This post is part of a series that fleshes out The TUNING Toolkit – a toolkit that helps people move their ideas forward.
The TUNING Toolkilt has three sections: BELIEVE, CREATE, and ORGANIZE. In the BELIEVE section, we defined a high-level goal, telling ourselves that we have what it takes to achieve it, and we gave our goal some details to make it measurable. In the CREATE section, so far we’ve identified the stakeholders we may partner with. And now we sit down to do the work and learn to love the process.
A common problem that happens when we sit down to do the work is that we get discouraged by how hard it is. If we don’t see this discouragement coming, we may put the project on hold or drop it. But if we see this challenge coming, if we expect it to happen, then we can navigate through it.
Another obstacle that can get in our way, especially for perfectionists, is that when we start making something, we see it as mediocre. Logically this makes sense. Why would it be good? This is our first time making this thing. But emotionally we feel disappointed.
Do the Work. We show up and do the work even when we don’t feel like it. We do it even when we perceive that what we are making is crappy. Because the only way to make good work is to start by making crappy work. All artists with a little experience in their pockets know about this challenge and wrestle with it.
Divergent vs. Convergent Thinking. The avant garde composer John Cage is attributed to this quote: “Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.” I can’t tell you how many projects or conversations go off the rails because the creators didn’t separate creating from analyzing.
Creating involves divergent thinking, a generative activity. The goal is to generate as many crazy ideas as you possibly can. But be warned, when we collaborate with people who are more analytical in nature, generative thinking may make them VERY uncomfortable, so uncomfortable that they might try to shut down the creative process with skepticism.
We can have more fluid divergent thinking when we give everyone a heads up. We can jumpstart the process by saying something like, “In this first stage of brainstorming, we are going to be free of judgement. But I promise you, analytical types, sometime soon we will analyze all of these ideas with well defined criteria. Analysis will come, but for now let’s let the ideas flow.”
Why is Idea Flow Important?
Quantity. Let’s say we are asked to take a photo for the front cover of Time Magazine. Do we go out and take one photo and hope that it’s the one? No, of course not. We take dozens of photos so that we increase our chances of getting that perfect shot. The same concept about quantity applies to creating ideas. When we are engaged in divergent thinking, we strive for quantity.
Discovery. Crazy ideas are good because they can lead us to novel yet practical solutions. You can see how “crazy” ideas lead to practical solutions in biomimicry, a branch of engineering that takes inspiration from nature. Velcro is inspired by how a burr attaches to a dog’s fur coat. Some adhesives are inspired by the nano structure of a gecko’s toe. A gecko’s toe! Inspiration is everywhere.
Creativity on the surface looks like fun and games. But just like anything else, to do it well requires hard work and a sophisticated understanding of the creative process. The key is to love the process–love the bumps in the road as much as the discoveries we make.