Friday, 21 October 2011

generating the spark [thoughts on creativity]

tools of the trade

I read a lot about creativity. As someone immersed in making|designing|creating I find it an endlessly fascinating topic. And as a researcher, I do too.

There's quite a bit of information out there from psychologists that attempt to explain what creativity is, where it comes from, and how it works.

There are also a range of people immersed in teaching art or design who think about creativity from a making perspective. If you ever feel inspired to read more on this I recommend reading a book called Studio Thinking. These folk know about creativity from an insider-maker's world and that's what they focus on in their book.

The Studio Thinking people write about the 'habits of mind' that need to be developed for creativity to flourish in a studio environment:

develop craft|engage & persist| envision| express| observe| reflect| stretch & explore| understand art world

What I find interesting to think about are the kind of environments or atmospheres that encourage the possibility of creativity (and ones that don't). Creativity is about expansiveness. You can see that when you look at the habits of mind the Studio Thinking people have highlighted. So environments that encourage that expansiveness, ones that allow mental and physical space and movement, freedom, a sense of adventure, exploration and risk taking are really important when initiating and developing creative projects.

My question then, is do we have or allow enough opportunities for this? Do we have the kind of environments where this kind of creativity can spark and come to life?

These are important questions for individual artists|designers|makers, small and medium sized organisations, and also especially, I think, for large organisations and corporations to think about. And I mean organisations of any kind, not just the explicitly creative kind. Because creativity is important in all kinds of work and all kinds of projects.

I read and hear so much about large organisations being fearful of creativity and employees with a creative streak. These kinds of people scare inherently conservative folk because of their expansive natures and ways of working. There is a lot of emphasis on control in many organisations (small, medium or big ones) and, sadly, the loss is creativity. Creative folk and their thinking often freak out those who like to keep hold of the reigns. Imagine how much this impacts on creativity and innovation all over the world! And imagine how much untapped potential lies dormant because of this fear.

But things might be starting to change. 'Blue sky days' are now starting to creep into the way some innovative organisations structure their working week to enable the space for creative thinking (and doing). Google calls this their 20% time where they allow staff to spend one day a week on the dreamy, expansive thinking and doing needed for creativity to spark. There are many websites and books out there encouraging self-employed people to do the same whether they are artists|designers| makers or work in areas not traditionally connected with creativity.

Even those of us who are makers can get stuck in a rut and need to carve time out for some expansive thinking and doing. Do you have a structured way for doing this? If so, what is it and does it work for you?


  1. Great post!! It's so interesting.. creativity really does need lots of room to move and grow! I have just recently come out of a little creative rut!! It's horrible but sometimes I think it's good to have a break from creativity... it makes you appreciate it so much more when it your creativity comes back :D
    I have to go and get that book now!

  2. So true about taking breaks Lamina.
    On the book - it's written like a teaching book but accessible and useful to anyone.

  3. I think this is a really important discussion for business and as someone who works for a large organisation. I would have to say I am needing this kind of time in my work. There's a crossroad and careful consideration needs to be made before embarking on what will be a big new project. I'd like more time to digest the past and plan properly for the future but fear it's not going to happen. Personally, I am feeling much the same. So much so that in our household we're seriously talking about me taking time - a gap year (or few months) to take stock of my working life until now and plan properly for what I hope will be a new phase of my working life.

  4. I so hear you Kate! This topic is really important for organisations (big, small, in between) to work on integrating structurally. Burn out is real. And blue sky thinking and dreaming is hugely important work!
    Your stuff sounds interesting! Good on you for considering this kind of thing. Most of us get on the life/work treadmill and don't know how to get off to assess where things are at unless we're forced to in some way. So it's great you're going to give it a go.