Updated: Mar 30
One of the biggest recurring themes in TED talks, podcasts and studies regarding creativity in today’s adult generation relate to how we ‘grew out of it’ – or were taught out of it.
As children we were incredibly creative and had an endless ability to spew out ideas like a technicolour vomit of possibility. As we grew older and became more sensible, we got taught that things were more binary and learned that the more creative we were, the more we were vulnerable to marginalisation and being labelled for our non-conformity. As we entered adulthood, the drive to belong often outweighed the call of our creativity, and we squished, squashed and squelched it to fit into a nice, neat little box destined for “success”. But now in retrospect, don’t we all wish that we hadn’t let that balloon float away, bobbing into the distance until now we struggle to even see, let alone reach for it?
It’s also tragic that now as adults we are made to feel vulnerable by other’s - the people who, like us, were once free-thinking, creative children– when we venture to try again. It can feel akin to those moments when we try to catch a plastic bag that’s blown away in the wind and every time we nearly grab it, it blows that bit further off again and passers-by laugh at our humiliating failed attempts. As we progress though life, we increasingly find ourselves in environments of ‘yes, but…’ instead of ‘yes, and…’. People seek in our ideas the things that won’t work, as though when presented with a new thought, our robotic brains have been taught to filter them for problems instead of possibilities, looking for the glitch in the system that makes it destined to fail. Unless we have a very strong mindset, it’s all too easy to retreat, injured, back into our boxes, never to risk expressing a new approach again.
However … the entire future of our society lies in innovation! Never before have things been more fast-paced, and never before has it been more necessary to the survival of all of our businesses – and even to our planet – that we think creatively about what we do next.
We must consider now, with some urgency, how the hell we let our inner creative child, lost somewhere within us, back out again. We need to try our absolute damndest to succeed and to let those we work with succeed, too. It really can feel when we express ideas in a business context like we’re transported back to those childhood memories of being laughed at in class for having a ‘stupid idea.’ That same vulnerability is brought right back up as adults when our ideas get shot down. It takes real courage to let the child out, and if she or he is made to feel small, not to hide right back away again.
So how can we foster a culture of creativity, where people let the child inside them out to experiment, until light bulbs start flashing and the ideas that will shape our futures get sparked? Here are two key ideas to help you create an environment full of Fizz, Pop and BANG:
1. Be playful!
Be playful in how you engage with your creativity, particularly when it comes to your workspace. Create environments that bring out the alpha in your mind’s state. We know that the majority of good ideas happen outside of the workplace – whilst running, in the shower or even on the loo seem to come up most in the workshops on creativity that we run. Let’s be honest – you only need to look around most offices to realise why… most workspaces, with their uninspiring décor and strip lighting, are hardly hubs for creativity to flourish. That’s why many of the most creative businesses have the most playful work spaces. And if your space doesn’t encourage creativity, then get out, go for a wander and a ponder with your colleagues and let thoughts flow and ideas grow.
2. Talk to the creative child within.
At work, we often feel at our most vulnerable, plagued by imposter syndrome and the concept of being exposed by our ‘bad ideas.’ What if we treated our colleagues’ ideas like those of our children, nieces, nephews, or the kids down the street? What if we wanted in the truest sense to hear them, expanding and building on their ideas and helping to turn them into something great? What if we were to treat the creativity of our colleagues with the kindness we show the children we care about? To create environments where we feel compelled to share ideas (even the most impossible ones) because it feels fun and because you have the playfulness and carefree joy of a child getting caught in the moment.
Those kinds of environments and the explosion of thoughts they evoke are where the sparks of great ideas come from, and no businesses will survive in the future without them.