At work, creativity isn’t special. The creative process at its best can be described as confusing and oftentimes even misleading. To explore creativity, we need to lay out some sort of map.

“You want to know how to paint a perfect painting? Make yourself perfect and then just paint naturally. That’s the way all the experts do it.”

Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values

What is the creative process?

The creative process starts and ends with work. It is not a holiday from all the hard work expected of you or the team. In fact, in many teams, there literally is no room for improvisation or to cut corners, two moves that are often misinterpreted as a sign of “high creativity.”

They’re not. There’s nothing creative about dysfunctional teams. There’s nothing creative about stealing other people’s ideas and using them as your own. This practice is as old as time and is not actually even stealing when the idea is not trademarked, patented or copyrighted.

Stealing ideas has become such a common practice that content creators are literally being taught how to do it ethically and or legally. For many, their creative processes might have took off when they stole ideas and got away with it.

But today the thrill is eliminated. You are demanded to to know how to steal ideas and are expected get away with it. So how do you get away with your stolen ideas? By giving appropriate credits, of course.

Why do we need creativity?

I’d be lying to you if I told you that we actually don’t really need creativity all that much. Because we do. We need to be creative, and not just for our artistic endeavours but as essential parts of our everyday life. Everyday creativity is thinking creatively, solving problems, innovation, and the excitement of the imagination. Creativity is the ability to deliberately employ these skills when needed. In other words, it is the ability to function in a creative space.

Remember when you were younger? Creativity seemed to just occur very often and unintentionally? In just a snap, you’re doing group work at school and you’d come up with the idea to throw in a little extra “play” to the project presentation. The instructor didn’t ask for it. You just thought that it would add more value to your team’s hard work. Just so that people pay more attention.

Now that’s innovation. That’s creativity. That’s not just you being generous. Unfortunately, we need that kind of innovation daily, not just during group presentations.

It is very easy to instantly feel more creative when you’re surrounded by interesting individuals with bold ideas, but how can you nurture creativity on your own?

Creativity on demand: can you be creative on a deadline?

If you have lots of ideas but take no action towards making them a reality, are you really creative? You might be imaginative, but you’re probably not creative. But let’s say that with each idea you also devise a plan, like a little blueprint containing the instructions to turn that idea into a reality. You’re thinking about a goal and then producing a plan to reach it. That’s like a creative business idea.

There are many everyday creativity examples that you might not think of as “creative” and many seemingly creative daily activities that really require little to no creativity at all.

I remember working for a team where anything different was avoided like the plague. We were a team of people working to prepare an event, so it was expected that nothing out of the ordinary would happen. Everything should follow the exact steps and the timeline to a T. And so in this case, in order to be creative and to reach our group’s goals, we needed to suppress our individual need to “be different.” Or as the headhunters would call it: to actualize yourself.

In this case, it is important for each team member to stick with being imaginative and not do anything “too creative” in order to avoid an unsuccessful event. But is this the kind of mental (and physical) environment we expect our everyday creativity to thrive in? Of course not.

Creativity on demand is neither magical nor mysterious. It is more like a tool that extends your boundaries. It lets you look at things differently and see what you normally wouldn’t. And it can be trained. Just the way you can train yourself to be more submissive in team works, people have also been training themselves to be creative on demand:

  • Mental exercises
    There are many mental exercises that if practiced daily may train your creativity muscles. One of such is to practice combining random words. Just open the dictionary randomly and point at a word, and then choose a different word. Try to combine them together to create a connection. Two words as simple as pen + apple can become a “penapple”. It’s as easy as sticking a pen into an apple, right?
  • Creative habits
    If you’re used to working task by task, try to stall it a bit. Walk away from a task and try switching to a different task to practice approaching something from a new angle. You can take a shower, cook dinner, or go shopping before returning to finish your task with a fresh approach.
  • Randomness
    Randomness is your friend in creativity. Just do something out of randomness for a change. Flip a coin, draw straws, rock-paper-scissors, or take a number to make a decision. Switch it up a bit. Take a different, random route to work and indulge in the experience. Take a different vehicle to the grocery store. Go to a different supermarket this time.
  • Record your thoughts
    It is important to be aware of your new thoughts and ideas, whenever you’re doing a mental exercise for creativity. Make it a habit to record your thoughts as soon as you think them. What good is a creative idea if you can’t recall it when you need it?

What are some myths about creativity?

I briefly touched upon this somewhere earlier, about how creativity is not magical or mysterious at all once you get to know it better. Prom will be dealing with a lot of the myths about creativity that no longer serve their purpose. Heroic stories and sacred tales served their purpose in ancient cultures. There is still a place for them in our modern times, but we need to be able to identify these myths in order not to be tricked into regression.