Limit Creativity, Get Innovation
Go create something. I don’t care what, how much it cost, the purpose, or the form, but the result must be supremely innovative, worth every penny, and profoundly significant to the human race. Take your time.
The reasonable person finds this overwhelming. Creativity’s root is the tension filled conflict between the imagination and the physical: input and output, insight and achievement, learning and performing. Remove conflict and there is no need for creativity. Imagination v. reality – like a courtroom battle — negotiation leads to creative solutions. In onerous jargon laden corporate speak: look for the win/win.
I recollect just enough from algebra 101 to make my neuro-memories retrieve the brain pain of too many variables – x ,y, a, b, c – give me an integer – please – I don’t know what Vanna White sees in those vowels. The vagueness compelled me to walk clinging to the hallway walls attempting to reconcile formless reality as I struggled to see the patterns. Orientation needs form and the walls offer structure; something to support yet overcome.
Authors note: Beware of those who are chronically structured: desks with paperclips stuck to magnets, micro-vacuum for computer keys, viral wipes for the phone, everything at right angles, nothing astray, and not a speck of dust. Move a chair and you’d better duck a piercing gaze set to stun. Uncomfortable with the randomness of imagination, it’s discarded for existential freeing formality. Think out of the box? No way, the walls to the box are too perfect. Besides that, It’s a padded box; very comfortable.
If you’re human, you’re creative – or at least potentially so – even if all you create is morning coffee with your special recipe of Folgers, Maxwell House and a little cinnamon. Do you really think the pleasure of life creation (a.k.a. orgasm) is a coincidence? I’m no spiritual guru, but if you want to know the meaning of life, creativity is the low hanging fruit. Like a non-linear river, it flows: imagination > passion > discovery > craft > innovation – input, output and over again.
The idea is that without conflict (constraint) there is little to challenge the creative spirit. It’s as though the river has no banks. It’s a life-sized puddle. Even unbridled creative freedom seeks structure like a paper clip to magnet. Add to the assignment: go create something, anything, but use oil paints, or play in 4/4 time, suddenly the puddle isn’t a puddle – it flows. The canvas size, instrument quality, budget, deadline, or whatever, all count as conflict, and conflict inspires process.
To borrow from personal experience, I was handed an assignment to take photographs in a Parisian garden of business people interacting. Anyone should consider an open assignment like this a blank canvas rolling in opportunity. Yet, I found my creative river was too wide, nearly a puddle; low flow. I adjusted by limiting the subject to two business people and my tools to a single camera lens. This is to say, I narrowed the channel to swell the creative tide.
Childish artistic abandon is high in conflict: a freely imaginative and high discovery conflict that’s markedly limited in craftsmanship, insight, and intelligence but not in spirit or a fearless disregard for the impossible. In contrast, a highly skilled musician in mid career confronts with near limitless skills yet with bound passion. We learn to bridle creative passion because our bank account says, “don’t mess up” or our pride demands we out perform reputation. Aware of the impossible and fearing failure, well-healed creatives are drawn to comfort.
Creative comfort is like a professional athlete outrunning a three year old in high heels – it’s a skill mismatch owing to insecurity and laziness; Impressive and uninspiring at the same time. If creativity is your profession, failure isn’t an option at the day of delivery, yet avoiding the breakthrough borderline is to serve leftovers; tasty, but often not as good as the first time.
Dispense with the invisible nuance. Creativity is a mix of imagination, passion and craftsmanship. Like an algebraic equation, the variables aren’t equal but, nevertheless, are intimately related. For instance, high craftsmanship can carry passion and imagination on an enviable journey. Reaching new heights of world-class craftsmanship can be all-consuming, forfeiting passion and imagination. Time to reframe the conflict: perhaps a little more passion letting skill take care of itself.
Mary Ann Mayer – Google VP – in an article for Business Week titled “Turning Limitations into Innovation” pointed out that “Creativity is often misunderstood. People often think of it in terms of artistic work — unbridled, unguided effort that leads to beautiful effect … They’re beautiful because creativity triumphed over the rules. … Creativity, in fact, thrives best when constrained.” She continues by stating, “it is from the interaction between constraint and the disregard for the impossible that unexpected insights, cleverness, and imagination are borne.”
Without doubt, “rules were meant to be broken” is an original utterance of an innovator. Artists don’t meticulously color inside the lines without existing beleaguered by craftsmanship. Constraints aren’t rules as much as they’re challenges to overcome. Don’t like the outcome? Break the rules or revise the constraints.
The proclivity to relax is often more powerful than the urge to innovate. Inspiration may involve breaking the rules and sending the imagination in a new direction. Inertial creativity is characterized by the comfort of least effort v. the pleasure of innovation. Introducing new constraints, thus spicing the conflict, tends to inspire innovation. Otherwise stated: get off your butt and try something outside your comfort zone – but first, redefine the zone.
Artists sink into despair with a canvas too large and blank before passion smothering constraints have an effect. Creation is native to humanity; we’re born to it and because of it. Traversing the conflict of imagination and reality includes framing a canvas. An innovative solution is a dependant of the constraints, and realized in spite of the rules.
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