The creative process is an experience the mind produces. It’s not something “out there” somewhere. It’s not a thing to go after. It’s woven into our brain functioning. It’s always present. Most of us lack an awareness of this simple truth. We call some people “creatives”. We talk about a “creative class” of people. But the creative process is the ground all our thoughts stand on. It doesn’t help anyone to say, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body”. You’re offering no help to others when you say, “I can’t draw a straight line.” “My kid could have done that!” is particularly unhelpful. (This kind of stuff comes out of my mouth too.) And, all these statements are brutally true: There are no creative “bones”. There are rulers for drawing straight lines. Let’s hope our kids can splash paint around and draw wobbly circles with their crayons and markers.
All this misses the point. Creativity is the life blood of our relationships. It is at work in all those mysterious places between us. Creativity is living with questions and accepting that not everybody has the same answers and those answers are always evolving. Creativity is saturated with ambiguity. It isn’t linear. It doesn’t fit into a box. It won’t leave you stranded. It does produce remarkable outcomes and suggests transformative ideas. It provides the necessary glue in diverse working groups.
If you want to figure out what creativity is and how it is working with your group then I’d suggest that you get everybody together in a room without experts (on the subject of creativity) and just ask the question: What is creativity? Have everybody come up with their own answers first by writing: What is creativity for you personally? Then, what does creativity look like for this group? Then let folks talk and let folks listen. No judgement. Answer these questions for the ideas that come from the process. Then put A together with D or F or M. Write stuff out loud on cards and stick them to a wall. Then, without coming up with a definitive answer let everybody go back to work.
Trust that there is magic in a process so simple and direct and open ended. That is the creative process. This is how creativity is cultivated. It’s already at work in every individual – no special training required. I’m 58 years old. I mentioned this to a colleague. She said, “Age is a state of mind.” So, too, creativity is a state of mind. I get that a lot of us are uncomfortable with accepting this energy-charged part of our reality. It’s hard to define or quantify or lean on the data about creativity. But it’s there and in here in each one of us. After working a few decades with so many non-artists it is clear to me that the creative impulse is universal and it can be cultivated through simple awareness and encouragement.
Make a little space and time for each person in your group to bask in the fleeting thought or the floating “what if?”. Productivity goes up. Connection goes up. Empathy goes up. Innovation does a somersault daring us to do what we do better. And you know what the big take away is? Joy.