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Newsweek’s cover story on “The Creativity Crisis” caused me to reflect on the forces that have shaped my own approach to creativity.

Here’s my top-five list with a touch of psychoanalysis:

  1. Self esteem from Mom and Dad: Hate to start on a syrupy note, but my parents stayed on message until I moved out for college: “Anything is possible with hard work.” Understanding that I can’t depend on the peanut butter in my sandwich finding its way to a colleague’s melted chocolate bar for the eureka moment has served me well.
  2. Bravery from my high school yearbook advisor: His name was John Hoge. He taught English, but his guidance for our high school yearbook is where he left a lasting impact. Talk about ahead of his time. He had us reflecting the year through current events like the Patty Hearst kidnapping. More importantly, he coached us on bravery; i.e., it’s not enough to come up with a creative idea. You need to express it and do it … which means being brave enough to stand up to ridicule.
  3. Interdisciplinary skills from J-school at the University of Arizona: They stressed that creativity comes from learning stuff outside the reporter’s box. Today, I find many ideas can be triggered from simply hanging out at the Barnes & Noble magazine rack and checking out stories and ads that have absolutely nothing to do with technology, consumer electronics and energy. When I’m absorbing a large amount of varied information, I strive for a Zen state that I call zero gravity, allowing the information to push my mind wherever it pleases. Geez, I’m starting to sound like Phil Jackson.
  4. Power of the group from teaching: When conducting a workshop or guest lecturing at a university, the best part is always harnessing the collective brainpower of the group. Recognizing creativity is just as powerful as coming up with your own ideas.
  5. Decompression from overseas flights: Most people flying to Asia or Europe in United coach experience anxiety or worse. Assuming I’ve been able to avoid the dreaded middle seat, I find nothing says creativity like 10+ hours in the air. There’s something to be said for periodically getting out of the day-to-day fray and liberating creativity. I’ve also learned to throttle my desire “to share,” so my laptop download after arriving at the hotel doesn’t pepper colleagues with a zillion emails.

The Newsweek story makes the point that creativity scores for kids were steadily rising until 1990 at which point the numbers started a consistent downward march.

The story never talks about the element of bravery, but I can’t help wondering if this element alone could make a difference.

If you’re looking for dialogue on this topic, Charlie Rose tackled the Newsweek article and creativity last week.

P.S. Sorry about not breaking up the text with a visual or two, but I found WordPress to be fussy on this fine Sunday evening and opted to publish rather than wait for Monday help.


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