The Benefits of Creativity

How to Extend Life, Solve Problems, and Develop Confidence

Going against the crowd with an innovative idea does not create bad stress as some might think, but instead adds to your life, allows you to help others by solving problems, and instills a deep sense of self-confidence. Yet these values are seldom sought after in business because it goes against the cultural norms of the corporate world—leading to the demise of 100+ year old companies like SEARS.

pen-idea-bulb-paperI was working in a theatre on the set construction team when the director went nuts. The scene being rehearsed left too much to the imagination and came across flat. The lead actor was supposed to use a special techno device that lacked originality and looked far from a working model. The property master had failed in bringing about the believability factor.

The director turned to me, pointed his finger and said, “You, make something that will wow the audience.”

I put on my “Imagineering” hat after scavenging through my basement, the prop closet and stage workshop. The creation required me to play with levers, buttons, gismos, blinking lights, and a bit of fog pouring out of cracks in the hoses. And of course, I did use some gaffer’s tape for good measure.

The audience admired the innovation with several people offering the theatre money for the prop. Bids kept coming in throughout the run of the show and the machine was eventually sold to offset some of the production costs. But more importantly was the outcome in my life. I was given free stage access to produce my own show to a sold out crowd.

Not only was the creative moment the key to unlocking my future in theatre, but it also gave me three additional benefits.

A Longer Life. Numerous studies now show that creativity reduces stress. The Journal of Aging and Health published findings, from 1,000 men studied between 1990 and 2008, that only creativity—not intelligence or overall openness—decreased mortality risks. In fact, all of the creative men lived longer than the others.

The University of Rochester Medical Center’s Nicholas Turiano said, “Individuals high in creativity maintain the integrity of their neural networks even into old age… Creative people may see stressors more as challenges that they can work to overcome rather than as stressful obstacles they can’t overcome.”

Improved Problem Solving. Creative people are used to seeing things from multiple perspectives, giving them an advantage in finding a solution that will work. Because creativity is a form of play for the creative, he or she is more likely to try things others may never consider. Even Einstein used what he called combinatory play. By testing the juxtaposition of various unrelated ideas he was able to create his theory of relativity.

During the NASA space missions in the 1960s and 1970s, scientists followed Einstein’s lead by using combinatory play to explore solutions that might benefit the space program. The result was over 4,000 patents that led to the creation of many common household goods of today including the super soaker, cordless vacuums, treadmills, insulation, water filters, scratch resistant lenses, solar energy, ear thermometers, etc.

A High Level of Confidence. While some people think confidence opposes humility, it is the exact opposite. Confidence is the ability to see failure as a tool that leads to success. People who have a high level of confidence seldom hold onto fears in life. This stance brings clarity of thought and the ability to improvise when needed.

The creative person who lives with failure as a tool for success sees a looming deadline as an opportunity to play. The person who lacks creativity sees the deadline as pending failure. He or she will tend to freeze up and block new ideas from forming.

We know that Thomas Edison was a creative because it took him 1,000 attempts to invent the light bulb. That means he had to be creative enough to come up with 1,001 new ideas. He didn’t have one idea that happened to work. He had a creative process in place that allowed him the opportunity to test out 1,000 freshly brainstormed ideas.

People who play it safe in corporations by not speaking up or volunteering for tasks that require creativity are missing out on the great benefits that creativity gives us: a longer life, improved problem solving abilities, and a high level of self-confidence. They are also missing out on the opportunity to play when associates freeze up with fear. For these reasons I always recommend people work on developing their creativity.

Are you able to come up with 1,001 ideas, one of which will change the world?

© 2017 by CJ Powers

The Difference Between Talent and Genius

MemoirsMagic is a word that falls short of explaining the difference between the artisan who is wildly talented in his craft versus the person that is a genius in that same craft. Yet we can understand that Michael Jordan was a genius on the basketball court and Beethoven was a genius in the concert hall.

German Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer found the distinction between talent and genius easy to delineate.

“Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.”

American Novelist Jack Kerouac, a writer who felt he had nothing to offer but his own confusion, found the roles between talent and genius clear.

“Genius gives birth, talent delivers.”

The difference between the two elements that rise from deep within the artist does not separate him from the pains that all artisans experience. Jan Swafford shared in Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph, his tragic and triumphant genius that made him an outsider. She stated that he was “utterly sure of himself and his gift, but no less self-critical and without sentimentality concerning his work.”

Swafford also shared her perspective on talent versus genius:

“Genius is something that lies on the other side of talent… Talent is largely inborn, and in a given field some people have it to a far higher degree than others. Still, in the end talent is not enough to push you to the highest achievements. Genius has to be founded on major talent, but it adds a freshness and wildness of imagination, a raging ambition, and unusual gift for learning and growing, a depth and breadth of thought and spirit, an ability to make use of not only your strengths but also your weaknesses, an ability to astonish not only your audience but yourself.”

Being self-aware, Beethoven described genius in his letter to Emilie:

“The true artist has no pride. He sees unfortunately that art has no limits; he has a vague awareness of how far he is from reaching his goal; and while others may perhaps admire him, he laments the fact that he has not yet reached the point whither his better genius only lights the way for him like a distant sun.”

Skills are taught and will accompany inborn talent, but genius is that elusive element that births the wow factor. Genius is not learned. It is what I describe as a supernatural gift that allows the artisan to create things that no one else considers. It gives him a vantage point on life that no one else can see without him manifesting it within his art.

A good example might be the author who gets writer’s block. He may be a skilled writer, but the talented continue to play with words until the story comes together. The talented has several books inside of him waiting to come out, but the genius has an unlimited supply of stories to share for his lifetime.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

The Highs of Combinatory Play

Dream_Play

Being creative never ends. Nor is it something that is easily turned off. Some have suggested that once it gets into your blood or bones, you’re hooked for life. Maybe it’s the innovation that drives inspiration to do it again or possibly it’s just the thrill from the last project that gives you a boost for the next one.

There is a euphoric feeling that comes at the end of each creation that catapults a person to try something imaginative one more time. I’ve heard it described as the same result runners get from endorphins popping within their blood. They’re driven to do another run within the next 2-3 days, because their biological systems respond as if they were coming down from a drug high. Everything within them screams for another fix that only a run can bring.

But creativity is not a drug. Nor does it create drug like responses. The built in thrill comes from triumphs of moving from concept to completion. And I’m not speaking of just any type of accomplishment, but the ones that naturally cause a person to play. Being creative is all about being flexible, a good troubleshooter, and most of all a person who loves to play.

If the project isn’t fun, then it’s not a creative project.

Even Einstein took time to play with ideas. He used a concept called combinatory play to develop a good number of his theories and inventions. He started with two columns of lists. Then he drew a line between an item on the first list and another item on the second list. The result was something completely new to consider.

Computer Slicer
Coffee Maker Ticket
Sun Glasses Soda Can
Toast Window
Bagel Small Container

If a person draws a line between the bagel and slicer, he would start to come up with the invention of the bagel slicer, which of course was invented. Connecting Coffee Maker with Small Container may have led to the single cup coffee makers of today. There are many other combinations that will spark creative thinking that leads to innovation.

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.”  —Steve Jobs

I’ve been told many times that I’m the most creative person any given he or she had ever known. They’re also amazed at the wide and diverse range of activities I’ve experienced in life. The wealth of experiences within my memory gives me numerous things to ponder every day. And, with all of those experiences I’ll never find myself bored. After all, the beginning of any creation can pop up in my head just by considering a possible combination as I play mental gymnastics.

I’ll never forget inventing an illusion in middle school and then seeing it used in a television magic special that Friday night. I realized that the combination of experiences I used to create the illusion wasn’t unique. Someone had already dreamt up the same idea. But I felt great knowing that my idea worked and looked amazing. It gave me a high and I dove in to create again.

The afterglow of creativity always energizes additional inspiration with new perspectives and ideas. The playfulness around the conceptual makes it fun to bring the ideas into reality and the word failure never shows up, simply because there’s not enough time to be critical when exploring various possibilities. It’s all about play and feeling great.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

 

Creativity without a Box

Give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they will either fix it or come up with something better.I just finished reading a short article in Forbes about a creative specialist who consults with CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. I laughed at the absurdity of his latest book that tries to convince executives that successful businesses once started inside of the box, and then started to think outside of the box, and now must find a new box. The irony is especially rich as the latest surveys clarify the company of the future is one that operates without a box.

Creative experts pushed corporations out of their offices and placed them into large rooms where everyone’s paths would cross. The idea was more networking and a broader understanding of what everyone else manages. Unfortunately the amount of actual work being accomplished dropped significantly. Today’s surveys reveal that creatives need private areas to innovate.

The makers of Red Bull, one of the most creative out of the box thinkers in the food industry, conducted a survey that showed 60% of respondents needed a private space in order to explore their creativity. This does not diminish their ability to collaborate, as 30% of the respondents stated they collaborate in these private spaces.

The creative expert’s book went on to say that true ingenuity needs structure, analysis and brainstorming. This is in stark contrast to Ed Catmull’s book, “Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration.” Catmull, co-founder with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter of Pixar Animation Studios, clarified the importance of the company’s communication structure not mirroring its organizational structure.

During his tenure as president of Pixar and Disney Animation, Catmull learned that the more structure and analysis you put on creatives, the more mediocre their work. But, “give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they will either fix it or come up with something better.” In other words, you can’t use logic to control creatives without killing their creativity.

Creatives must take risks to innovate and corporate executives must focus on risk mitigation. These contrary ideas must remain separate in order for innovation to catapult the company into the next decade and beyond.

This can be done by allowing creatives to talk to anyone they need to talk to within the company regardless of hierarchy. And, their managers must make it safe for creatives to take risks by fending off the executives that are risk adverse.

There is no longer a new box to find. There are no logical points of control that can manage people to be more creative. There is only the fun and freedom it takes to create within a team—never saying no, only saying yes, until the next best idea rises above the previous one.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

Breaking the Deterrents of Creativity

StripAll too often I hear someone say that they’re not creative, but I know it’s far from the truth when I see the cool ideas they generate. What they might mean is that they are too muddled down in their own habits to see life from a new perspective. Or, they are so regimented in their schooling, which was originally designed to train students for factory work, that they find it hard to break free of their rhythm in the name of progress.

The greatest deterrent to creativity is the discipline and habits that individuals form to fit into a logical society. However, our culture is now changing and requires creativity to survive, so its time to change gears and learn how to create and innovate. Here are three steps that a person can take to increase their creativity.

1. Break Habits. People talk about how ideas pop into their head while showering or doing anything mundane like eating breakfast. Those things do tend to happen when we first get up, but soon dissipate with the rigors of a work filled day. To counter the effects of habits we need to purposely change our life patterns.

By parking in a new space, sitting in a different place during a meeting, or walking a new way back to your office can fill your senses with new observations. The fresh experience will generate unfelt reactions, altered thinking, and a form of circumstantial genius that allows you to take in data that you’ve never considered before—all of which will fuel your creativity.

The above cartoon demonstrates the breaking of a habit. The ant that said, “A,” broke the habit of repetition. The ant that joined in, albeit skeptically, by saying, “B,” supported the change. Unfortunately, the next ant was confused because he didn’t focus on the unexpected.

2. Focus on the Unexpected. Boredom sets in when we find ourselves trapped in a reoccurring scenario day after day. When we focus on the unique or unexpected circumstance, we open our minds to consider new perspectives and ideas.

The person that focuses on the newfangled experience reenergizes their faculties of observation and creativity. This also opens the door to developing new patterns that can lead to success, especially when focused on the possibilities that come from the change.

Had the 7th ant focused on the change and said, “A,” the 8th ant would have most likely said, “B”—affecting permanent change. Unfortunately the focus on the change was missing, which encouraged the 8th ant to go back to the same boring, yet comfortable pattern as usual. Creativity lost its opportunity because the last ant wasn’t willing to live in the moment.

3. Live in the Moment. The person that drives to work at the exact same time and takes the same route rarely lives in the moment. The person who lives in the moment creates fresh opportunities and experiences a heightened sense of reality that feeds his or her creative soul. The new stimulus can help us capture information in a new and exciting manner.

The freshness from living in the moment is invigorating for positive people and fear ridden for those who see the cup as almost empty. Perspective plays a major role in the fear factor, which can paralyze those who seldom see the world through the eyes of hope.

The 5th ant above was living in the moment and made an exciting change. The 6th ant was also living in the moment, but was so uncomfortable with change that he questioned the new direction by dragging his proverbial feet. The 7th ant was perplexed and didn’t want to return to the old boring life, nor did he want to support the unknown. His ability to live in the moment wasn’t based on wonder, but instead based on fear.

These three steps allow our mind to meander and draw information from various memories in a new fresh way. Being purposeful in breaking old habits like the ones that no longer serve our vision, can open us up to an unforgettable adventure. By focusing on this change and paying attention to how it unfolds empowers us to turn the unexpected into a vision-boosting rocket. And, living in the moment helps us to steer change into a positive result.

While these three steps drive creativity, it’s our participation that determines success or fear formed failure. Embrace a positive mindset and start breaking habits today.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

Creativity—No More Corporate Box

Failures within the Fortune 1,000 world have become critical over the past ten years. To learn how to protect corporations from bad decisions, IBM polled 1,500 CEOs to learn the #1 leadership competency required to survive the future. The answer was “Creativity.”

Two years ago a dozen corporate futurists also stated that creativity was moved to the number one slot of the top ten skills list needed for advancement. Business analysts stated that the only growth companies were those that thrived in creative environments with innovators on staff.

The flurry of activity surrounding creativity in the corporate sector suggested that HR departments needed to set up creative training sessions, adjust hiring scripts and find ways to compensate those who created beneficial solutions. But hundreds of HR departments did nothing.

Over the years HR has become a science, while creativity remains an art form. It’s hard to scientifically measure the value of a creative to determine which one should be hired. It’s also difficult for a director, who was taught that people are supposed to work in the figurative box that the company made, to design a program that trains logical people to play in a box-less environment.

BOXsm

Corporations needed to build the box lifestyle for employees during the days of industry in America. By the time the personal computer was invented, corporations needed people who thought outside of the box. For our future, corporations need to hire people who don’t work, but play, not in or out of a box, but in a box-less environment.

And they don’t get it.

Who doesn’t get it?

Well, let’s start with SEARS or any other relator that is headed toward bankruptcy. The list is getting longer every year. Just think about SEARS having survived for 124 years both inside the box and outside of it, but now that a box no longer exists, the company has no clue how to survive. Some are guessing its doors will close during its 125-year anniversary.

I was once taught that business is always moving. If its not moving forward with growth, then it’s moving backwards with decline. A business is incapable of standing still. I was also taught that innovation (creativity) was the only thing that could grow a company exponentially. Creativity is movement.

The companies throughout history that disrupted their business market with new innovative solutions always captured 40-90% of the market and forced all other competitors to share the leftovers.

The fact that progress is impossible without change stumps numerous leaders. But a creative knows that change is inevitable and chooses to create the change rather than worrying about what may or may not take place by the hand of others.

Creatives are the leaders of our cultural future.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

The Misunderstood Creative (pt. 2)

part2(Click Here To Read Part One)

The creative is misunderstood no matter how hard they try to temporarily fit into society. Some think its because they live 5-10 years ahead of everyone else. Others think it’s their unique wiring that gets them in trouble with the logical ones in life. Regardless of the arguments, its better to learn how to understand the creative rather than pointing out their differences as being weird.

Here are some insights that would help the cause of understanding.

6. They Feel Deeply. It’s not possible to create something of great meaning without first experience the depths of the idea to an even greater depth than would be expected. The creative feels everything more deeply than others so they can feel and understand the emotional tug that must be placed within their art.

Many creative people have well intact memories of their deepest experiences that can be drawn from. Those writing about despair are capable of reliving their darkest moments in order to get the flavor of the experience onto paper. The same is true for the highest of highs. The mere thought of a joyful moment will cause a smile to bust open on the writer’s face.

When the average person watches the writer relive a terrifying moment from their life, it’s all too easy for them to consider dropping the subject. But, the writer embraces the moment to capture the right emotions for his creative work. The unpleasant experience is justified in the final emotionally driven story.

7. Give Long Explanations. When you ask a creative a question, he gives a long-ish story in response. The average person would prefer a short concise answer, but for the artist, the point isn’t the answer, but the journey of the experience. The creative will answer in story form so the person asking the question gets a feeling for everything that led up to the answer.

When I was a kid my family ate dinner together almost every night. My mom would always start off the conversation with any information we’d need for later. Once we had been briefed, my mom would ask dad a question about work. In his artistic storytelling fashion, we’d then experience the life of a cop as he told numerous stories of the day’s events. He was never capable of answering her question in a few sentences. Instead, we all went on a journey as junior cops exploring his day through story.

8. They are Their Work. Artistry is a very personal work that every creative does from his or her heart. They are not capable of separating their art from who they are. The voice of the critic makes life a struggle since each critique is a commentary of their self-worth—validated or condemned. When all goes well, the artist shines all the more, but when things turn south the artist must fight for their emotional survival.

I’ll never forget the premiere of “The Ragman.” It was one of my earlier films made on a micro budget. I had to set up the food tables, collect tickets and then put my tux on in the men’s restroom. A critic caught me dressing and wrote his column on my hole-in-the-wall production company instead of the movie. The film flopped in the U.S. and broke even overseas. I was humiliated—a feeling that resided in me for years. As a result, I can now write tear-jerking stories.

9. Off-the-Hook Intuitive. Creatives intuitively know how to flow within their art form, while the average person can’t even understand the how and whys of artistry. Science has tried to create robot art numerous times, but continues to fail at capturing the essence of the imagery. This is due largely to the intuitive nature of tweaking art based on the artistic imperfections of the human condition—something that must be experienced and can’t be faked by algorithms.

I remember teaching a photography class on composition. The lesson was on the golden section versus the rule of thirds. I ran a quick competition with the students. They would shoot their best work using the rule of thirds and I was to shoot my work using the golden section. We showed the great pictures to numerous students outside of class and the golden section pictures won every time. Okay, I probably should’ve mentioned to the students that I was a national award-winning photographer in both Kodak and Polaroid competitions that year, but I wanted them to emotionally buy into the golden section, not just learn its measurements.

10. Love to Play. Life is about movement, action and adventure. Creatives are always learning and exploring anything that raises their curiosity. Research to an artist is a game that’s fun to play and filled with lots of observations. They toss out the stodgy idea of a methodical program and instead plunge into a more interesting way of capturing the essence of what they’ve set out to learn.

I can’t help but notice that during family birthdays a couple people always find ways of acting goofy. The childlike behaviors invigorate the group with life and joy. The artists in the family seem to get younger every year and some of the more logical folks find themselves sitting in chairs and conversing about the goofy ones rolling around on the floor with the little ones. I’ll admit that at birthday parties I’ve flown trips to the moon, gone on deep sea diving excursions and have piloted an airplane in and out of volcanoes just before they’ve erupted—all while sitting underneath the cake table with happy kids.

I hope these thoughts help you to better understand the creative soul. I also hope its stirred your own heart to bring your creative streak back to the forefront of your life with enthusiasm. Life for a creative is always full of play and that very choice leads to a young energetic life.

(Click Here To Read Part One)

© 2017 by CJ Powers