P52 Deep Insights Into Creativity Part Two.

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  • This podcast is part two of a deep dive into the subject of creativity, which is so tightly linked to innovation. In this podcast, I take a look at the 10 characteristics most commonly associated with highly creative people. These insights are drawn from one of my favorite authors on creativity who has written a couple of books I highly recommend if you want to dive deeper into the topic. The first book is titled Flow and the second, which is the basis of this podcast, is titled Creativity, Flow in the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. I would give you the author’s name but I am hard-pressed to pronounce it, especially since last name has 16 letters in it. Just search on Amazon for either of these two titles and you will get the author’s name.
  • Introducing the 10 points the author states in referring to the qualities of a creative person, “these qualities are present in all of us, but usually we are trained to develop only one poll of the dialectic. We might grow up cultivating the aggressive, competitive side of our nature, and disdain or repress the nurturant, cooperative side. A creative individual is more likely to be both aggressive and cooperative, either at the same time or different times, depending on the situation. Having a complex personality means being able to express the full range of traits that are potentially present in the human repertoire but usually atrophy because we think that one or the other pole is good, whereas the other extreme is bad.” So let’s start by looking at the 10 qualities the author identifies.
  • “First, creative individuals have a great deal of physical energy, but they are also often quiet and at rest.”
    • I often say in inventing sessions that creativity and inventing are heavy lifting. It requires a lot of high-level, continuous energy in a group situation.
    • One of my main responsibilities in facilitating a session is to be in touch with the energy in the room. I stay in touch with the ebbs and flows of energy and have exercises that can re-energize the group that has taken a dip.
  • Second, creative individuals tend to be smart, yet also naïve at the same time.
    • This is a great trait that I’ve seen many times. I admire the trait so much that I have cultivated it within myself. In earlier podcasts, I talked about how I thought I was pretty smart only to discover how ignorant I really was. The naïve aspect opens us up to unexpected and new thinking. As such, this is a critical creative quality.
  • Third, a third paradoxical trait refers to the related combination of playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility.
    • Unencumbered playfulness can lead to chaos and frustration. Discipline alone can quickly stifle creativity. A mixture of both is a lot of fun and very productive.
  • Fourth, creative individuals alternate between imagination and fantasy at one end, and a rooted sense of reality at the other.
    • In the creative sessions that I facilitate, the front end of the sessions dives deeply into imagination and fantasy. We’re looking to creatively imagine possibilities. We specifically rule out judgment and evaluation of all ideas at this stage.
    • Later in the session, we always get a sense of the wisdom in the room relative to all of the ideas that have been produced so far. We put each idea on its own flipchart page and put it on the wall. We give people colored dots – maybe 10 – and asked them to vote for their favorite ideas by putting the dots on the pages. After the voting process, we ask people why they voted the way they did. It is a light evaluation step that helps us connect the possibilities and fantasies to real world necessities.
  • Fifth, creative people seem to harbor opposite tendencies on the continuum between extroversion and introversion. Creative individuals seem to express both traits at the same time.
    • I have observed this trait many times in creative sessions. At one moment a person can be an extrovert in full bloom – loud, expressive with their hands, and having fun. And a moment later, I can see the same person in quiet reflection or intensely listening to another person. In the most successful creative sessions, you need both of these aspects.
  • Sixth, creative individuals are remarkably humble and proud at the same time.
    • The most creative people I have experienced can be proud of what they know one moment and truly humbled by the knowledge of another person the next moment. In a way this is a reverse of the curse of the expert – a very positive behavior.
  • Seventh, creative individuals cannot be stereotyped as strongly masculine or strongly feminine. The author refers to this as “psychological androgyny” which is “a person’s ability to be at the same time aggressive and nurturant, sensitive and rigid, dominant and submissive, regardless of gender.”
    • In a highly productive creative session, you can see many individuals manifesting both traits at different times during the day. They can be strong. bold thinking leaders one moment and be very in touch with the sensitive emotions involved with an idea later in the day.
  • Eight, the author states, “it is difficult to see how a person can be creative without being both traditional and conservative and at the same time rebellious and iconoclastic.”
    • This is another example of being able to balance personality trait opposites. In creative sessions it helps to have an appreciation of traditional values and methods while rebelling against them in an effort to find an even better way of doing things.
  • Ninth, most creative people are very passionate about their work, yet they can be extremely objective about it as well.
    • One of the aspects of the heavy lifting associated with creativity and innovation is that passion can often make easy work of this heavy lifting. So, on one hand it is a critical part of a successful innovation session. In the spirit of playing with possibilities, while one person can be passionate about an idea one moment, it is also very helpful if they can in a later moment tap into the objectivity necessary to ground the idea in the current reality, at least to some degree.
  • 10th, the openness and sensitivity of creative individuals often exposes them to suffering and pain yet also a great deal of enjoyment. The suffering is easy to understand. A famous writer once said, “Inventors have a low threshold of pain. Things bother them.”
    • Pain can often be a motivation for seeking a better way. This is one reason why in the field of customer research, it is important to go beyond just the written reports to an anthropological research approach where you are with people experiencing the pain and the dissatisfaction with existing options.
    • On the other hand, the joy of having that moment where the solution to the pain is discovered is one of the highest highs people often experience.
  • This completes our very quick run through of the 10 qualities of highly creative people. How can you use this to help your innovation programs?
  • First, almost all of the 10 factors involve a balancing of opposites, for example aggressiveness with collaboration. Take a look at yourself. On any of these 10 factors you probably have a strong side of the opposites. Is there an opportunity for you to take a more balanced approach? It does not mean diminishing a current strong point, but adding another dimension to how you interact in a creative session.
  • Second, go back and review these 10 factors and you will find it’s all about different qualities of energy that are brought to the creative task. Develop those energies in yourself. Through observation learn from others in the session about different kinds of energies that seem to make a big and positive difference. Can you learn from them? Can you add to your portfolio of creative skills?
  • Again, I have barely scratched the surface of creativity. The two books mentioned at the top of the podcast are worth a deep dive if you are interested in learning more. In a future podcast I may share more information from both of these books since creativity is such an important part of innovation process.


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