CREATIVITY CAN COME EASY. JUST GIVE IT A TRY!
(Guest Post By Helena Palha)
Are you imaginative? Do your friends praise your creativity? Do you enjoy coming up with new ways to solve old problems? If you answered yes to any of these questions, what would you say if I asked you where it all comes from? How do you come up with your ideas?
Be honest – now that you’re faced with this question, you probably can’t quite find the words to get around it. It’s too intimidating, because there is practically no restriction to the direction your answer could take. Your position on this is very much like that of a shopper, who faced with the overwhelming variety of goods at his local supermarket ends up buying the same items every time. Everyone finds themselves in that position sometimes, in the supermarket or during conversations over coffee or drinks.
This is where the prolific author John-Paul Flintoff would remind us that a restriction, a shortcoming or a lack can have a tremendously positive impact on creativity and imagination, as they trigger the kind of observation that ultimately leads to action.
As you observe the world around you, you’ll be likely to engage in conversation with those you come across. Your friends, your neighbours, your co-workers or even others you hadn’t met before. As you do, you may feel pressured to contribute with an extremely original insight, but take a moment to consider how that sort of pressure impacts you. Doesn’t it alarm you?
Instead, why not allow yourself to relax? After all, what’s obvious to you may be really original to someone else. Why should we assume everyone finds our obvious ideas obvious? People aren’t telepathic, and if they were, conversation would not hold such a transformative power.
Perhaps you’d be surprised to hear that ways to get rid of such a pressure can come from areas of knowledge you’d not automatically take into account, like theatrical improvisation.
To be good improvisers we need to take what we’re given. Essentially this turns everything in conversation and interaction into an offer. And with so much on offer, we suddenly find ourselves living in an abundance of ideas and insights. Whatever we get becomes ours to take and shape into whatever we would like, and thus a rich theatrical script gets composed.
Applying this exercise to everyday encounters can also prove effective, and most of all it can help us shift concentration away from setting targets to getting involved in a process, and hopefully making that process enjoyable.
If improvisation techniques still don’t quite resonate with you, perhaps a quote by Nietzsche can help clear things out – “Not every end is a goal. The end of a melody is not a goal”. This is to say, if you make “having an idea” into a process instead of a goal, you won’t need the process to be over in order to enjoy it. Do you need a song to be over so you can enjoy it? (Who said Nietzsche was difficult to understand?)
And while I’m dropping names, how about a quote by Raymond Williams – “the key is not to make despair convincing, but to make hope possible”, so bring forth the positive, sit back and relax as creativity takes you to new heights.
Now that you might just be starting to get convinced about the fantastic transformative power of conversation, you may also be wondering exactly how theatrical improvisation techniques can be used in everyday situations. Let’s get to that! If you apply any of these suggestions after reading, I’d love to hear how everything works out, so feel free to get in touch!
1 – Understand you make a difference.
As you go about your day you’re making an impact on the way things happen, or as John-Paul Flintoff would put it, you’re endlessly voting in the recurring election of how things should be.
(Yes, the conversations you started or took part in since you woke up this morning can change more than you imagine).
2 – Embrace the fine art of listening.
It’s easier than you think – try to punctuate your conversations with moments when you allow yourself to appear visibly changed by what you hear. Be expressive! Maybe you’ll be afraid of appearing too dramatic at first, but any self-consciousness will eventually fade away as you turn this into a habit. Quickly consider how things make you feel, or how they strike you, and channel that into how you appear to your interlocutors. It’s a small step to take, but it can improve the flow of conversation and it can provide your interlocutors with the encouragement they need to share or elaborate on their ideas. You don’t need to come up with solutions for the people around you. Most likely, they’ll find the solutions on their own once you create that opportunity. Be an engaged listener, provide relevant feedback and you’ll be giving them just the little push they need to open up.
3 – Be playful and don’t try too hard.
Or better yet, don’t try at all, just do it! (No, we’re not trying to convince you to wear only a particular brand of running shoes). The following improvement games might give you the incentive you lack, not to mention that they’ll be a good way to break the ice and relax as you enjoy the process of coming up with your next great idea, or that of helping your friends formulate their ideas.
Tell a story, (without having a story at all). Imagine you have a story and without letting out any details about it, get your friends to ask you simple questions about it. Reply with “yes” for all questions ending with a vowel, “no” for all questions ending with a consonant, and “maybe” for all questions ending with a y. In the end your friends will have come up with the story, not you. They’ll have defined the narrative, and bringing it out will encourage them to make room for creativity.
Pretend you’re handing someone a present, but don’t specify what it is. Instead, let the recipient decide what it is. This is a useful game to get reminded of the potentialities of taking all things in conversation as an offer. If everything is an offer, you can get just what you need to make your ideas take shape.
4 – Generating positive changes with your ideas.
If you want to generate a positive change with your ideas, start by pinning down small steps and asking yourself what you can do within the next 24 hours. If you find you can’t do anything, maybe you should drop that and move on to another idea. As you set your goals, be willing to embrace the possibility of failure. After all, if there’s no possibility of failure, your idea may well be just boring and obvious. Most importantly, remember that failure will never be your sole responsibility, and that there are too many factors affecting the way ideas turn out.
Remember people tend to like being asked for help, except if you put them in a situation where they’re not allowed to say no. Don’t get your friends between a rock and a hard place – give them space to accept or refuse, doing that you’ll be liberating them to be an active part of your mission.
Helena Palha works as a community manager at Fajoya Oy, a Helsinki-based startup dedicated to help people get the best out of their relationships by creating easy and fun opportunities for collaborative interaction. Find out more at http://www.fajoya.com/app.
©2013-2014, The Idea Bucket.