💡 Creativity

Updated at 2014-03-28 11:19

The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. -- Albert Einstein

Creativity is learned behaviour and a set of processes to create original ideas. You can think it as controlled, applied imagination.

Creativity has three major ingredients. The original idea is usually called "inspiration".

  • Copying an idea.
  • Modifying an idea.
  • Combining multiple ideas.

All creativity relies on inspiration. You should not be ashamed for using ideas made by others. It is more important how the pieces fit together.

Star Wars: - Plot outline is from Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. - Many sequences and the scrolling intro text from Flash Gordon (1936) - Sword fighting sequences from Hidden Fortress (1958) and Yojimbo (1961). - Luke finding his dead parents from The Searchers (1956). - Han Solo-shot-first sequence from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966). - Flight sequences from The Dambusters (1955) and 633 Squadron (1964). - Space sequences from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). - Hologram sequences from Forbidden Planet (1956). - C-3PO from Metropolis (1927) and R2-D2 from Silent Running (1972).

And same can be said from 90% of entertainment ever made.

Even the most creative form of musical expression, Jazz, relies on the past experiences of the musicians.

Creativity can used for fun or to drive innovation. Innovation is the application of new solutions made by creativity. You can divide innovation in three categories:

  • Tech innovation, creating new technology that customers will buy because it is new e.g. possible to use human body to transmit data between computers.
  • Market innovation, creating something that customers already need e.g. bike manufacturer can start creating electric bikes to get more customers.
  • Meaning innovation, creating something that users do not know they need e.g. personal computer, smartphone or tablet.

Innovation: Creativity helps creating innovations, which manifest in the following forms.

  1. Improve an existing form e.g. more efficient product.
  2. Improve an existing process e.g. cheaper product.
  3. Introduction of a new production process e.g. cheaper product.
  4. Introduction of a new product based on existing products e.g. tablets.

Creative Behaviour

A teacher who meets a student with special needs has to think in new ways and try new methods.

Get out of your regular environment. You might find something usable for your own problems from a totally different field.

Always have lunch with different people if possible. Always travel on holidays, see other places and processes. Always try new things if that is an option.

Try to be creative whenever you can. Play while coming up possible solutions to problems.

Creative Processes

Best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas. -- Linus Pauling

Creativity is a well indented process. You have a problem and possible solutions.

You have problem X. You need to come up with solution Y. You want that solution Y to be creative.

Gather the banned solutions. Read about similar problems and their solutions, those are banned solutions.

The more you get banned solutions, the more creative your solution will be.

Set a deadline. Figure out what is the last comfortable moment you need to have a solution. Write that date down and ponder it until then.

When the last moment comes you need:

  • Space which is calm and silent environment to think.
  • Time that you can make sure that nothing will interrupt you.
  • Confidence that you are not afraid to make mistakes.
  • Positive emotions e.g. humor and love opens your mind for new ideas.

Most of the people cannot think clearly while doing nothing. You should be switching between thinking and doing mindless tasks e.g. walking, throwing a ball on a wall, watching fire or playing with magnets. Basically anything that requires little mental effort and allows mind to wander.

Refining a bad idea to a good idea is easier than discovering a good idea. Collect even far-fetched ideas that will be inspected later.

  • Consider each whim as a viable solution and note it down.
  • Question everything e.g. why should strawberry be red?
  • Try out different combinations e.g. website design from dog park fence.
  • Try updating the old ways e.g. Google is using links to a page to rank them, same has used in academic papers for centuries.
  • Frame the problem in a different setting e.g. I need to make web ad for this product but what if this was for television.

Then go through all the ideas and you develop them based on:

  1. Does it or can it be made to solve your original problem?
  2. What is your gut feeling on this idea?
  3. What is the returned value per cost ratio of the solution.
  4. Drop all the worst ones.
  5. Go through all the worthy ideas and generate new ideas.
  6. Go back to 1, basic plan-build-measure loop.

Group Creativity

Brainstorming in groups lowers creativity because of self-censorship and peer pressure. But there can also be group creativity.

With group creativity, you need talent diversity, teamwork and communication. Each member should understand that thinking different, silly ideas and arguing are good for creativity.

I use a trick with co-workers when we’re trying to decide where to eat for lunch and no one has any ideas. I recommend McDonald’s.

An interesting thing happens. Everyone unanimously agrees that we can’t possibly go to McDonald’s, and better lunch suggestions emerge.

People are inspired to come up with good ideas to ward off bad ones.