Tuning In to Creativity
Welcome! You’re about to learn practical creativity techniques you can apply to your work and just about any other aspect of your life. These are tools you’ll use time and again for fun and profit. As you’ll discover in this lesson, understanding the creative process paves the way for developing your own breakthrough ideas.
Creativity Is a Skill
Creativity is not a mysterious force of nature; it’s a skill that can be learned, practiced, and improved. It also doesn’t demand that you come up with something totally new, because there is nothing totally new.
Most breakthroughs are a new combination of parts of what already exists. For instance, Henry Ford didn’t invent the concept of the moving assembly line. He’d seen a similar process in slaughterhouses and grain warehouses. His breakthrough was applying it to the assembly of cars, which revolutionized the entire automobile industry.
Creativity requires an open mind … and courage. Ford and other pioneers questioned whether there’s a better way to do things. That’s the creative mindset you need.
Of course, questioning how things are done often annoys the people who are doing it that way and don’t like being challenged. Most breakthroughs go through three phases. The first is, “That’s ridiculous!” The second is, “That could be possible,” and the third is, “That’s obvious!” If you’re the person behind the breakthrough, the first phase requires a thick skin and determination.
The Structure of Creativity: Disney’s Three Rooms
There are people who have one great idea but don’t know how they came up with it and never come up with another one, and there are people who understand the creative process and use it again and again. The second group understands the structure of creativity.
Walt Disney was one of that group and anybody can use his process. There’s a story that when Disney ran his film studio, he had three rooms set aside for developing his ideas. This may just be a metaphor for his three mental steps, but whether there were literally three separate rooms or not, you can apply the method yourself. Let’s look at the rooms and how to proceed through them:
The first is The Dreamer’s Room. Here, you generate many ideas without judging them.
The next is The Realist’s Room. Here, judging is not only allowed but required for you to come up with a practical plan for making the creative dream come true.
The third is The Critic’s Room. Here, you compare the dream to the practical plan. What’s been lost? What could be improved? What new ideas have come up that should be explored?
Then, you return to the Dreamer’s Room to brainstorm ideas for solving the problems you uncovered in the Critic’s Room, and you repeat the process until you’ve created something you’re satisfied with.
You don’t actually need three physical rooms in order to follow in Disney’s creative footsteps; you can build them in your imagination.
Three Guidelines for the Creative Process
Disney’s rooms reflect three useful guidelines to follow:
1. Go for quantity. Generate as many ideas as possible, as quickly as possible. Nobel prize-winner Linus Pauling revealed this to be the secret of his success: “The best way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw away the bad ones.”
2. Don’t judge while you’re generating ideas. Linus Pauling had separate evaluation periods during which he would “throw away the bad ones.” Trying to generate and judge ideas at the same time is the most common cause of creative blocks.
3. Write it down! On his blog, famous entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson wrote, “Make sure you put everything on paper. Write down all of your ideas, whether they are good or bad, get it all down. You don’t know what will be useful later.”
In the next lesson, you’ll discover when and how to be most creative—including in the shower.
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