A Little on the Fence

Every September, ThinkX sponsors Mindcamp, a not-for-profit creativity retreat. We do it to offer other not-for-profits and individuals a plunge into the world of creativity. Most people come away from it with a renewed sense of themselves and their potential.

A few days ago, we received an email from a woman who was considering coming to Mindcamp 2011, but had some reservations. She wrote, “I am not entirely sure this is something for me, and so am a little on the fence. I have never participated in anything like this and don’t consider myself to be the most creative person.”

She’s not alone. Many people tell me they don’t think of themselves as creative.

In our society, we’re taught that creativity is about art or music or poetry. And of course it is. But it’s much more than that.

Creativity is about thinking beyond the obvious to solve problems. Sometimes these are art problems, sometimes music problems, sometimes poetry problems. But more often they are business problems, family problems, or practical problems.

The truth is that all of us have creative potential. Anyone who’s ever been flooded with ideas while in the shower knows that. There are a wealth of well-documented techniques for applying “shower thinking” to more practical settings. But most of us either don’t know them or don’t use them, relying instead on the old patterns of thought that caused our problems in the first place.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could learn to adapt your natural shower thinking ability to the practical world – to tame, develop, and refine those crazy shower ideas to address your real-world problems?

That’s what the work my colleagues and I do is all about – introducing people to proven ways to expand their capacity to think more creatively and more productively. That’s what ThinkX does for its commercial clients, and that’s what Mindcamp has been doing, as a not-for-profit, for nine years now.

All human beings have innate creative capacity. It’s just that not all of us have discovered that yet. Once you do, watch out. Your world (and the world of those around you) will never be the same.

By the way, the woman who wrote the email above did sign up for Mindcamp. And although we’re almost full, you’re welcome to apply as well. Check it out at

“Creativity is not an escape from disciplined thinking. It is an escape with disciplined thinking.” – JERRY HIRSCHBERG

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Stay Connected

One of the best ways to stay creative is to stay connected. You may be thinking, “Connected? Are you kidding? I’m connected all the time. What with cell phones, emails and IMs, I’m too connected! That’s my problem.”
Well, it may seem as though we’re all connected, but according to Gary Hamel, our modern lives actually tend to disconnect us from the very things that stimulate our creativity.

I was recently invited to attend the launch of Gary’s new book, The Future of Management, at the London School of Business. He talked about what he calls the history of employment. As he sees it, it’s a history of increasing isolation.

When companies were small – mom-and-pop shops – you couldn’t help but be connected with your customers. As companies grew, so did back offices. Soon larger companies had more people without customer contact than with.

The next step was disconnecting employees from products. More and more people worked on small pieces of finished products rather on the products as a whole.

As companies became larger still, the next inevitable disconnect was from policy. According to Hamel, a person can work for an entire career and never meet someone who actually makes — or even influences — organizational policy.

Eventually, as work grew more and more specialized — and work stations more and more isolated — we became disconnected from other people, contacting them only through the filters of cell phones, email, or IM screens. We regard almost everyone on the other end of these electronic connections with little more warmth than we do telemarketers. And, of course, we ourselves are the “other end” to most of our contacts.

Finally, says Hamel, many of us have now become disconnected from our own creativity — working in a world that actively rejects any input that’s out of synch with organizational orthodoxies. Ask almost anyone working in a large organization whether they truly contribute creatively, and the answer will be a thudding “no”.

So how do we reconnect with our creativity? The first step is to reconnect with people. That means starting to pay attention — real attention, not just filling the gaps while multitasking — to your interactions with others. As you genuinely open yourself to human input, you’ll discover that the simple acts of talking with, listing to, empathizing with, and helping others are the most powerful things you can do to stimulate your creative juices. Re-igniting your creativity may simply be a question of re-connecting with others.

You’ll also find that reconnecting with people soon leads to reconnecting with the ideas that influence your life, whether at home, at work, or in your community. And once you reconnect with those, the sky’s the limit.

“The unexpected connection is more powerful than one that is obvious.” – HERACLITUS (6c BCE)

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