The ideas and inspiration that come from creativity are undeniably valuable, but where do they come from?
No one person you could ask has all the answers. For some, creativity is an uncontrollable thing, a skill you’re either born with or born without. For others, creativity is something that can be learned and fostered by anyone. The simple truth is that everyone has something unique to offer the world, and with the right circumstances and motivation, anyone can become creative enough to overcome a problem. And now, in these undeniably extraordinary times, it might be the best time to create something. Create something that brings hope, that breathes. Some of the most helpful creations were birthed during times of crisis...just like this one. So, let's rise up and produce something!
There are countless real-life examples of people from all walks of life finding ways to introduce new technology, social norms and other creative solutions to the world’s problems. So how can you learn how to inspire creative thinking in yourself and others? I’m going to dig into the meat of this question and offer you some insights to get you started.
What’s Creativity, Anyway?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines creativity with surprising simplicity: “the ability to create.” Don't you just love it when the dictionary defines a word using that word. While we’re very quick to call paintings, creative writing, sculptures and other forms of art creative, the truth is that creativity is expressed around us all the time in seemingly mundane ways. The manager that creates a ‘To-Do’ list for opening operations at a restaurant is exercising creativity because she created a system that formerly didn’t exist for her employees. The person caught out in the rain waiting for the bus who creates an umbrella out of his backpack is exercising creativity. The parent now stuck at home who creates a scheduled structure so the kids don't go insane has created a sense of control in the home. The couple who creates a list of people to go and visit and wave at the end of the driveway to remind them that they are not alone during social distancing has created a new norm, breaking isolation and hopelessness. The local restaurant owner who creates a brand new menu for easier delivery and pick-up distribution mandates has used his God-given creativity to bring a sense of peace to the community.
The potential to create is inside all of us.
The potential to create is inside all of us. Recognizing that creativity can come from anywhere is the first step toward inspiration and ideas. You don’t have to follow the norm when you hit a wall regardless of the industry you work in or the path you’ve taken in life. Being an artist or wordsmith is not a requirement for practicing creativity in your everyday affairs. Being a creative person is not even a requirement. The DNA strain is in everyone of us!
The Creative Process
Simplifying creativity into a process is bound to create mixed results; there are those who would insist that creativity isn’t something that can be defined and those who, rather than nurturing their own creativity, would follow each step without realizing that they are simply following a process, not actively creating something. There are multiple experts on creative thinking who have provided helpful information to the public at large, including people like James Taylor and James Web who demonstrate thinking processes that can help people become more creative when solving problems or creating art.
James Taylor breaks down the creative process into five stages (interestingly enough, James Web does, too). The first stage involves preparation, the second stage focuses on the incubation of ideas, and the last three stages are insight, evaluation and elaboration.
The creative process in five steps: preparation, incubation, insight, evaluation, and elaboration.
Preparation is easier said than done in a world where people often talk before listening. When you prepare yourself for inspiration ideas, you’re doing nothing more than taking in the world around you. This is where you practice awareness. Artists may sit and watch the movement of people walking or study other artists who caption motion well. Managers may perform interviews with each team member to understand each person’s everyday problems and productivity. In order to create something new, we must first intimately understand what already exists.
The incubation stage is extremely similar to what I’ve said before about allowing your mind space to consider the dream. It’s easy to dismiss our best ideas because they are too far away from our current reality or because they seem too difficult in the here and now to ever achieve. When we allow these positive thoughts and dreams to exist, even in the back of our mind, we give creative thoughts the roots they need to grow into inspiration.
Insight is James Taylor’s take on inspiration, that ‘eureka!’ moment when you come across a truly unique idea or solution. It often comes on unexpectedly as your mind makes connections between ideas that may not have seemed related as you thought them over. It’s tempting to call a eureka moment a success, but the truth is that it’s merely one part of the whole creative process.
Evaluation and elaboration are the nitty-gritty parts of the creative process. You have to be willing to pick apart your own ideas, finding the most valuable ones to spend your time with. After that, it’s a long haul of working to make that thought a reality, whether that’s writing a few thousand words a day to complete a book or creating a new system to increase the productivity of your workplace.
How to Inspire Creative Thinking
Inspiring others isn’t as simple as following a process, as I’ve mentioned. As you work to be more creative in your everyday life, however, following the creative process can help you inspire others. I am seeing fresh evidence of this truth everywhere in these early days of the coronavirus. So, if you are leading others today, if you have a team that looks up to you for encouragement and hope, allow them the time and space to develop new ideas. Brainstorm with them to pick out the most valuable solutions and support their hard work in making those solutions and ideas a reality.
How you are practicing these five steps (preparation, incubation, insight, evaluation, and elaboration) today?
As a dream coach, I’ve had the privilege of helping many people from all walks of life embrace their dreams, light up their creativity and make those dreams a reality. Make some time to dream today and unleash your full creative potential!