Creativity is the most powerful skill we have as humans. In this article, I want to share my view as a designer, debunk the most common misconception around creativity and share my personal experience of what it really means to be creative.
As a designer, I’ve been confronted with creativity day in and day out.
Throughout my career, I’ve been thinking a lot about questions like “What is creativity?”, “Where does it come from?” or “What is the best way to become more creative?”
Creativity is such an important skill to have. It seems to me that in the 21st century, many people have lost touch with their intuition and imagination. They are so caught up in their day to day business that they don’t have the time to be creative. Yet, at the same time we are in need of more creative people than ever.
According to sources like the world economic forum , creativity is one of the most important leadership skills and a good trait to have. Especially in an era of automation , advanced robotics and artificial intelligence . As our society advances, we are dealing with more and more difficult challenges every day and we need to become better at creative thinking and problem solving.
The Biggest Myth About Creativity
During my time as an Interaction Designer at frog design , we often hosted ideation workshops with clients. Ideation workshops are an important part of a project and laid the foundation for a collaboration. This is where we defined a common direction for a product or service.
Clients usually came from various industries with different experience levels.
The purpose of an ideation session is to generate many ideas and communicate them efficiently through sketches. There are no bad ideas at this stage. Quantity is King.
However, during these ideation sessions, I often observed that clients struggled with expressing their ideas. Creating simple sketches using pen and paper was often a huge barrier for most people.
They had this believe that their creativity is linked to their artistic abilities . If they weren’t able to draw, their confidence level in expressing their ideas would drop. Wild hand gestures and vague descriptions became the replacement.
But I want you to understand that creativity has nothing to do with how good you can draw. You don’t need to be an artist or a designer in order to fully use your creativity.
What Is Creativity?
Creativity is often linked to generating unique and innovative products.
Something that the world hasn’t seen before.
But I personally believe that the outcome doesn’t necessarily have to be a highly innovative product or a completely new idea.
Creativity can be as simple as making a standing desk with available garden furniture or turning paper clips into a simple smartphone stand.
Creativity can happen in big but also in small ways.
Believing that creativity is only linked to disruptive changes, may prevent you from seeing the forest for the trees, because everything you do in your daily life involves some sort of creative thinking.
Consequently, I would like to give you a different perspective of how to look at creativity:
Creativity is a form of intelligence that allows you to connect experiences and knowledge to transcend ideas.
It is a very simple definition of creativity. At the core, it is about making connections from different domains in order to find a solution to an existing problem.
Transcending an idea describes the process of overcoming old ways of thinking.
At the end of the day, the ability to solve a problem describes your level of creativity.
Highly creative people are able to solve problems in many ways , because they look at from different angles. People with a low creative quotient, in contrast, tackle problems from a limited view and therefore can only produce limited results.
Does Creativity Decrease Over Time?
If there is anything that sets us apart from animals, then it is the ability to think creatively.
Because we are able to use our brain beyond basic instincts of survival and reproduction, we were able to conquer the planet and build massive civilizations. Everything around you was created based on a thought and an idea.
Sadly, most people become less creative as they get older.
In a study about creativity that was conducted for NASA, scientists found out that approximately 98% of the 1600 children that were tested, fell in the category of creative geniuses .
Surprised by the results, they decided to continue the study for many more years.
Initially, the children recruited for this experiment were between 4-5 years old.
After the first experiment, they repeated the test every 5 years when the children reached the age of 10, 15…and as adults at around 31 years.
In the end, they made the astonishing observation that only 2% of the adults belonged to the category of creative geniuses.
Why Adults Are Less Creative
Dr. George Land , who was involved in the study and gave an insightful TED talk about this experiment, concluded that we all still have the 5 year old in us.
However, over time as we get more programmed from society, we start judging , criticizing and censoring ideas. With all the limitation that we create for ourselves, we cannot fully take advantage of our creative potential.
The best proof, that we are still capable of having unlimited creativity, can be found in our dreams.
When we are dreaming, our imagination goes wild and there are no limits . Not even physical limits (did you ever fly in your dreams?)
But in the awake-state, our conscious mind takes over and creates artificial boundaries.
The more and more we are confined in our thinking and expose ourselves to the standard mental programing from society, the less creative we become.
How To Regain Your Creativity?
The good news is, that creativity is such an important part of our existence, that we cannot lose it completely.
Nonetheless, like any other skill, creativity needs to be practiced on a regular basis.
You need to start looking at creativity like a muscle . Similar to a muscle, the more you work it out, the better you will become at generating ideas and making connections.
In my opinion, here are the first steps you need to take to foster creative thinking:
1. Change your Identity
This is the most important step. As I mentioned at the beginning, the biggest blocker for people is that they don’t believe that they are creative. If you don’t believe that you are creative, there is no point in moving forward. Changing your identity to a creative person builds the foundation . Every creative habit and skill that comes after is build on this foundation. If you don’t believe that you are creative, you will have a hard time acquiring any type of skill.
2. Expand your field of view
The reason why kids are more creative is because they are more curious and explorative with no fear that holds them back.
By not being afraid, they can ask the weirdest questions that adults would never ask. These questions can often help them them to come up with the wildest ideas.
As a result, if you want to regain your creativity, you need to expand your field of view.
What does it mean in practice?
Read more books outside your comfort-zone
Travel to destinations you haven’t been before. This helps your explorative mindset.
Start side projects that may be unrelated to your daily job. Embrace your experimental mindset.
Learn new skills to build new neural pathways and connect different areas of the brain.
Why Creative Is Important
Creativity is the most important skill of the 21st century and many modern companies are looking for people who can solve problems creatively. It is such an important skill that can set you apart from others. If you want to create a better life for yourself and your family, you need to push your creative thinking forward.
Remember that creativity has nothing to do with your artistic abilities or whether you work in the creative industry or not. Many successful entrepreneurs and inventors of the past were not trained designers or artists.
The biggest trait all had in common was their curiosity and their ability to solve problems.
You have everything you need to become extraordinarily creative.