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Limit Creativity, Get Innovation

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The author, Bruce DeBoer is a professional photographer and writer from North Carolina, USA. He can be reached through: http://www.DeboerWorks.com or http://www.PermissionToSuck.com

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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