Posted on Leave a comment

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.”

Advertisements
Posted on 2 Comments

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.”

Posted on 1 Comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on 1 Comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

The ABCs of Creativity: Definition

Professor Penguin studies for greater knowledge.

Creativity is on of those things that people don’t know how to define, but they know it when they see it. In 1950, Joy Paul Guilford, the president of the American Psychology Association, called for greater emphasis on creativity research. Almost 70 years later, psychologists still haven’t reached an agreed upon definition. Many people say that creativity is the generation of something new that has value. This is vague because the question of “to whom?” remains unanswered.

Creativity is the way that people solve problems in new and better ways. From cooking over an open fire to using a pot-bellied stove to using a stove with controlled temperatures to using an energy efficient stove, these improvements are due to someone being creative with the question of how do we make food better to eat and more convenient to make. Without creativity, humans would still be eating raw meat if they survived as a species at all.

There are many definitions of creativity. The most important thing to remember is that being creative involves the use of the imagination to solve a problem in a new way. Don’t let a definition stop you from realizing your creative potential.

Need more definitions of creativity from artists, comic book writers, and other people who make a living through their creativity? Check out these videos on my YouTube channel. You can also find more definitions in “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.”

Posted on Leave a comment

The ABCs of Creativity: Courage

Human beings have a biological need to be accepted as part of a group. In tribal situations, being sent away from the group was a punishment that often resulted in the banished person’s death. One human alone would have difficulty surviving the elements, finding food, and fighting off those animals at the top of the food chain. Even as recently as the Middle Ages, banishment from a country was a punishment on the same level as death. We want and need to be accepted; taking the safe path and avoiding ideas that might not work allows people to feel safe. No group would banish someone for doing what he or she was told to do.

For better or worse, people also have a drive to explore. As tribes grew and competed for resources, people needed to push the boundaries and find places with more resources. Everything that has ever been discovered required someone brave or stupid enough to try it first. It takes courage to go over the next mountain to find food. It takes courage to convince your tribe to stay in one place while crops grow. It takes courage to suggest a new action because failure could mean laughter, ridicule and ostracization.

Creativity takes courage because it leaves the person open to all of his or her primal fears. The group may not only reject the creative work or suggestion, but also the person may lose status or membership in the group. That loss of an identifier may not be as physically bad as death, but it is as emotionally bad as banishment. In a business setting, standing up to your boss in the face of things that have always been done a certain way is rarely rewarded. More often, it is dismissed. Sometimes, it leads to being fired.

If you’re going to be creative, you have to be ready to face people who will tell you all sorts of things. You can’t make a living through creativity. It’s never been done before. It’s not safe. Don’t rock the boat. You’re too stupid, too clumsy, and/or too flighty to accomplish the new task. You may even face these arguments from your own internal editor.

As Elly Brown says, “Fire that guy!” Don’t listen to him, her, or them. Draw on your courage and create. It’s okay to be afraid; do it anyway.

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

Posted on Leave a comment

The ABCs of Creativity: Brainstorming

Creativity comes when people aren’t afraid to make connections or sound dumb. People don’t like to be judged or have their ideas called stupid, even if they sound out there. Brainstorming sessions attempt to put people in a safe place where there is no judgement and they can dream as big as they want to. As an idea generation practice, Brainstorming can provide hundreds to thousands of ideas, depending on how many people participate and how long the session is.

Brainstorming sessions should have between 8 and 12 people. The session should last about 45 minutes to an hour though longer sessions can be advantageous if there are appropriate breaks. All brainstorming sessions have rules. At Disney in their blue-sky sessions, imagineers follow these rules according to “The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland”:

  1. There is no such thing as a bad idea.
  2. No talking about why it can’t be done.
  3. Do not stifle ideas with “buts,” “can’ts” and other negative words.
  4. There’s no such thing as a bad idea.

Not everyone agrees that brainstorming is a good idea. Edward de Bono says it’s a waste because so many ideas are discarded and the time to come up with them is wasted thereby. The process is inefficient. However, creativity is inefficient, so the brainstorming session, when the plan begins, should be the most inefficient part of the process.

De Bono also notices that some people try to top others, so the session results in people coming up with the most outlandish ideas. For me, that’s part of the point of brainstorming. Like Disney imagineers, I believe you never know where the best idea is going to come from, and it could come from a connection to an outrageous idea that someone else had.

Others decry the fact that brainstorming sessions have no follow up step. That’s up to the business to create. Recording the ideas and having the team follow up is easier if someone has the authority, time and resources to move forward with new ideas.

If you want to have a lot of ideas to choose from, start with a brainstorming session.

For more ABCs of Creativity, check these links. Grab a copy of “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Creating for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

Posted on Leave a comment

The ABCs of Creativity: Ambiguity

Most people want an easy answer, and the simpler the explanation the better. Unfortunately, these answers and explanations leave much to be desired, and they stymie creativity. Creativity is the process that humans go through when they create something new. It involves not knowing where one is going as much as it involves having a goal. While the two may seem to be diametrically opposed, they are actually both appropriate for creativity.

Ambiguity is the idea that you don’t know the answer. If you knew the answer, you wouldn’t need creativity to solve the problem unless you were looking for a better answer. Trying to find a path to the goal, you look for solutions, you don’t know which one will work or what you’ll find, but you stay the course and keep moving forward. With each experiment you get closer to your goal, but you don’t know when you’ll get there.

Nike faced this issue of ambiguity in 1971 when, as head of Blue Ribbon Sports, Phil Knight realized the relationship he had with the Japanese shoe manufacturer that would become Asics was headed south according to Popular Mechanics. He needed an innovation to stay in the shoe game.

Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman was facing a problem with his athletes in Eugene. A new urethane tack had been installed at the university and the athletes were having problems gaining traction on it. Metal spikes couldn’t be used because they destroyed the track. Bowerman looked at everything and anything that could help provide traction. He needed something that would work on multiple surfaces. He needed to be able to make a pattern on the soles of the shoes.

His wife decided to help him on a Sunday morning and made waffles. Bowerman looked at the waffle maker and thought it could work to make his soles. He ruined that waffle maker but was undeterred and went out to get more waffle makers. He had his sole, and Nike had its game changing innovation for athletic shoes.

Bowerman, and Nike, had to go through a period of ambiguity while he was searching for the answer to his problem. There was no guarantee that he would solve the problem and there was no template that showed him how to solve it. He had to keep looking in spite of earlier failures. He had to deal with ambiguity.

When you’re confronted with a problem that you don’t know how to solve, or even where to begin to solve it, you could walk away. Or you could look at it as a challenge and enter the ambiguous path that leads to creativity and innovation.

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