The Highs of Combinatory 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


Makers vs. Managers: Blocking Out Productivity

timeTime management comes to the forefront of everyone’s mind during the holiday season. Failing to block out enough time for events with friends and family can spin fun time into bouts of shouting. The approaching New Year also gives rise to planners and dreamers that require effective time management to succeed.

I’ve learned, during my tenure in the world of Fortune 50 corporations, small mom and pop type businesses and retail, that there are two primary ways of managing time. The organic processes naturally developed from the functional needs of two types of workers.

Workers who create, build, or produce are “makers.” Those who manage others are “managers.” Both require good time management skills to accomplish their charter, but each requires a very different structure of blocking out time for effectiveness.

Professional makers need large blocks of time to create their product, content or intellectual property. Time is required to get in the zone, be productive, and document activities enough to pick up where they left off at a future time. Most industries require time blocks of 2 or 4 hours.

Makers tend to use the morning for creative blocks of time and the afternoons for logical endeavors. However, makers also break the rules and might find they are more productive during the wee hours of the night. Only 60% of the top 100 authors of the 20th century followed this pattern of creating in the morning and editing in the afternoon. Most wrote when they were inspired and fixed their writings at more logical times.

Professional managers typically oversee the tactical efforts of a team. They tend to block out their time in smaller half-hour increments, allowing some level of flexibility to put out the next “fire” that attempts to erode the team’s progress. The smaller segments allow for faster responses and adjustments to circumstantial changes in the tactical operations of the day.

Strong managers block out empty time slots to shift their mandatory work after a “fire” takes the team off task. In other words, they plan for the proverbial fires each day. Most managers primary goal is to support their team and make sure they continue functioning no matter what surprise issues arise.

Productivity crashes when a manager tries to block out 2-4 hour increments that keeps him or her away from supporting their team. Likewise, makers that try to touch numerous projects in a given day using half-hour increments soon finds their work less provocative, of a lower quality and far less entertaining.

Blocking out time based on function is the only method that supports the type of work the makers and managers face. Constant interruptions of a maker produce little results. Long durations of managers away from their team weaken their process and negatively impacts tactical results.

The right type of time and duration is critical to the success of both the makers and managers. Blocking out time based on function will always facilitate success. This will bring peace to the worker and confidence that his or her workload will be completed on time.

Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers