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The ABCs of Creativity: Risk

Being creative means taking risks. When you’re doing something new, that no one’s ever done before, or that you haven’t done before, you’re taking a risk. It may be a small risk; no one will see you mess up a canvas or write a sentence incorrectly. Or it may be a big risk: taking on an assignment at work that could decided the fate of the company. There are a lot of different kinds of risk in between.

When you stood up for the first time, you were taking a risk. You might lose your balance and fall. Of course, your baby mind didn’t really think of it like that. When you fell down, you probably cried and were comforted by your parent(s) or guardian. Then you got up and tried it again. Then maybe you took the next step, literally, after standing. That probably resulted in falling down to.

As a baby, you were used to taking those risks. If you were in diapers, it didn’t hurt a lot. Even if it did hurt, you didn’t mind after a while. You saw everyone else standing and walking, and you wanted to get there, too.

You probably continued to take risks growing up. Raising your hand to answer a question was a risk: if you got it right, kids might think you’re a know-it-all; get it wrong and the teacher might think you’re dumb. You probably learned that answering the question wasn’t worth it.

As an adult, if you suggested something new at work, you were probably met with objections and derision. That risk was bad enough. In some places, a creative person is seen as a threat.

But people are meant to be creative. If you want to become, if you want a happier overall life, if you want to make something, you’ve got to take the risk. You may fail, you may make mistakes, but if you do it right, you’ll have fun and learn more about who you are.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.

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The ABCs of Creativity: Question

child on shoreline

When you were young, you probably asked a lot of questions: Why is the sky blue? Where do babies come from? Why do I have to eat broccoli? Why do bees buzz? Why? Why? But why?

And you were probably met with: Because I said so. Because they do. Because it is. I don’t know. Be quiet. Shut up. Children are best seen and not heard. Stop asking questions. Now is not the time…

It didn’t get better in school – a place you were supposed to be to learn things. Unfortunately, many of the things you were supposed to learn were what the teacher wanted to teach you or, if you were really unlucky, what was required by standardized testing and curriculum. There was a right answer, and it was whatever the teacher said it was. There was no room for deviation or questioning. The best pupils were quiet and accepted what they were told. Questions were unwelcomed because they took time away from the subject at hand and caused other students to question what they were learning, which caused confusion for the less inquisitive.

But ultimately, questioning is a good thing as long as the questions are asked with an honest intent to learn and understand. Questions like “How does a burr attach to clothes?” “How do I improve shoes for athletes?” and “Why isn’t there a place for adults and children to have fun?” have led to multi-billion-dollar companies. Questioning improves creativity through its ability to spark deeper thinking.

The question “Why?” is powerful, but you’ll still be met with resistance. “Why” is often seen as threatening and accusing. Many people will respond with “because it’s always been done that way.” “Why not?” can be just as powerful because it can free you to try something new.

With the Internet, you should be able to find out the answers to many questions, but that’s not enough for creativity. You must make sure the information is accurate and that you didn’t just accept it because of confirmation bias. Then you must assimilate the information and allow it to change your behavior and thoughts. Learning from your questions is only part of becoming more creative, but it’s an important part.

For more on creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Get “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” Read how the Internet affected Cathy Cooke’s creativity.

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The ABCs of Creativity: Practice

That’s all this stuff is… It’s just practice, you know, and you continue to practice.

Tim Perkins at Malta Comic Con 2015

You were creative once. School, authority figures, and a system that punishes mistakes and failures, while rarely rewarding those who create, beat it out of you – or rather, it beat the belief that you are creative out of you. But that’s where your ascendancy in creativity starts: Believe you are creative and start practicing. Creativity is a skill. Some people have more talent at it, but everyone can become more creative. All it takes is practice.

Practice your problem-solving skills, look for more than one solution, even if you find one that will work, go an extra two or three steps and find more ways to solve the same problem. The more solutions you come up with, the more likely you are to hit on one that will be better than the others. However, even if your first solution is the best, you’ll have explored other options and exercised your creative muscle.

Practice coming up with ideas. Keep the idea process flowing, track them, and make the ideas important. Then choose one to implement. While you’re implementing the idea, don’t stop coming up with new ideas. As long as you track them, they’ll be available when you finish implementing the first idea.

When you do implement that first idea, it won’t be great. It’s not supposed to be great. If this is your first foray into the realm of a creative endeavor, you will probably make mistakes, and the effort will probably fail. That’s okay. It’s like walking when you were a toddler. You probably fell hundreds of times; you’ve probably tripped and possibly fell recently. That didn’t stop you from getting up and going again.

Write every day. Draw every day. Do something creative every day. You will get better at it.

Of course, classes, mentorships and knowledge about your chosen area are essential to being more creative. If your new to physics, you’re not going to know enough to be creative in the field though you could be creative for yourself. Once you have a could base, it’s just practice, practice, practice, even if you’re Allen Iverson.

For more on creativity get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate: Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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The ABCs of Creativity: Open

Open to new experiences

If you want to be more creative, you have to be open. You have to open yourself up to new experiences, new ideas and remain open minded. People are naturally closed. They want to confirm their beliefs and be comfortable, which is counter to creativity. Creativity challenges. Creativity is uncomfortable. Creativity is scary because it leads to change, and no one can really predict where the innovation will take people.

Open to New Experiences

New experiences are the basis of new ideas. Having the same experiences day and day out only leads you to becoming an expert in whatever your experiencing or becoming extremely dull depending on the experience. At some point, you need to step out of your everyday activities and work on something different. It can be as simple as putting together a puzzle or as complicated as taking a zip line in a foreign country where safety rules might be more like suggestions. Even something small like changing the route you take to work is good for your brain.

Open to New Ideas

If you continue to cart around the same ideas day after day, your mind will become stale like a cart full of bread. Your thought processes will mold, and you’ll be faced with the prospect of not being able to feed your mind. New ideas are worth entertaining, they’re worth looking at, and they’re worth evaluating. You may have to discard ideas that don’t work. You may have to discard ideas that you can’t accomplish. You may have to discard ideas because you’re not ready for them, but where you need to discard them to is a journal. Capture all of your ideas by writing them down, and then have new ones.

Open Minded

New experiences and new ideas won’t matter, however, if you go in having already made your judgement about them. You have to have an open mind to the experience and to the idea in order for it to be able to grow. If you shut it down to soon, it’ll shrivel up, dry out and leave no lasting mark on you. That’s not good for creativity. Open yourself up to the experience, to the new idea and let your creative self flourish.

For more on creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Get “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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The ABCs of Creativity: New

The textbook definition of creativity involves making something new that has value. “Something” can be defined to include new ways of doing things or thinking, but it is the new that’s important. Depending on the situation, creativity can include things that are new to the person doing them (personal creativity) or to the world at large.

A New Way of Seeing

Human beings have to sort through a lot of information every second of the day. This leads to focusing on some things and ignoring other things altogether. You probably have already seen this video. If not, count the number of passes the team in white makes.

Did you see the gorilla? Selective attention is what helps us sort through the stimuli. It allows us to ignore both the very common place and the very out of place.

According to Kevin Ashton’s “How to Fly a Horse” (p. 97), one study showed that 75 percent of people walking and talking on their cell phones did not see a unicycling clown that had been put in their path. Their brains decided that the clown was someone else’s problem and not pertinent to the phone conversation. This is called inattentional blindness, and one reason you should never drive and use your cell phone. Your brain prioritizes the phone conversation over the information you are seeing, or not seeing as the case may be, on the road in front of you.

The problem for creativity is that it takes the combination of two or more pieces of information in a new way to be creative. If we’re ignoring information that doesn’t fit in with what we think should be there or our world view, or we’re adding information that isn’t there because we think it should be there, we can’t be creative.

For more on creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Get “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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The ABCs of Creativity: Journal

Journal and iPhone

Leonardo da Vinci wrote his backwards. Walt Disney is rumored to have had one by his bed, so he could jot notes down as they came to him at night. They help with feelings and can be used for different reasons. Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Mark Twain, Thomas Edison and Frida Kahlo are other creative people who kept journals. If you want to improve your creativity, a creative journal can be a big help.

Popular stories about solutions to problems and creative leaps forward often feature some sort of relaxed state of being. The person is drifting off to sleep, in the shower, out for a walk, or driving a vehicle and the idea presents itself. Far too often people complain that these ideas fade quickly. They can’t remember them, and they didn’t write them down.

Keeping a journal and a pencil with you at all times, or using a recording device to make notes when your hands are otherwise occupied, will allow you to capture these ideas. More importantly, by keeping a journal that tracks ideas and inspirations, you’re telling your brain what you find to be important. Write it down, or transcribe it later, and keep these ideas together. When you’re ready to work on something, go to your idea journal. If you experience a block, the idea journal can help.

If you want to find a form of journal taking that gamifies ideas, check out Takeo Higuchi’s Idea Marathon at our archive website. Higuchi’s method provides a way to keep track of and have ideas while scoring points!

For more on creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Get “Penguinate! Positive Creativity: Improve your Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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The ABCs of Creativity: Humor

Bertha in the Elephant Bathing Pool

Edward de Bono says that humor involves the same kind of thought process that creativity does. You’re going along one direction and suddenly the punchline moves you in another direction. The same is true of creativity. People think the thought process is in one direction when someone takes it in another. The move to a creative solution looks like a leap to people outside the process.

Humor improves the business environment by taking down a person’s self-monitoring process. People build up walls to protect themselves and their jobs. These walls are made of monitoring and judging what they do and say. Humor takes down those walls and allows people to be more themselves. When inhibitions and self-monitoring are reduced, creativity can flow.

When Marc Davis joined the Disneyland designed team, he worked on the Jungle Cruise. When the attraction opened in 1955, it was a straight attraction. The skippers would take people through the displays as if they were real. Davis added humorous scenes to the attraction and to the spiel. Davis’ humor is what makes the Jungle Cruise a continually popular, classic attraction. Without Davis’ creativity, the Jungle Cruise may have gone the way of other defunct Disneyland attractions.

The more humor you engage in, the more creative you become. Just be sure that the humor gets others to laugh with you and not at them. Joining an improv group can help guide you to greater humor and creative heights.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative” and “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Becoming More Creative for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.

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The ABCs of Creativity: Goals

Penguins with ball

Many people think that creativity only involves a free-for-all, throw-stuff-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks, and it can be that. Disney uses “Blue Sky” as its terminology for ideas that have no boundaries. Some organizations call it “Green Field” thinking. A simple brainstorming session can also encompass this type of idealized creativity. One person alone or a group of people coming up with ideas about anything and everything.

But that’s not really how most creativity works. Disney might have blue sky sessions that encompass everything from transportation to theme park attractions and TV series to communication break-throughs, but most of the time these sessions are focused on a goal. The goal may still be overwhelmingly large, like a story for the next great Pixar movie, but it is a goal nonetheless. Jackson Pollock doesn’t sit down to write a novel and end up with a painting, and George R.R. Martin doesn’t sit down to write a novel and end up with clay statue.

For some people, the word goal may be too pointed. There still have to be limitations or a problem that the person is solving before he or she can really engage the creative juices. The goal, or general direction, helps people to focus their creative energy and allows the brain to pick up on the importance of the project or question. Even if no answer is immediately forthcoming, the problem may be solved during an unrelated activity.

If you’re having trouble firing up your creativity, it may be because your too thinly spread. Focus on one thing you want to make better and work on that. One goal I always come back to is “What can we do to make Tomorrowland more about tomorrow?”

If you have suggestions, leave them in the comments section below. You can read some of my ruminations in the upcoming book “Penguinate! The Disney Company.” Until its release, you can pick up “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative” and “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Becoming More Creative for a Better Life and World.” You can also preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.

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The ABCs of Creativity: Failure

foul ball failure

“I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young. I learned a lot out of that” – Walt Disney.

As students, we grow up learning that failure is bad. A big red “F” accompanied by red marks on the page looks like spilled blood and marks an academic death. Too many failures, and you won’t get into the right college, you won’t get the right job, and you won’t make any money. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there.

As an employee, failure is never applauded and often leads to your boss directing stern words (if not outright yelling) at you or dismissing you from the job entirely. Failure isn’t seen as the stepping stone it can be, but rather as the end of the journey. It doesn’t have to be that way.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” – Thomas Edison.

Failure is not only important for creativity. It’s inevitable. Any time you’re doing something new, you’re going to fail. Your first ideas won’t necessarily be the best, and they won’t necessarily work. They may even cause more problems than they solve. Whatever happens, if you’re trying something new, you will fail unless you get lucky.

The most successful sports figures fail all the time. Ted Williams had an on base percentage (OBP) of less than 50 percent. He failed to get on base more than half the time he was at bat, and he has the best all-time OBP in the MLB. NBA player DeAndre Jordan hits a little more than 2/3 of his shots from the field and has the highest shooting percentage in NBA history (so far). If in-game shooting were a test in school, he’d only score a “D.” NFL Quarterback Drew Brees is in a slightly better position with his over 67 percent completion rate, but in school it would come down to being the same grade. Other than Ted Williams, who was happy with $30,000 a year, these guys are making millions of dollars and failing a lot on a very public stage.

The important thing about failure is to learn from it. Failing without learning doesn’t help anyone. Most people learn more from their failures than their successes. When you fail, find out what you missed and what went wrong. You’ll find yourself set up for greater success as you harness the power of creativity and learn lessons from failing.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Become more creative for a better life and world.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.

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The ABCs of Creativity: Explore

If you’ve ever seen a group of children on the playground, you know they’re everywhere. They’re on the equipment, on the swings and going down the slide. They’re grabbing bark dust, examining the concrete near the playground area and running into the field. They’re hanging out near the fence, crawling through the sand box and sticking their heads and arms out of the holes in the cargo nets or boxes near the top of the slide. They’re having fun, exploring and playing. It’s all part of growing up, learning and being creative.

If you’re a parent, you don’t have to just watch, you can listen, too. Children are using language in new and different ways, especially for them. They are exploring their imaginations and relationships with other children. They’re exploring what they can get away with and what they are capable of. They do this naturally. They aren’t aware of the process. They couldn’t tell you what they are exploring or doing beyond the literal and obvious, but they are developing skills for future use.

Adults don’t do this type of exploring as much if at all. In fact, many adults have given up on exploring. They fall into a routine and remain stuck there, which is fine if they are happy and fulfilled. However, exploration can help you grab a hold of life and get the most out of your experience. You’ll learn new things, have new experiences and become a more interesting person. When you look intently at the intersection or seek information, you’re setting yourself up to be able to create and synthesize your knowledge into something new. Explore your world, and then seek new worlds.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Buy “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Become More Creative for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” Check out these links on creativity.