We may make excuses about our abilities in order to prevent the effort required for self-growth. Sometimes we may place restrictions on ideas in order to help us compartmentalize all the information our brains need to handle. Based on my own experience and research, below are 10 myths about creativity that I have seen or experienced. Removing these ideas is key to making the idea of creativity accessible to everyone.
1. Creativity can’t be taught
“Some people are just creative and I am not,” is not a statement anyone should ever say. When you think about what creativity really is, you will realise there are simple processes one can undertake to make themselves more creative. When you also realise how many realms of your life will benefit from a more creative approach, you can see these processes and ways of thinking can be applied to almost any undertaking. There is a post at Forbes.com (here) about this very subject. It may not be as straightforward as learning to play the piano, but yes it can be taught!
2. Creativity is about being artistic
Creativity is often associated with artists, writers, painters, etc. I would assume this is because creative thinking has the most immediately clear connection to their work. However, just because a connection isn’t as immediately clear does not mean it is as strong. Echoing the point in item #1, a creative approach can be taken to almost any scenario or facet of life. You can have a creative approach in engineering cells in a laboratory to become vaccines to rampant diseases. You can have a creative approach in dropping the kids off at school.
3. You must be skilled
Post-Modern art is the most obvious example that proves this to be false. Many artists could not paint a portrait of anyone accurately (in terms of what the eye sees), yet there is still a high level of creativity and rigor involved. Often in these cases, a low level of skill begets a more creative outcome because you have restrictions you must find solutions to. The heart of creativity is the process that occurs inside yourself between the point where ideas come in and ideas go out. We live in an age of outsourcing. Remember, you can always get help with execution.
4. Creativity is only about having good ideas
This point follows from above. You can always get help with execution, but being creative is about both. Many very creative works are based on quite simple ideas. There is an idea that all works of fiction ever made are based on only a handful of basic story lines (see The Seven Basic Plots wiki). The true creativity and worth of fiction, then is created in its execution. Borrow from the world and don’t stress the intellectual stuff – just be involved in creation itself.
5. Good ideas are precious
This one is fading away a little. In this age, people are more happy to give away their ideas. So much creativity happens because of connections, synergies, aligned interests. The value of these connections and synergies will usually outweigh the classic ‘return’ on any one idea. The increased level of problem solving that comes from connections and the synthesis of new ideas, will be more valuable in the long run. The more creative you or your business is, the less you will think any one idea is precious because you will be confident of having more.
6. I don’t have time to be creative
The reason why a creative approach is important is not only because you can produce solutions that more closely address your needs, but also because you can see needs that are often hidden. A creative approch is more likely to strike to the heart of a problem, saving time on work that is done out of habit or tradition. Having the right discipline in your practice, a creative approach need not take any longer. Part of this discipline is habit, routine and manging multiple projects and people together in ways to benefit from their shared characteristics.
7. Intelligence = Creativity
Intelligence itself is potentially a broad concept. In this context, I refer to the fallacy that creativity and innovation comes only from very specific, intellectually-intense professions. You do not have to be a chemical engineer or a brain surgeon to be creative and innovative. Take for example, QDrum – a rollable water collection tank for developing countries. The engineering is incredibly simple, the concept is simple – but that doesn’t change the fact that the idea is strong
8. You can do it on your own
In my earlier post on what creativity really is, I suggest creativity is about absorbing information, ideas and problems from your life, and adding a bit of yourself and your ideas to create something new. However, you need a wide variety of view points from a wide range of backgrounds for this synthesis. Many businesses will transfer people periodically to different departments so they can bring a different perspective and different experience. Some businesses base their seating arranngements on creating these chance encounters between people with different focuses. Connect with others, learn from them, see from their perspective. Genius comes from here, not from sitting alone in your room.
9. It’s all been done before
This is almost true. A lot of things have been done before. The myth here is that it matters. You can do them again, do them in a different way, do them in a different context. I reccommend watching Everything is a Remix to see how many creative people build on what’s been done before.
10. Creativity is just a fad
Whether something is a fad or not, is irrelevant. The idea of being creative, however, needs to be normalised and needs to be accessible. Being more creative isn’t for only certain jobs, it isn’t just for businesses who can send their staff to expensive seminars on innovation. It is for everyone. Creative processes are not wonder-solutions that will fix all your problems. They are fundamental thoughts and practices we should all embrace.
Feature image courtesy of Darryl.