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    Being "Irresponsible and Rash"

    Wednesday, February 02, 2011

    Paint spatters on sidingAt one point in his career, abstract artist Jackson Pollock's creative process consisted of splattering and pouring paint on his canvas. As he stated, "When I am painting, I am not aware of what I'm doing." Even if he were thinking during the heat of creation, he claims not to have been aware of it. Science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury must operate in much the same way because he says, "Thinking is the enemy of creativity."

    From my perspective, creativity is really a mindset, a way of being open to new and original ideas. All of us enter this mindset with varying degrees of regularity. People like Pollock and Bradbury may happen to enter it more often, and perhaps more productively, than most of us.

    A "Sneakily Outrageous" Inventor
    I learned about inventor Steven M. Johnson in a recent opinion piece by Allison Arieff in the "Opinionator" section of the New York Times. And I am confident in saying that this man is able to trigger his creativity just as effectively as any artist or sci-fi author. Here are a few product ideas that he has imagined:

    • A desk that transforms into a hidden sleeping chamber, great for late afternoon naps
    • A dashboard toaster oven to toast bagels on the way to work
    • A self-shortening car perfect for tight parking spaces
    • Homes purchased by the room
    • A briefskate, which is a briefcase that turns into a skateboard

    Johnson says that nothing gets to exist in his creative world if it doesn't have at least two functions, as in the examples above - or in his version of an exercising bike that can also operate a washing machine. He gets away from his desk when he is trying to be creative, because he wants to "avoid the connotations of earning a living." Instead, he needs to feel "irresponsible, rash, and dreamy."

    Johnson laments at the current lack of creativity in the workplace: "It annoys me that an untrained person like myself can think up products easily and yet this nation seems to sit helplessly passive and waiting to be saved somehow." His feelings mirror what business leaders see in many of their new hires - the inability to think outside the box, so to speak. (See my previous posting.)

    A Creative State of Mind
    Since originality and innovation are so needed and valued in the business world, being able to unlock your own creativity will obviously serve you well. You will be at your creative best if you . . .

    • Observe Looking is one thing, observing is another. Get into the habit of studying something until it tells you about itself.

    • Receive Be open to all types of thoughts and feelings. Experiment. Think bold thoughts.

    • Wait Your most creative ideas may occur when you least expect it.

    • Accelerate But also take advantage of creativity when it hits. Share your original thoughts with others, write about them, apply them, expand on them.

    • Manage Don't expect creativity to be a linear process. Instead, expect detours and unexpected side trips.

    Final Thought: Who would have thought that getting a little abstract from time to time - splattering and pouring out ideas - may be your source of economic success in the future?

    - Dave Kemper

    Photo by mindluge.