Creativity and Ideation: Help me; I’m not creative!

Help me; I’m not creative!

Yesterday, a student of mine said just that, “help me; I’m not creative!” There’s a certain amount of anxiety that overcomes students in a course on creativity. The main source of anxiety comes from their misunderstanding of what it takes to be creative. These students look at others and think those creative types had some magical gift bestowed on them at birth, making them creative.

Usually, those more-creative students are a more flexible and willing to give up control than less-creative students. Their increased degree of flexibility enables them to experiment on a wider range of possibilities. Other students, who don’t feel creative, try to gain control of the concepts from the beginning, dramatically limiting their possibilities. The subsequent result is that those establishing control early in the process create fairly ordinary works. Students embracing risk and playing around with ideas, essentially surfing chaos, generate a much wider range of ideas and possibilities. From those ideas and possibilities, they are able to make some pretty odd associations. From those odd associations, they make novel and useful designs.

There is safety in numbers. Early in the design process, give up some control and generate a lot of ideas. You can always go back and use that first idea. But if you don’t generate the other idea, you’ll never know which was best.

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