Five Fiendish Flashes

Written by  Peter de Jager

brain2Are you creative? More to the point, are you creative when you need creativity? Or like lightning in a summer storm, are your flashes of inspiration random and capricious? Ideally, our creativity should be something we can draw on whenever we need it. Most people are convinced this isn’t possible.

Before we try to fix a process, it’s necessary to understand the process. If you’ve ever managed a production line, then you’re well acquainted with the concept of a ‘bottleneck’. For those that haven’t, here’s the concept in a nutshell; Assume process ‘A’ creates ‘X’ items/hour for process ‘B’, which can only handle 5 items/hour. There is no point in speeding up process ‘A’ past 5 items/hour because they’d just start piling up, waiting for Process ‘B’ to finish. Process ‘B’ is the bottleneck.

With that example in mind, let’s examine this thing called ‘Creativity’. I’d like to suggest the problem is not a scarcity of ideas, but an overly effective set of stage ‘B’ bottlenecks, allowing very little to escape from our minds and into the light of day.

Proof of that statement isn’t difficult to come by, it’s as close as this evening’s dreams. All day we search for new ideas and come up dry… and yet the very instant we fall asleep and cease the mental struggle, our dreams are flooded with the fantastical. Our challenge is to find a way to tap into that Creativity with our eyes wide open.

Be conscious of your nose

Nope, not the nose in the middle of your face, but the ‘NO’s that arise every time you see, hear or read something different. As an example? Rather than numbering these points, I thought I’d use lightning strikes. Why? I honestly don’t know… the idea was there and I thought I’d act on it.

Now that I have used the strikes it makes some sense. To be ‘conscious’ means to be attentive to our surroundings, nothing catches our attention more quickly than the sudden flash of lightning. If you’re saying to yourself… ‘using flashes is silly/stupid/(insert your favourite derogatory adjective here)’ then you’re installing a very effective bottleneck.

Make your intuition visible

A very simple technique. Next time you cannot logically, rationally, choose between two alternatives A and B… Flip a coin… heads it’s A, tails it’s B… and then at the very instant you see the result… are you pleased or disappointed with the outcome?
By focusing our attention to that split second of discovery, we learn which choice we’d ‘prefer’… I’m not suggesting we follow that knowledge blindly… but at least we have additional information with which to decide.

Put ‘Freudian’ slips to good use

We make slips, mistakes and typos all the time. A simple method of forcing yourself to think along a different track is to ask the question, “What would I have meant, if I’d meant to say that?”
I awoke one morning and reached out to get a ‘tooth pick’… and the words that echoed in my mind was ‘Truth Pick’… What if ‘Truth Pick’ was what I had meant to say?…’ I came up with this… A Short, pointed commentary designed to extract the ‘Truth” from a quote… MW has recently re-published Truth Picks for our readers.

Look to the flipside

This is the old, yet still useful, chestnut of turning Lemons into Lemonade. It’s not really a bad strategy; it’s what’s used to keep bridges from falling down. Take the most powerful force working against you at the moment, gravity in the case of bridges, and get it working in your favour. Bridges don’t fall down, because we’ve learned to harness gravity and make it work for us to keep the bridge standing.
Admittedly the concept is simple enough, but making it happen takes determination and a significant amount of skill. But, when it works? Situations that once created problems – suddenly create profit.

Ask the child’s question… Why?

And keep asking it until there aren’t anymore answers. Of all the ‘Why?’ questions, the most powerful one you can bring to bear on your organization is “Why are we doing it this way?” Ask it until people run when you approach and scream at the sound of it, and then keep asking it. Unless there’s a good answer to that question, and “Because I said so!” is a terrible answer, then you shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing.

The amount of Creativity we can bring to bear on a task, is more a function of the courage to work with the ideas we have, than it is of coming up with new ideas. The bottleneck is idea acceptance, not idea generation.

About the Author

Peter de Jager

Peter de Jager is a keynote speaker/writer/consultant on the issues relating to the issue of managing change of all shapes and sizes in all types of organizations. He has published hundreds of articles on topics ranging from Problem Solving, Creativity and Change to the impact of technology on areas such as privacy, security and business. His articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Futurist and Scientific American.

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