ishmaels corner

Top Five Elements That ...


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.

Leave a Reply