It’s all in the head.
When I ask people “where is it that they have their best ideas?” – they never say, sitting at their desk thinking hard. Their answers usually include walking the dog, lying in bed, in the bathroom, exercising, commuting, chatting with friends, whatever it is that they say, it’s always when they’re doing something else. This is the most valuable insight as to where great ideas come from and how we can learn to tap into our creativity effortlessly, whenever it’s needed.
But I had to learn the hard way.
My first book “How to Have Kick Ass Ideas” was crammed full of creative techniques. Ones that I used every day with my teams to further the success of some of the biggest and best companies on the planet. You’ll still find a dog-eared copy of it on many a creative’s desk in all corners of the world. For us creative geeks it’s filled with gold dust.
But it misses the most important point which I learned quite painfully.
I spent years teaching people how to use those approaches themselves, but the results left me stumped. Those I taught kept coming back with very average ideas and yet I knew these techniques worked, because they’d been proven time and time again with me and the people with whom I worked. The issue it turned out was the people I was teaching.
Now, when I say that, I do not mean for one minute that these people were not creative, because we know everyone can have brilliant ideas. The reason they failed to unleash their creative genius was because of the way they were. They were incredibly smart people who are used to applying their brain power to solving problems using logic and analysis. But as we know creativity doesn’t work that way.
Our conscious brain is fantastic for rational thinking and for learning things from first principles, but it is a very small and limited part of our overall processing. No one knows exactly how much it is; super smart neuroscientists tell me it’s somewhere between 5 and 15%. If we try and think our way through creativity, we’re using a small fraction of our ability.
When we relax and have fun by walking the dog, talking with friends late into the night or camp out under the stars; we access our subconscious. Our subconscious has the capacity to remember every licence plate we have driven past or every face we’ve ever seen, and therefore is the biggest source of stimulus available to us. It also never stops processing. Even when we’re asleep
So, if you want to encourage a more creative culture you need to embrace a different way of being. You need to:
- encourage a more playful attitude
- make sure you are constantly experimenting so that your creative muscle is developed
- move about, especially outside in nature; and
- supplement you’re very smart thinking with some more humanistic feeling.
How you are is way more important than what you do when it comes to delivering great ideas. Get this bit right and creativity becomes part of who you are rather than a bolt on technique used only for special occasions. And that’s why I now spend my life helping people focus on how they are and how they show up. It delivers every time.