Jason Silva, Emmy-nominated host of National Geographic’s hit TV series, Brain Games, seen in over 100 countries, reminds us of the need of at least a certain amount of cognitive disinhibition when it comes to innovating. Rightly so, he suggests in a metaphorical way that for us to connect dots in a previously unknown way, it takes to stop being afraid to fail and decisively blur the boundaries between our thoughts. “The emergence of an original thought takes a bit of madness” states Silva.
Problem solving is daily business at every organization. Problem solving processes require from a certain point on systematic planning, setting goals and not turning blind. However, at the very start of such process, finding a solution can be looked at as a creative process where recombining patterns into completely new forms can really pay off. By doing so, your business or organization can more likely offer solutions that no one might ever thought of.
In using creativity as a competitive advantage for your business, you will find yourself and your teams: inventing, experimenting, improvising and in parallel, constantly looking back to the purpose.
Now, you will wonder how that is possible in a team of people where normally only a few stand out for this characteristic?
For your concern, you will want to do some further reading on Ken Robinson’s research on education systems and creativity.
According to Robinson, most of education systems worldwide have been defined since the industrialization in a way that mistakes are stigmatized, people immediately want to avoid mistakes and prefer to act logically. Consequently, the so-called convergent thinking tends to be more prevalent than the so-called divergent thinking. To understand: you are looking for “data” or “facts” and you would like to take the best solution out of it – so you think convergent. If you look for potential solutions and you come up with several ones at the same time, that is, thinking divergently. Both, convergent and divergent thinking are the basic building blocks of creative thinking. The core statement of Robinson’s research is that all human beings have creativity as a capacity.
In a study made by George Land and Beth Jarman, summarized in the book Breakpoint and Beyond, 1500 people underwent a test about divergent thinking. At the age of five 98% of the participants were by far categorized as genius in their creative competence. Five years later the same participants reached in average 80% in the test and the trend continued: getting older meant a deterioration of their creative capacity. The study concluded that most probably an educational system modeled on standardization, causes the creative capacity of most every person to become progressively weaker. “By the time they get to be adults they have lost it”, so Robinson’s argument.
Good news is… Divergent thinking as an essential capacity for creativity can be trained and improved. As a quite simple example: think of all possible ways to eat an egg. Give it a go. I guarantee if you are frightened to be wrong you won’t come up with an original idea, or you would come up just with those that are familiar to you. A few other practical things that you could try out in your daily life to stimulate this competence are:
- Deliberately looking for knowledge outside current areas of expertise.
- Capturing any new ideas without judging or editing them in first place and rather letting them inspire you
- Surrounding yourself with diverse and novel physical and social stimuli.
- Seeking challenges and coping with failure constructively.
Remember, whenever you go out there and try to leave your comfort zone you are doing something good for your creative competence. In a next article, I will be addressing the question of which techniques you may apply to nurture this competence in groups or teams.
Writing in English for a change meant taking a risk within the edition of our blog in German. Please, let us know if you would like to find more articles in English in our Hood Blog by leaving us a comment.