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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: Lifelong Learning

Professor Penguin studies for greater knowledge.

There are plenty of jobs that require employees to keep up with new developments in the industry. Doctors and nurses are among the people that need to have continuing education credits to keep their licenses. However, lifelong learning should be a part of everyone’s agenda and career development.

Unfortunately, few businesses recognize the importance to creativity of learning something outside of your industry’s best practices. They may offer the opportunity to improve your education in your industry or job field, but they won’t pay for a class in say pottery or ancient history. Still, these types of classes, books, and subjects should be on your list of learning about something new.

Learning new things allows your brain to keep its elasticity and flexibility. The brain is a lot like a muscle. If you keep having the same thoughts and knowing the same thing, your brain runs in those ruts. Just like doing the same exercises for your muscles allows your body to adapt to the activity to make the exercise less efficient for getting fitter.

When you learn things outside of your field, you’re able to “connect the dots” between domains. If you stay within your field, you won’t be able to make the connections that creativity requires.

Lifelong learning helps you improve thinking and seeing. Learning is a skill that needs to be practiced. It keeps thinking fresh and allows you to cultivate the curiosity you need to counteract your natural inclination to ignore everything that doesn’t pertain to your current situation. You’ll be able to see things you never thought were there.

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: Knowledge

Professor Penguin studies for greater knowledge.

Creativity is often defined as the generation of something new and valuable. In order to be creative, you have to know what came before; otherwise, what you create may have already been invented.  You don’t necessarily need to be an expert in your field or domain. Some studies show that expertise at a certain level inhibits creativity. You do need to have enough knowledge to understand if what you have is truly new.

However, knowledge in a single field isn’t enough. Creativity requires the combining of two or more ideas to come up with a new idea. Steve Jobs likened it to connecting the dots. A person has as many dots as he has knowledge about different subjects. Creative people weren’t more intelligent, he said, they just had more dots.

Velcro’s inventor George de Mestral was an engineer and avid hiker. When he noticed burrs on his clothing, he wondered how they could attach themselves and looked at them closer. Under a microscope he saw the tiny hooks. The idea from Velcro sprung up from there. It took the knowledge of engineering and hiking as well as curiosity and a new way of seeing for de Mestral to innovate the zipperless zipper.

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 Seven Secrets of Creativity

Penguinate creativity book

You are innately creative. It’s in your genetic coding. Schools, systems, jobs and fear may have burned a lot of your creative ability out of you, but you can get it back. Here are the seven secrets of creativity:

  1. Exercise Imagination: Gene Wilder sang it best – “There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination. Living there you’ll be free if you truly wish to be.” Stop the video games, shut off the TV, get rid of Netflix. To exercise your imagination, you need to create the story yourself. Read a book. Have a tea party with dolls. Avoid the hot lava monster. If you have children, play with them and let them be right. Study how they use their imagination. Add to the play with “Yes and…” Join an improv comedy troop. Free paint, free write, keep an imagination journal. Ignore your internal editor; Elly Brown says to “Fire that guy.”
  2. Play: Go outside and be a kid again. Play on the playground. Find an old game you loved and a couple of friends to join you. Make a tough job into a game. Have a playful attitude. Make all the dad jokes. See how you can manipulate word through puns and imagery.
  3. Think Deeply: Learn about a new subject. Don’t just spend 20 minutes researching it on the Internet. Go deeper. Examine a TV episode or movie. Think all the thoughts about it. Start with whether or not you enjoyed it. Why? What was the director trying to say? Was there a star who stood out? Was there a quote that touched you as truth? Was there a fact that you thought wasn’t right? What surprised you? Research those things.
  4. Make Connections: Creativity happens at the intersection. Steve Jobs said that creative people weren’t smarter, they just had more dots to connect. Each of those dots was an experience that the person had and thought deeply about. Combine things that may seem absurd and see what you can make from them.
  5. Embrace Failure: When you’re doing something new, you will fail. If you’re not failing, you’re not doing something that is creative. It’s okay to fail. Embrace it and learn from it.
  6. Learn from Mistakes: A mistake can be a valuable lesson if you learn from it. Don’t make the same mistake twice, make new ones every day. If you make a mistake, laugh at it and move on, or figure out how to profit from the mistake.
  7. Take Action: You might be the most creative person in the world, but until you make something it won’t matter. Take action on your ideas and move forward with it. The world needs you and your positive creativity. Paint, write, sing, do science, whatever it is that helps you be more creative.

Creativity is the essence of humanity. It is tempered by fear and the need for safety. Through of the shackles that fear provides and create. The more you do, the easier it’ll get. If you need a creative mascot, get one of our handmade penguins!

Want to learn more about creativity and improve your creative process? Get a copy of “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Try “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Improve Your Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” Or just check out these links to articles on my blog.

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The Dots of Creativity and Velcro

Penguinate creativity book

Steve Jobs said that creative people aren’t smarter than other people; they just have more dots to connect. Jobs believed that creativity came when someone connected two seemingly unrelated things to create something new that had value. But what is a dot exactly?

A dot is a fact or piece of knowledge that someone has. People who are trained in baking have a lot of dots about cooking times, what ingredients work well together, what ingredients do when they are heated up, how long dough should rise, and everything else about baking. If that’s their specialty, they will be knowledgeable about baking because they have learned about it. They may have memorized the recipe for a perfect wedding cake, but if it’s no their own recipe, they can’t be said to be creative, yet (even though baking does create something).

It’s not just the dot that has value for creativity. If someone has two dots and that person doesn’t connect them, no creativity has taken place. It’s the line between the two dots that is important. This is, what I call, the “thinking deeply” part of creativity. It takes a thought process to connect the parts together into something that makes something new. Sometimes, this thought process is conscious; sometimes, it’s in the subconscious and shows up as an “AHA!” moment. Either way, the person has a problem that he or she has been presented with, and the solution comes because of the thinking not only about the problem but also about everything he or she has learned before.

One of my favorite connect-the-dots moments comes from the story of Velcro. Invented by Swiss engineer George de Mestral, who loved hiking in the woods, Velcro came after a hike when de Mestral found burrs on his clothes. He was curious if the burrs could have a commercial application. He studied the burrs under a microscope, did eight years of research and product development and created the hook and loops to make Velcro work.

This story has the dots – hiking and engineering, the curiosity to ask the question, and the thinking deeply – studying a burr and working to create something like it. Velcro was patented in 1955, the same year that Disneyland was opened. De Mestral was ridiculed, suffered his fair share of failures, but thanks to his stick-to-it-iveness, the company sold 60 million yards of Velcro during his lifetime. When you learn something new and think deeply about how it can be applied to a problem, you’re opening up your imagination and opening the door to creativity.

For more about creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity” and “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.”