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10 Commandments Of Creativity

“The difference between a dreamer and a doer is action! Do whatever it takes to bring your ideas to life.”


Most of us think creativity is a quality belonging exclusively to artists, writers, dancers, or eccentrics—persons other than ourselves. The gospel truth is that we are all born with the capacity to be creative. You can get all the proof you need simply by watching children at play. In the hands of a child, a large shipping carton becomes a house, a crayon becomes a magic wand, and a stuffed teddy bear becomes a friend.

Notice the phrase above: we are all born with the capacity to be creative. This is not the same as saying we are all born creative. Our creative capacity develops at different levels, at different rates, and in different ways. Some people demonstrate far more creative ability than others. Is this a gift of nature, or do some people learn to be more creative?

Edward de Bono is one of the world’s foremost authorities on creativity. He began studying creativity in the 1960s and coined the phrase “lateral thinking”. In his book ‘Serious Creativity’, de Bono claims that "the brain is not designed to be creative. The excellence of the human brain is that it is designed to form patterns from the world around us and then stick to these patterns”. Recognizing and forming patterns—and designing strategies to respond to those patterns—helped humans survive over the ages. It enabled our cave-dwelling ancestors to distinguish between edible and poisonous berries, harmless and dangerous animals. It helped them to recognize and predict tides, seasons, and weather patterns. In other words, the brain was designed for survival rather than creative genius.

Humans now do much more than gather berries, hunt animals, and protect ourselves from the forces of nature. We build fantastic structures and machines, solve the most difficult riddles of science, and come up with clever advertising slogans. How do we do it?

Part of the answer is blind luck, or trial and error. (Actually, a better way to put it is trial and success!) With billions of people doing all sorts of things, we are bound to have an occasional “Eureka!” moment. Most of us just stumble into these flashes of insight, but some people cultivate them systematically, consistently, deliberately. How do they do it?

The most creative people make connections that other people miss, they see things that others do not notice, they break out of their patterns and do things differently. In short, they learn to be more creative.

There are many patterns that we adopt as short cuts. Amazingly, there are even patterns for breaking patterns! Many of these have been assembled into the discipline of Creative Problem Solving, or CPS. We can learn and use CPS techniques to systematically harness creativity in every area of our life. The use of the word “problem” in CPS is unfortunate, because these techniques work not only to help us to solve problems, but to generate ideas and find better ways of doing things even when everything seems “good enough”. We can always do better!

The following ‘Ten Commandments of Creativity’ are a great beginning for developing our creativity. They just might make you adopt creativity as your new religion!



I. THOU ART CREATIVE

Virtually all education is biased in favor of the more logical “left” brain, so that as we get older much of our creativity gets buried under conventional wisdom. But our creativity never disappears entirely, and we can enhance it just as we can develop every other human quality. The first step is to believe we are creative. Remember the proverb: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”



II. THOU SHALT GET OUT OF THY COMFORT ZONE

We embrace the familiar and fear the unknown. Break out of your usual patterns and welcome creativity into your life. As stated earlier, the human brain was designed to recognize patterns. This characteristic has allowed us to survive as a species. We continue to create patterns, templates, and routines for almost everything we do. In fact, our comfort zone is nothing more than a collection of patterns. As we become more efficient at recognizing and using patterns, we rely less on creativity to find new paths. As we travel the same path daily, we wear down the grass, then the soil, and soon find ourselves in a rut! We do not notice what lies just off our path. The trick is to get out of the rut, to create new paths that lead us to new ideas. Techniques, such as lateral thinking and CPS, can force us out of our timeworn paths and comfort zones and open up new possibilities.



III. THOU SHALT CHANGE THY ENVIRONMENT

Most people get their best ideas in the shower, while driving or jogging, even in their dreams. Yet most of us spend most of our time at our desk. When was the last time you had a brilliant idea at your desk? Our usual environment is a collection of patterns—it is part of our comfort zone. Change your environment by taking frequent excursions. A change of scenery does wonders for our creativity. Take a stroll through the park or along the beach, visit an interesting shop or museum, or flip through a photography or design magazine. The more different the destination of your excursion is from your usual environment, the better.

If physically getting away from your desk at a given moment is impractical, take a mental excursion to ancient Egypt, Mars, or any other time and place, real or fictitious. Imagining yourself in a radically different environment can stimulate creative thinking.

The idea of changing your environment is simply a way of forcing a break from patterns. However, you can also take advantage of patterns. If you know you get your best ideas in the shower, spend more time in the shower!

Thomas Edison was one of the most prolific inventors in history—a true creative genius. Edison noticed that his mind was most creative in the moments just before drifting off to sleep. However, it is not feasible to write down ideas while one is sleeping. Edison solved the problem and took advantage of this fertile period in a most remarkable fashion. Before settling into his chair for a nap, he positioned metal pans on the floor on either side of the chair and held ball bearings in his fists. As he hovered in the zone between consciousness and sleep, his muscles relaxed and the ball bearings dropped into the pans. The resulting noise roused him from his slumber, enabling him to capture his thoughts—which sometimes contained brilliant ideas!



IV. THOU SHALT TRY DIFFERENT THINGS

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. We are creatures of habit and routine, and creativity hates routine. If you usually drive to work, take the train for a few days. If you normally eat in the office, have lunch under a tree. Interrupt your routine, experiment, try something new. New things are often creative, but the same old thing never is.



V. THOU SHALT HONOR THY INTUITION

It used to be thought that only women had a “sixth sense” known as intuition. The fact is, everyone has it. Intuition is no more than a gut feeling based on the sum total of one’s accumulated experience.

Studies have proven that seasoned businessmen take less time to reach a decision than their less-experienced counterparts, and their decisions are more likely to be sound. Having made many decisions throughout their careers, they have developed a finely honed intuition. Rather than gathering more and more information before acting, follow your hunches—you know more than you think you do.



VI. THOU SHALT SEEK SEVERAL OPTIONS

Most of us are taught to seek only one “correct” or “best” answer—the answer. In the real world there are many possible answers. Don’t stop searching as soon as you find one good answer; there may be some better ones. Keep looking until you have a few options, then evaluate them carefully to find the one that best fits your situation. You may find that one of these subsequent variations is more effective than your initial effort.



VII. THOU SHALT JUSTIFY THY EFFORTS

Play the devil’s advocate—ask yourself tough questions and make sure you can overcome objections. Once you are convinced that your idea has value, you can persuade your audience with confidence. If you don’t buy it, you can be sure no one else will.



VIII. THOU SHALT SEEK INPUTE FROM OTHERS

Even if you are the world’s greatest devil’s advocate, there is no substitute for the point of view of another. We all have biases in our thought processes, which limit our effectiveness. Bounce your ideas off your mentor or others. You may choose to consult an expert or someone totally unfamiliar with your area.

Most of us work with and socialize with like-minded individuals who share similar values, beliefs and cultural backgrounds. We are most comfortable with others just like us. These people are part of our comfort zone. Seek input from someone of a different background who does not share your mindset. Then reconsider your ideas in light of their suggestions.



IX. THOU SHALT BELIEVE THOU WILT SUCCEED

Most of us give up too easily. Do not be intimidated by what appears to be an insurmountable obstacle. Whatever your mind can conceive, you can achieve. Man has split the atom, built high-powered computers, and journeyed to the moon. How difficult can your problems be?

Remember the movie Apollo 13? There were two tag lines in that movie which have since become part of popular culture. The first was, “Houston, we have a problem”. What exactly was the problem? The problem was how to fit a square part from one space capsule with a round part from the other, so the astronauts could get enough oxygen to return to earth alive. The situation looked bleak, but the team would not give up. They not only believed they would find a solution; they were absolutely committed to succeed. Remember the second line: “Failure is not an option!”



X. THOU SHALT TAKE ACTION

Having a great idea is not enough; you must work to make it a reality. Have you ever seen a new product and realized that you thought of the same thing long ago? Yet someone else is making money with “your” idea. We all have great ideas from time to time, but only a few people make their ideas into reality.

Richard Branson is one of the most successful, dynamic, and creative entrepreneurs alive today. He was once stranded at an airport with no flight scheduled that would get him to his desired destination in time for an appointment. All of the other similarly-affected passengers sat around grumbling and cursing, or stoically accepting their fate. Not Sir Richard! He arranged for a charter flight, persuaded a number of others to join him for a reasonable fee, and got to his destination on time—and he made a profit. He later went on to found Virgin Atlantic Airlines.



The difference between a dreamer and a doer is action! Do whatever it takes to bring your ideas to life.

If you can keep these commandments and put them into practice, you are well on your way to enhancing your creativity in all areas of your life.


Cover image and top image from Shutterstock


This is a cross-post from Ezine Articles.



David Goldwich, the Persuasion Doctor, is committed to helping people get what they want. A “reformed” lawyer, Gpldwich teaches people how to play the negotiation game and become more assertive, compelling and persuasive. He gives talks and conducts workshops in persuasive business presentations, negotiation, storytelling for leaders and sales professionals, and other areas of influence and persuasion. Learn more at http://www.davidgoldwich.com.

 
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