH WOAH WOAH!!!

To those who are doing that, hold on a moment: we WILL do those things. Creative thinking doesn’t stand alone, it must be partnered with practical implementation … but that bit comes later.

At the start of the creative process, you’ll have to ‘knock out’ the internal editor or analyst (hence the Star Trek terminology).  We don’t want to kill them off completely, because they are vital to implementing creative ideas … BUT left brain logic mustn’t interfere too soon.

For some people that’s going to be really difficult, as it cuts across habit and mindsets. However, on the premise that EVERYONE is creative, it can be done.

It’s critical to allow creativity full rein at the beginning WITHOUT the logical editor or analyst coming in and saying “we can’t do that because … have you thought about … we tried that before and …”

Take a piece of paper and a pencil and try this 5 minute exercise.

Think about everything you’ve done since you woke up this morning, starting from the moment you opened your eyes, and start to write it down. Write it down EXACTLY as it comes into your head.

How easy or difficult is that? How long is it before the ‘editor brain’ kicks in and you find yourself correcting spelling and punctuation, revisiting sentences that don’t make sense, THINKING about what you’re going to write rather than just writing what you think?

Freely thinking creatively can take self-discipline. It’s important to learn to silence the inner editor and think freely … otherwise ideas will be stifled at birth and never allowed to develop.

Learn to silence the editor within and give your internal ‘creator’ space at the beginning of the process, whatever specific technique you are using.
2. The Catwalk Model
One concern that logical, strongly left brain thinkers can often have is that allowing too much creativity will lead to the lunatics taking over the asylum. That strange and ridiculous ideas will come to fruition. That profitability and common sense will be sacrificed on the altar of irrelevant arty-fartyness. That reckless and meaningless expenditure will have to be awkwardly explained to demanding shareholders.  That pie-in-the-sky projects will detract from the serious business of generating profit.

Not so.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s watched a TV clip of an emaciated catwalk model (stay with me here, the metaphor is relevant!) wearing something completely bizarre, her hair backcombed to within an inch of falling out, aunt sally make-up, tottering along on impossibly high heels and thought “Who on earth would wear THAT?!”

And funnily enough, on my local high street, and in the fashion magazines, I never see people actually wearing the catwalk outfit … I  DO, though, see people wearing similar but more practical versions of it in terms of size, colour, shape, cut, length and so on.

Creative thinking that initially conjures up the bizarre and  somewhat alarming, actually translates – through a process of analysis, editing, elimination and implementation – into practical new ideas that work.

Tempting though it is to start with the safety of the status quo and tweak it, genuine, groundbreaking innovation comes from new thinking.

Strongly logical left brain thinkers in particular need to remain calm and positive during the creative process, and not shut it down because it looks like it’s getting out of hand.

Strongly creative right brain thinkers need to acknowledge that not everything is going to work out in real life.
3. Get out more!
Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that my clarion call to Do Something Different is one which I repeat often … in this case, it’s an exhortation to get out more!

Creative thinking benefits from inspiration. This is more easily achieved by bringing in external influences, or by going out and doing something different, and not by sitting round a table in an office or training room somewhere with a heap of post-it notes and coloured pens, pontificating.

Excessive inward focus is far less likely to lead to inspiration than looking outwards and GOING outwards in order to make connections and discover new things. 

So be creative about your creativity. Don’t expect to come up with startling innovations by editing what already exists and thinking in the same old way in the same old environment doing the same old things that you always have done.

Do something different. Because doing something different leads to inspiration …
which leads to creativity …
which leads to innovation …
which leads to commercial and competitive edge …
which leads to profits and sustainable business growth.
Next week, more on how you can develop an environment that fosters innovation and creativity.


Unlock your hidden creativity – 3 key steps to getting it back again

April 30, 2011

 Creativity and innovation are what give a company its competitive edge… so how come the idea of ‘creativity at work’ can sometimes feel like a contradiction in terms?

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing 3 key ways of uncovering your creative potential, as an individual or organisation. You DO have it… you just might have lost sight of it.

Before I start, an acknowledgment: I have my friend, the artist Blythe Scott  (at ), to thank as the inspiration behind this blog series: in addition to creating her own remarkable paintings, she also teaches people to draw, and it’s from THIS, together with my own research and the work of acknowledged experts in the field of creativity, that these insights have come.

Step 1.   “Turn the Chair Upside Down”

I’ve got no hand–eye co-ordination, and I simply CANNOT draw. I can’t replicate the 3D image I see in front of me on a flat piece of paper… for nearly 40 years, that’s what I thought. Yet in the last 2 months, I’ve learned to draw in a way I never thought I could.

I’ve heard many people over the years say that they are not creative, and whilst this is their genuine perception, it’s simply not true. They ARE creative.

Two things to bear in mind :

a) some people will be more ‘creative’ than others, and

b) ‘creativity’ does NOT equate to talent in the arts – it manifests itself in many different ways. Companies and individuals want to be ‘creative’ – they don’t all want to be artists or performers.

So what if you’re ‘not very creative’ and you want to be?

One of the things I remember Blythe saying a while back is that if someone who “can’t draw” turns a chair upside down, they are more likely to be able to draw it accurately.

Far from just being a metaphor for taking a different perspective in order to be creative, there’s some science behind this.

Understand that even in creativity, there is science. It’s not a dangerous free-for-all state of chaos to be feared or contained.

In her book ‘How to draw with the right side of the brain’ (lent to me by Blythe!) Betty Edwards explains that with most “non-artists” after about the age of 10, the logical left side of the brain dominates. It will look at a chair, face or house and say “Ah yes, a chair / face / house. I know what a chair / face/ house looks like” and draws not the thing it sees, but its own remembered symbol for a chair / face/ house.

People who “can’t draw” are probably drawing like ten year olds, because this is what happens.

Turn the chair or the image upside down, though, and the left brain doesn’t have a stored symbol for an upside-down chair or face or whatever, so the right brain kicks in and draws what is actually in front of it, resulting in a much more accurate drawing.

Accept the paradox that looking at some things creatively – not logically – can result in a more accurate, better quality result.

 Another factor explained by Edwards is that right brain creative work is very absorbing. It’s easy to get into a state of ‘flow’, or be ‘in the zone’ and lose track of time. Some people might have issues with ‘letting go’ in this way.

Be prepared to give creativity time, and to ‘go with the flow’. Experiment, test, try.

I’ve tried this ‘upside down’ technique with line drawings, furniture and photos… and it works. Drawing isn’t just about hand-eye co-ordination, as I’d thought for years. It’s about learning to see things in a different way. Now that I know how to see things in a different way, I no longer have to turn them upside down every time.

Understand that to be creative, you have to challenge yourself to see things in a different way, and from a different angle.

Have a go yourself. If you “can’t draw”, take a simple image or a chair, turn it upside down, and focus on what you SEE, not what you think you know is there. See what happens. To be honest, if the result is NOT an improvement on your usual ability to draw, you’ve either allowed some left brain interpretation in there and taken your eye off the image itself, or you’ve become a slave to time and rushed it.

Consider your own field of work. Where’s the metaphor here? Is there a process that’s existed for years that you can ‘view upside down’ in order to see it more clearly? A product perhaps? A behaviour pattern that’s just ‘the way things are’ that can actually be challenged?

If you remain sceptical about your own creative ability, think about small children and they way they draw, play and create in a very uninhibited way. ALL kids, given the chance and barring disabilities which might prevent it, will do this… even the ones who end up as lawyers and corporate strategists.

Somewhere along the line, through education, social factors and other things, their emphasis shifts from the creative to the logical.

But guess what? In my training programmes (which use a variety of creative methods) as soon as people are ‘allowed’ and ‘encouraged’ to be creative, or are given no option BUT to be creative, they can all do it. They can all contribute creatively in their own way. Some might feel awkward at first if they’re not used to it, but that’s natural. Given the right encouragement and environment and a mandate to be creative, people can. They just can. Without exception.

Allow yourself to think in a childlike way (NOTE – childlike, not childish – there’s a BIG difference).

Allow yourself to put aside the comfort blanket of left-brain logic and ‘go with the flow’… you’re only thinking, and no one’s going to get hurt!

Allow yourself to be creative: stop telling yourself that you’re not, start telling yourself that you’re re-discovering your creative abilities. And then do something different to prove it to yourself.

Next time,   I’ll be looking at your creative versus your editor brain, and how to make the most of both… so watch this blog space for Step 2!