Whoever invented the first hot air balloon had a clear vision, they also had the time and space to think. We make the serious case for play...
Taking the time to think about how you think sounds a luxury. According to neuroscience and brain stimulation studies, it is not - especially if you have big plans for yourself or your business.
Consciously or not, as creatures of habit, most of us stick to what we know. In some cases our survival might depend on it. In others, the thoughts and beliefs that steer us around hamster wheel patterns may not serve us as well as they might. So, if your thinking feels in a rut, it may be time to make the case for breaking patterns on purpose to find new ways.
Whether you consider yourself small and furry or not, if you would like to find some fresh ideas, how can you shake up your creativity?
How are you already creative?
If creativity is the skill of being able to find something new, most of us are surely creative.
Some of us may think in blue skies, outside boxes, off walls – beyond clichés even. Yet the process does not have to tied up in maverick or rosy coloured packaging for it to count as being creative, it can be far more subtle.
The ability to delve into the right facts, find themes, uncover links, identify meanings and improvise are surely creative behaviours too. When we dip into any number of underrated creative activities, like imagining, daydreaming, hypothesising or envisioning, creative strategising begins.
You may have to fight for permission to be still. Remind those unconvinced of the benefits of paying you to daydream that being busy is not always the same as being productive. They may also be reassured that normal activity will be resumed after a specified time frame - a couple of hours at a time is recommended.
If you are prepared to explore the benefits of playful pondering, you will need to find the right space away from distractions as well as the right company to join you in the enterprise. You also need to be prepared for failure as well as inspiration.
The creative process
According to some, the creative process itself has different phases, which occur in the right environment and in different ways - sometimes referred to as open and closed modes.
The open mode is, strangely - open! Open to pondering possibilities as they are presented, wherever and by whomsoever they are offered. Not easy when you may be rushing around or absorbed in activity, hence the argument for the time and space haven.
The closed mode works with reality. Importantly, it tests the feasibility and practicality of possibilities. It can also close them down, where ideas seem whimsical and silly at first sight.
Understand the fight
To be creatively strategic, clearly you need to be able to operate in both modes, across right and left brain hemispheres. While you may already know your preferences, finding ways to shift between the two can help you to find exciting and workable ways forward. Doing so can also generate creative strategy and approaches.
If you are working with others you need to be conscious of shifting between different types of thinking and do so deliberately. It can be useful to be explicit about what mode is appropriate where, to facilitate the most productive creative atmospheres.
In open mode, it is justifiable to pursue seemingly ridiculous notions. At some point, when the idea of ticketless airlines was first mooted there must have been an atmosphere of acceptance for such a seemingly daft idea to be tolerated. There was also a point where there was a deliberate shift to the closed mode to find practical ways to allow the idea take off - pardon the pun.
If the proposition of people sharing their wildest ideas of ways to improve your business or service already sounds unrealistic or too difficult, what does that say?
Unless you work within the creative industries, it is unusual to hear people sharing innovative suggestions for they own sake. In any case, you would imagine you need to be pretty senior or pretty sure of yourself to do so uninvited. Yet, given the fast changing nature of business, business processes and consumer expectations, it would seem an expensive luxury not to find time to encourage fresh ideas for their own sake.
Finding the incentive
Why wouldn't you want to discover better ways to achieve your goals?
Consider for a moment what this process might mean to you if you tried to champion creative strategy. Imagine what it would be like if you found a formula that enabled your team to find creative solutions more easily. If you’re already thinking about those benefits, you’re already flexing one of the many ways of thinking creatively. It’s called envisioning.
Although you may already be racing towards closed mode and how you could make such ambitions a reality in your business, stay with this idea of envisioning for a moment.
For the purposes of grounding this process, it might help to try this now.
Start by thinking in the open mode, which means put on hold any thought of current realities and practicalities.Think of somewhere you’d really like to get to in your personal or professional life. Where would you like to be in terms of your ideal future? What could it look like or feel like to be in that place?
Conjuring up the emotions of being there usually helps bolster your energy and kick-starts your determination to get there. Imagine it. Now make it even rosier.
For example, if you have imagined yourself, or say a particular product or idea being really successful within your company or organization. Imagine now that you have achieved more than you have ever dreamed of – whether the Pullitzer peace prize, worldwide recognition or that the product you sell now has global appeal.
Picture that situation. This is not about being realistic – it’s about aiming above the clouds to the stars. At this point, you don’t need to know any of the details of how on earth you might get there. Instead, this is all about firing your imagination and silencing your sensible voice - which will want to edit and limit your future scope.
So, rosy-coloured dreams and aspirations are the first step. Unless you paint them across your visor of the future, they are probably never going to happen.
When Alice asks the Cheshire Cat for directions, she explains that she doesn’t mind where she gets to, as long as it’s somewhere. ‘Oh you’re sure to do that’, said the Cat, ‘if only you walk long enough.’
You may be a hard walker too if you’re too busy working to envision. Imagining your perfect destination means that there’s a more realistic chance you’ll find directions to it. And when your idealised future aligns with wider professional missions or personal ambitions, you’re on to something.