My search for what creativity is and what it means to me

Five years ago I started to research what creativity means to me. Creativity is one of those words that is used all the time but can mean many different things. I decided that I had to try out creativity in various practical ways to learn what it meant to me.

I didn’t have a detailed plan for how to go about my creativity project, but when you have both your eyes and ears open opportunities seem to come along more often.

Here are some of the events that I stumbled upon:

Creativity from a Buddhist perspective

One of the first things I did was to attend a course in what creativity means from a Buddhist perspective. I had no idea what to expect and I was curious about what it would be like.

The teacher used beautiful metaphors when describing our mind, brain and creative process. We meditated, something that I’m not very good at doing by myself but in a group works okay. The big question was: ‘What can you do to be more present, kind and loving in your life towards yourself and others?’ One beautiful exercise we did was to describe water in many ways, and how we see the earth. In the end we painted what we had learned during the evening.

The idea of painting your take-away is something I do when I run workshops. Ideas stay with you longer when you paint them instead of writing them down.

Creativity in business

The next thing I did to explore the magic of creativity was to go to a workshop about creativity in business. At the time I had a job that demanded that I was courageous and creative and I was like a sponge when it came to creative wisdom. In the workshop we explored how you create new ideas as a team and how to build up ideas instead of killing them.

Too many times I’ve seen organisations give credit to people who can be negative towards new ideas. If you are continually destroying ideas before you evaluate them, lots of ideas will never have the chance to start growing into something bigger. Being negative is easy; giving constructive feedback is a bit more complicated and requires more brain power.

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Some teams get this automatically and let ideas stay alive for longer before scrutinizing them, but many aren’t even aware of how they are behaving, and that their negativity is actually stopping people from sharing ideas. I’m sure you recognize this.

Managing creativity in business is about awareness, behaviour and language. What kinds of words are you using and how do people react when you use them? This is a good question to ask yourself. What does the culture look like?

Being successful at driving change and innovation in business takes a big dose of courage, and not everyone has the stamina to do it. You will have periods where you have more or less energy. Be aware of this and then you can push for your ideas when the energy is there.

Improvisation theatre

My interest in creativity in business led me to explore the world of improvisation theatre or improv. I went along to some weekend courses with Sprout Ideas in London. I don’t think I’d laughed that much for a long time, we had lots of fun.
The basic rule of improv is that nothing is wrong: whatever you do is right. This rule is such a relief and helps you to see that you have the best solution inside you and your team.

I highly recommend going along to an improv workshop or seeing an improv show. There is a lot to learn from the flow of improv and saying yes to new ideas.

Creative painting

I randomly found a course about art and creativity with Paint Jam in London. I went along and it was hosted by an artist and an art therapist. We networked, listened to beautiful music, created crazy art, had coffee breaks and by the end I had painted four pretty cool paintings. There weren’t many rules, the flow mattered and the main choice you faced was what colours to use.

This led me to explore my artistic side more deeply, and a few years later I exhibited my abstract art in London. Interesting what an afternoon course can give you.

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This course reinforced the idea that whatever you create is right and gave me more confidence in being creative with what I have.

Reiki healing

I’ve always been interested in what creates energy and what takes energy away. Have you noticed that some activities give you energy and some steal it? When we are being creative we are using our energy in a way that feels good.

When I was a student in Lund, Sweden, I had a massage and the massage therapist asked me if I would like 30 minutes of Reiki healing. I said ‘Yes, sure’. I had no idea what it was, but the following month I felt amazing and didn’t feel much resistance to doing the washing up, cleaning or concentrating on my studying – things that I’d found hard at the time.

A few years later I was sailing with some friends and a new person was on board. She was a leadership speaker and told me that she always healed the room before she spoke. She explained that it made the people who entered the room calmer and more open to new ideas. I was fascinated by her wisdom, and in 2010 I signed up for a Reiki course in London. It was fun and some of the techniques about how to manage energy are intriguing.

Creative writing

In 2014 I went on a creative writing course on Skyros in Greece. It was wonderful and we spent ten days writing together. We had a great teacher, Crysse Morrison, who gave us fun and inspiring writing tasks.

Some people in the group had a very loud inner critic and we spent time talking about how to get over that critical voice. If your inner critic is too loud you might never do anything differently and may just continue to do what you have done a million times before. For me the course was fun and inspiring and I trust my writing voice much more now.

More creative painting

When I spoke at the Richmond Events Digital Marketing Forum I seized the opportunity to go to Sven Spiegelberg’s workshop about art, psychology and creativity: ‘What can managers learn from Mozart and Picasso? Stress fields of creativity’.

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He presented some ideas and theories about what stops us from pursuing our ideas and vision, and illustrated the circle of continual improvement. The steps are:

1.         Incubation
2.         Idea and vision
3.         GO!
4.         Crisis
5.         Result
6.         Go back to the start again.

Many people never even start step three while others never analyse results and that means that they are not developing their skills. If you are an ideas hunter who never dares to plan and press ‘go’ your mind will in fact be blocked off to new concepts.

So what is creativity?

What I have described here is just part of my journey exploring what creativity means to me. It’s hard to define creativity exactly, but when I talk about creativity it’s about trying out new combinations and respecting the idea development process.

When we explore the future and what new digital inventions mean to us it’s important to have an open mind that’s not blocking new ideas.

New technology brings new questions that will in turn bring new ideas. How well we treat these new ideas will define our future outcomes.

Tolerance and judgement are both part of the creative process. When we dare to express ourselves we are more likely to make a contribution with our ideas. Deciding whose judgment and feedback you should listen to is also part of the creative process.

The more tolerance for failure there is in organisational culture the more people will stretch their abilities.

Innovation and creativity are interesting subjects and I’m sure I have more to learn. We are not born with these kinds of skills, they must be learned.

What have you done to explore creativity? Please share your thoughts.

Thank you for reading as well, Sofie

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