Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Learning to suck at creativity

Somehow, somewhere along the way, the line between creativity and technology became blurred. Same goes for innovation; a word often used but rarely in the absence of technology.

We've learned to suck at creativity by masking it in technology or placing it in the shadow of innovation. There is nothing worse that technology that lacks creativity.

It seems to happen systematically. The reason may be that we often place creativity on a pedestal. Rather than reach for the pedestal, we conform to the present (which is currently technology/innovation).  It's easier than lowering the pedestal. Up there,  creativity is an isolated activity owned by someone with creative credibility (I'm talking broadly and not judging... where on one side of the scale, they have a knack for coming up with ideas. While on the other side of the scale, they have a wall of awards made of crystal or earth metals). In this scenario, creativity can't be easily influenced or redefined. Collaboration ends up being a word that is used by people on the pedestal looking to gain support by those who are not. And often, the collaboration comes in requests for technology or innovation. It is here we see the meld of creative suckitude fuse into our unfortunately acceptable definition of creativity.

Creativity should be rooted in simplicity and improvement. This is something everyone is capable of but rarely provided permission to explore. Finding the insight that connects consumers to a product, cutting down lines of code to increase an apps efficiency, modifying company HR policies to encourage an activity (and ultimately discourage another), or simply allowing for conversation to flow among people uninhibited -  are all examples of creativity at work.

Learning to unsuck just requires the discipline of defining the creative request to the person you're engaging with. Lists aren't creative, but they are focused. Here's one on how to turn down the suck in the creativity of your workplace or community:
  1. Don't ask the same questions at the beginning of every creative process. This is habit, and habit kills creativity. A starting point is to avoid the words "engage" "innovate" "connect" "brainstorm" "blue sky" "viral" "social" "insight" - make a creative request...creative.
  2. Never ask a bull for milk. Focus the tasks on the persons expertise - if they know money, focus it on savings/profits, if they know software, focus it on UX or efficiency, if they know design, focus it on...you get the picture. Expand the notion of creativity by framing and priming participants with a set of tasks that fits their abilities to add to the discussion.
  3. Favor diversity over support. Diversity of thought inspires great ideas. If you're in a creative discussion, or a meeting, or a brainstorm, and you feel comfortable with everything you hear - then you've missed the creative bus. Same goes for simply giving time to ideas you like - you've missed the point. Which brings us to point #4.
  4. Check yourself first. Creativity often sucks because we often come up with the creative framework/solution before we ask for help. We look to support our cause and build a brainstorm around it. Hence why leaders of creativity often end up with unstable egos, or unchecked biases, they are constantly supported in every collaboration. Check yourself should be step one, but it took me four steps to realize I didn't before writing this.
All that said, the point isn't to tear down creative bureaucracy. People need to make decisions, and decisions don't involve everyone all the time.  Rather, the point is to foster creative diversity at the beginning - which creates creative health....and actually leads to true innovation.