Category Archives for Creative Process

Old advice but still good

I was talking to Mark Finzel, the VP of Marketing at LearningRx about social media.  My main point to Mark was content creation is hard while content distribution was easy.  And if you’re going to encourage franchisees to create and publish content, you better make sure you have those tools (ideas, topics, etc) available for busy people.  That’s just the beginning; once content creation is done, the really hard work starts with engagement and evangelization of your blog.  Actually it’s not hard, but it is time consuming.

I dug up this old article from Guy Kawasaki.  Still relevant after all these years.

BTW, he just posted an article on how he tweets.  Good stuff here too.

For all of you non linear thinkers

(left hand raised)  I admit it, I do not think in linear progression.

Or I should say, frequently, I do not consciously think in linear progressions.  As a rule, I tend to think and process information either verbally, tactically (e.g. writing down initial thoughts and continuing via exploration), or through pictures: I draw insights and conclusions from time and dimensional disparate data.

Mind mapping tools are great for us non-linear, and/or picture centric information processors.  Here’s a short video from the father of mind mapping, Tony Buzon.

YouTube Preview Image

Want a free version of mind mapping software?

(hat tip to Mike Brown for this post’s inspiration)

Over thinking thinking?

To paraphrase Bill Clinton, it depends what the definition of “thinking” is.

An interesting interview on Seed‘s website with the Jonah Lehrer, author of “The Black Box of Decision Making”

Short version of an article worth reading: do we over think important decisions?  The reductive: what is the optimal way to think about important decisions?

It turns out the answer is out is yes, we rely too much on our conscious analytic abilities to make important decisions.  Apparently our conscious brains cannot process huge amounts of data (e.g. the rise and weed proliferation of Twitter).  Thankfully we do have a cerebral processor that can handle huge amounts of data – our unconscious mental processing:  “Research suggests that it’s complex decisions, the ones that involve lots of information, that benefit the most from unconscious emotional processing. The conscious brain can only handle a very limited amount of information at one time?—?seven digits, plus or minus two. Unconsciously, however, you can process tons of information.”

To make matters worse, our self confidence in our conscious analytic capabilities only exacerbate the decisions making process.  By ignoring or diminishing the value of new information, we essentially seal our unconscious brain away from new data to process and synthesize into new insights.

The articles recommendation? Be open to new information, go with your gut, and for heaven sake, don’t over analyze those big decisions.  Your brain has already done it for you.  Just trust it.

Seeing the World Differently Makes You Crazy?

I read a blog posting on the Idea Connection blog about creative types and mental illness.  The main point of the posting revolved around original thinkers and the prevalence of mental illness, even in a mild form.

Conducted by Dr. Arnold Ludwig, the study surveyed “1000 original thinkers in a wide array of professions – art, music, business, science, politics and sports. In his research spanning close to 10 years, he studied these people’s mental fitness, their chosen professions and the relationships between their mental health and career selection” (quote taken from the actual Idea Connection blog post, not Dr Ludwig)

Results from his study (”Method and Madness in the Arts and Sciences”) showed that:

  • 9 out of 10 poets studied had diagnosable mental disorders (!)
  • 77% of fiction writers had mental disorders
  • 74% of theater people
  • 73% of painters and other visual artists
  • 68% of musicians (not sure if there is a difference between classical/jazz vs. rock)

I commented on the blog post.  I pondered not the actual results, albeit I do find them interesting.   What struck me was the “why”?  Why does there seem to be a correlation (at least based upon this one study)?

My theory based upon not one shred of empirical evidence: people with mental illnesses see things (no pun intended) that others do not.  Specifically, these people see connections where many see noise among verse, ideas, patterns, and themes.  Perhaps the mental illness removes filters that allows for these connections to be drawn.  After all, creativity is seldom drawn from obscure hard to access information.  Actually it is quite the opposite.  The raw materials for creativity are often in front of our noses.  It is the catalyst and connections that are seemingly evanescent and hard to pin down.

The Incongruity of Training to Discover and the Act of Discovery(Part I)

My business contemplative life is lived about 1-2 weeks behind the actual calendar date.  Most ideas and interesting tidbits percolate in my head.  At some point, if inspiration strikes and Muse happens to be in the room, I draw interesting connections (well, they are interesting to at least me!) and that tends to take about 1-2 weeks.

So as my son was watching Tom and Jerry earlier this morning, I started to read a few emails I’ve saved for short uninterrupted moments.  And while re-reading Cosmo‘s (no, not the newstand version) article on the importance of dangerous ideas, the incongruity struck me: how often does some-one’s insight training framework actually impede the possibility of game changing discovery?

Summary of the Cosmo article if you don’t feel like reading it: Darwin set off on his voyage as a 22 year old Victorian who studied theology at Cambridge and planned to be a clergyman.  While on the voyage he the notion of Evolution struck.

“Evolution is a deceptively simple idea, not immediately obvious to the casual observer. But its effects are complex, and span millions of years. If geology can be summed up as pressure plus time, then evolution is basically genetics and environment plus time…  It was like suddenly recognizing a language you had always heard in the background but could never understand: it was the language of life itself, whispering its secrets to anyone who took the trouble to listen carefully.”

That last sentence is the one that connected the dots.

Often we are trained either formally through education, or informally through experiences, to pattern and templatize not only how we think about the world, but how to process and categorize new concepts.  It is a human intuition, one that our ancestors relied upon for survival (e.g. is that shadow lurking at the edge of the fire a hungry sabre tooth tiger or a rock?).  Need further proof?  Think about the proliferation of stereotypes as social patterns.

Thus the ability to re-pattern how we approach insight, new concepts, and ideas is critical.  The key is not to be stuck in a linear formulaic approach to problem solving, but rather use patterns of approach that help us break out of strict dogma that often guides how businesses approach new concepts, test ideas, and think about new markets.

John Kembel gave me a copy of “The Designful Company” which I plan to read this weekend.  Knowing John, the book should be rich not only in design centric thinking but also how this thinking can be widely used across multiple disciplines.

More later on The Designful Company, Darwin, and the importance of using precedence for consideration but not letting it dictate future thinking.

Patterns of Creativity

Just watched Merlin Mann’s (43 Folders fame) presentation from MacWorld.  What struck me about his presentation (one needs to be patient with his rambling style) was the level of thinking he’s done around the idea of creativity and the reproducible nature of it based upon patterns.

Specifically about when it is appropriate to edit vs create.  Based upon his reading of Twyla Tharp’s book from 2005, there is a time to create and a time to edit. While this is not what I would call net-new, the way he explained resonated with me.

By confining editing to the editing process, you are free to explore and live with the sometimes inherent and often present ambiguity of ideas, thoughts, and connections.  To be free from censorship (even self) is critical at this stage as you look for new connections.  Once the creative process is done, then it is time for editing; here you can allow yourself to be ruthless.