The Quantum Mousetrap

Mark Eduljee's blog about Social Media Insights Intelligence and his FlightSim Movies

Posts Tagged ‘Edison’

The art of creativity

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

To every educator, parent, manager, and person of authority, view this. It’s a 19 min clip from the TED archives.

Summarized, it’s a 2006 presentation by Sir Ken Robinson, and he makes “an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity”.

As with all things, this is generally true, but not entirely correct… some of the most creative ideas and products have come as a result of educated minds using knowledge to create wondrous (or hurtful) products, services, art, poetry, policy, philosophy, religion, technology etc. — Facebook being a relatively recent example of technical creativity, but, whether it’s a creative or destructive force is still open to debate ; )

Do you think you are creative? I’m betting that 90% of you reading this are probably nodding your heads. Sure, you’ve done creative things.  Aaahaa!! But has the level of your creativity been so profound as to fundamentally change the human condition? Probably not. Don’t get me wrong, creative output does not have to be on a cosmic scale to be valuable. Does that make you any less creative in your own right? Certainly not.

But here’s the question that’s really going to bake your noodle: Can you (or better yet, should you) hold your school or university responsible for not making you creative ENOUGH, or worse, squeezing the well-spring of creativity OUT of you? Hmmm…Is it a schooling or College problem? Or is it you? Can, and should, you hold yourself responsible for not unlocking, nurturing, growing your own creative potential? Or worse, allowing others to suppress it? Isn’t creativity just a state of mind?

Here’s a test… point me to one person you know, for certain, who is absolutely incapable of being creative. And I’ll show you the unicorn I keep as a pet in my back yard.

So what the difference? Why was Edison creative enough to solve the problem of night-time darkness, and the Wright Brothers insightful enough to stitch together a wood and cloth contraption that fundamentally made the world a smaller place to live in, while scores of humans “lead lives of quiet desperation”? (Thoreau)  BTW did you know that Orville and Wilbur owned a bicycle shop! They were not aeronautical engineers. Oh – wait- Aeronautic didn’t even exist at that time. Hmm…What were they thinking? Fly like a bird. Sheesh! Hey gear head! Just peddle your bike, will ya!

I think they made a choice…They made a conscientious choice to move, act, and think in creative ways. I am absolutely convinced through my own life’s experiences that one must first choose to exercise their right and option to become a creative person. I will not blame my teachers, parents, circumstances or…..

Here are 10 ways to become a more intentionally creative person.

  1. Banish fear: The primitive brain does not allow thoughts to flow when it is afraid – afraid of TRex, afraid of failing, rejection, ridicule. Whatever. Give yourself a break and trust yourself some more.
  2. You are not what others define you to be: I’m sure you can come up with ‘n’ number of notes from Parents/Teachers/Managers/Friends/Critics etc. about what they think or thought of you, or your capabilities or capacity to think, act, behave. Here’s what to do with that information (for that is all it really is) listen, digest, and then move on. Use their thoughts, opinions, reviews, or insights as a foundation for the next step, not as a wall to hide behind.
  3. You know more that you think you know: Really. Believe it. “Oh, I don’t know how to bake a cake for my Mother!”. Really? Are you telling me that you are incapable of finding the information, or a friend, to help you to get over that hurdle? Knowing is not only what you have in your head. Stop finding excuses.  ’nuff said.
  4. Dig to get to root cause: The Wright brothers asked the question: “What makes controlled flight possible”. That was their question. That was their root cause. It focused and channeled their creative energy and drive. It was what inspired them. To be “bird-like”. It was not “how do we build an airplane?” The result was an airplane, not the other way around.
  5. Manage frustration: Accept that being creative is a process. It takes time. Allow the process to run its course. Getting frustrated and impatient for the end only weighs it down. A calm brain can think, tap into its reservoir of knowledge, see options, focus, go deeper.
  6. Learn to be a bulldog: Don’t let go. Dogged persistence. Being creative will test your resolve. It demands persistence and commitment. Sink your teeth into it. And relish the feeling while you are about it.
  7. Give up. But don’t walk away. Seems to contradict the one above, but this is more strategic. When you find any of these laws breaking down, take a hike. Give yourself a break.  Go play a game of racquetball, feed the goldfish, wag the dog. Whatever. Take your mind off “it”. Give up and let your subconscious take over for a while. It will call you back when it’s ready and has an answer for you. It works every time.
  8. Identify needs, not wants. This is a big one… too often the drive to be creative short circuits because it goes something like this: Identify goal/wish/wants –> whoosh! –> get into problem solving mode. STOP! First, figure out what the real need is. Wants are emotion-based objectives. You can’t think clearly when emotion is involved. Needs on the other hand define the desired end-result.
  9. Begin from the end: See the end. Focus less on ‘how’, and more on ‘what’. Options and alternatives that were not apparent in the whoosh mind-set then become available. Walking backwards from the end releases unconventional/new/alternative/hybrid ideas. The result can be sheer brilliance. “Why didn’t I think of that!!?” … Why didn’t you!?
  10. Insert your own guideline here: Be creative.

When is it a good time to start?

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

The time to start is when I can make an informed choice to begin.

At the point of beginning, I am faced with two choices:

  1. Act fearful, make excuses, play the victim, act busy, procrastinate, or simply tune out. I lose. Those around me lose too. Or…
  2. Having done the due diligence to plan, assess capabilities and risk, I can check: Do I honestly think that success is reasonably probable? If the answer is No, then I ask why, reset, and set a deadline (very important to do this) to begin again. If yes, then start.

Then, only two outcomes are possible:

  • “it” falls short, sputters, or
  • “it” happens

As long as my choice to begin was intentional and informed, either way, I win. Why? because in both cases I learned something along the way.

I’ve learned to quit thinking of “need to start”. I focus instead on “want to learn”. It’s easy to choose to start when the goal is to learn. Learning is incremental. It builds on itself. Exponentially. The journey then becomes less about start or stop, or success or failure, and more about commitment and pace.

And isn’t that the real objective?  After all, isn’t the human condition simply all about learning, and using it in a positive, constructive, and helpful way to build-on and make the next time better?  And how can anyone learn if the choice is to not start? Do you know chronic planners and strategists who measure their success by the volume of activity, instead of demonstrating results from having done something?

In my About page, I quote my Dad. He had a worn down piece of paper in his wallet. It was a handwritten quote from Rose Knox, a pioneering business woman in the early 20th century, and it said, “Any man who trips over the same stone twice deserves to break his neck”.  He lived that principle. And I honor him by doing likewise.

Sooner or later, we all face times when we trip, when we don’t get to “it”, when the rocket staggers 2 feet off the pad then blows up. Think about Edison, he mentions how he got to a bulb filament that glowed long and bright only by first learning, “1000’s of times”, what material not to use. (Here’s an interesting thread about whether he actually said that).

It’s easy to focus on, and become paralyzed by, what can go wrong when standing at the start gate. I’ve done it. Honestly, I was really reacting to my lack of preparation. Worse is being influenced or coerced by powerful or authoritative figures who have a vested interest in seeing that you not start at all. That’s happened to me too. In those situations I reminded myself to remain calm and to give myself more time to think…to think about root cause. Dig deep, peel back the onion layers, and get to “why and motivation”. Forget about “What do I do next!”. That will come after the motivation and reasons behind the “Why” is known. Again, it’s about learning. Knowledge enables.

Focus on being positive and decisive, and as Emerson said “the universe will conspire to make it happen”.  Imagine if Orville and Wilbur had focused on the negative aspects of crashing, instead of rolling their Flyer off the hill to learn what they needed for beautiful, graceful, controlled flight!

Therefore do I now throw the switch to light the filament, and fly this blog off the hill with this first post. I choose to begin.

Is it perfect? No.  Will the Quantum Mousetrap always be improving, and strive to be helpful, interesting and engaging? I certainly commit to making it so. (how do you like the name BTW?  See my About page for why I chose that name)

And will you share your experiences with comments and participation? I think you will.

Now is a good time to start.

Your turn: How do you decide it’s a good time to start (or stop) doing something? What helps you not to trip over the same stone twice?  Who inspired you to learn from your blow-ups? Please use the Comments and Reactions link below.