I always think about where the most creative place on earth could be. Is it ancient Egypt where many of the inventions that make our lives easier today have been invented?. The Calendar, clocks, irrigation systems, the sickle, make-up, wigs, surgical instruments and many more products that are being used on a daily basis, all came from ‘The land of the Nile’. The Egyptians were so effective and creative that their design of the great pyramids and sphinx leaves architects baffled till this day.
Or is it the ancient Greeks where the trailblazing society of the western world initially started? The Greeks have left their marks on literature, sports, philosophy and much more. They blended music, poetry, song and dance to produce this colossal form of artistic and creative expression known as Mousikē. This concept of Mousikē was intertwined into every aspect of life. These forms of art were attached to just about everything they did.
Or could it be Nigeria, the land of the Ife and Benin people? We can still see today an astounding range of objects made of bronze, brass, copper, wood, ceramic and ivory that they made. The superb level of Ife craftsmanship, using the “lost wax” method, is comparable with the finest examples of metal-work in Europe from Classical and Renaissance times many centuries after.
So where is the most creative place? Well, it is none of the places mentioned above. The most creative place in the world is the graveyard.
Are you shocked? Well let me explain. The graveyard is filled with so many ideas that were never pursued. So many ideas that lay dormant in the minds of the dead. Ideas that will possibly never see the light of day. Ideas so powerful, but we’re never let loose to cause change. An idea is alive. Living inside the mind of its creator. An idea can survive centuries after the death of its creator. They say great ideas never die.
What do Rembrandt, Picasso, Curie, Einstein and Ronaldinho have in common? They are all creative people that have excelled in their different areas of specialization. People who have paved the way and kicked in the door for future generations to think outside the box. One major characteristic shared between these great people is that they have been able to turn great ideas into reality. Our brains are truly a magnificent organ. Composed of 85% water, but with powers that far elevates us humans above the level of other animals. Scientists estimate that the mind has between 60,000 – 80,000 thoughts a day. Of Course not all of these thoughts are thinking about the cure for cancer or another revolutionary idea. In fact a vast majority of these thoughts are repetitive and senseless wanderings that we are not even aware of. We become truly creative when we are faced with an obstacle. Creativity is the ability to connect different ideas in order to solve a problem.
There are two major types of ideas that are common to us;
- Ideas that you actively think about
- Ideas that come to you
These two types of ideas are the building blocks of every creative process. When we actively think of ideas, a lot is taken into consideration and the process is rigid. For example, while writing this article, I did some research and jotted down what I wanted to convey to the reader. I actively dedicated time to think about what you are reading this very moment. In contrast, ideas that come to you are more flexible and rely on your feeling or intuition. For example, the first paragraph of this article came to me while I was jogging. These kinds of random thoughts that breeze in and out of your brain are sometimes the key to discovering the solution to a problem or creating a new idea altogether. Writing down these ideas is a good way to remember them but also fosters the growth of bigger and better ideas.
We need more creative people in our society, but the world we live in doesn’t always welcome and appreciate creative people. Jordan B. Peterson gives a perfect analogy on why creative people can sometimes become targets, due to their visibility;
“A group of zoologists were studying a zeal of zebras in a safari. There’s something interesting about zebras. You might not think that a zebra is well camouflaged, because you can see its black and white striped body from miles away in a grey or green grass. But evolution has designed that a single zebra is extremely difficult to spot in a herd of zebras. This is because the black and white stripes of all the zebras blend into each other leaving the viewer confused. The zoologists kept losing track of their test zebra in the herd of the zebras so they devised a plan. A rather fatal one…
They decided to paint a red spot on the back of their test zebra. Problem solved right? Well no! The scientists were finally able to spot their zebra from miles away but the lions as well. The zebra died in less than a day. The lions could narrow their gaze at the painted zebra and easily chase it down. This was something the lions found extremely hard to do when the herd of zebras stood together”.
Creative people are the red zebras who are easily noticed by everyone. Being creative makes you stand out from the herd. Being creative leaves you open to criticism, envy and jealousy. You can understand why people like to blend into the crowd, where they are safe from the dangerous lions. I would like however, to argue that the benefits of being creative far supersedes the few disadvantages. For one, the world changers that we still talk about till this day are all creatives. The world only remembers people who have made a difference.
Creative thinking differs from our normal everyday thought process. Creative thinking (a companion to critical thinking) is an invaluable skill that we should all have. It’s important because it helps us look at problems and situations from a fresh perspective. Creative thinking is a way to develop novel or unorthodox solutions that do not depend wholly on past or current solutions. It’s a way of employing strategies to clear your mind so that your thoughts and ideas can transcend what appear to be the limitations of a problem. Creative thinking is a way of moving beyond barriers. As a creative thinker, you are curious, optimistic, and imaginative. You see problems as interesting opportunities, and you challenge assumptions and suspend judgment.
The pace of change in the world is accelerating rapidly and it will continue to change with the development of new technologies. This means that the way we taught in the past might no longer be appropriate for the future. Nobody can fully predict what skills, let alone knowledge, will be needed to succeed in life. We need to be equipped with the appropriate 21st Century skills to manage and deal with change effectively. Creative thinking is one of these and is regarded as a key skill for success.
Here are some easy strategies that can help in stimulating our creative thinking;
- By asking “Why?”. By beginning to notice the world around us, our curiosity is stirred up and we question everything. Anyone who has been around children knows that they are endlessly curious and question everything. As we grow up, we are taught to listen more and ask less questions. This slowly kills our creativity as we all blend into a herd of zebras.
- Sleep on ideas. Over the years, researchers have found that the REM sleep cycle boosts our creativity and problem-solving abilities, providing us with innovative ideas or answers to vexing dilemmas when we awaken. Keep a pen and paper by the bed so you can write down your nocturnal insights if they wake you up.
- Go for a run or hit the gym. Studies indicate that exercise stimulates creative thinking, and the brainpower boost lasts for a few hours.
- Allow your mind to wander a few times every day. Far from being a waste of time, daydreaming has been found to be an essential part of generating new ideas. If you’re stuck on a problem or creatively blocked, think about something else for a while.
- Keep learning. Studying something far removed from your area of expertise is especially effective in helping you think in new ways.
- Put yourself in nerve-racking situations once in a while to fire up your brain. Fear and frustration can trigger innovative thinking.
- Keep a notebook with you so you always have a way to record fleeting thoughts. They’re sometimes the best ideas of all.
Are you a convergent or divergent thinker? Convergent and Divergent thinking are like two sides of a coin. They are completely in contrast with each other yet extremely important in our daily lives. It’s not a must for one to always be in conjunction with another but they tend to function best when used in conjunction. Divergent thinking is the process of devising many creative ways to solve a problem. This way of thinking is spontaneous and free flowing, and it usually works best for answering open ended questions. On the contrary, convergent thinking is logical and calculated. This usually works best where a single answer is preferred and a number of restrictions exist. The best thinkers are people who can make use of both thinking strategies. Most people lean towards one thinking direction, but knowing which area you are lacking in is good so you could know where to focus your efforts.
This information is useful for the formation of efficient project teams. A good manager explores his/her members thinking styles and notices which area the team is lacking. This is important in establishing a suitable team dynamic where everyone knows their strengths and is an equal contributor. This also ensures that all possible ideas and solutions are tabled and discussed.