“Creating something is all about problem-solving.” – Philip Seymour Hoffman
I get asked what I do quite often. The creative industry is a place of mystery to most people, so this is no real surprise. Doubly-so when your work lives online. When I was younger, I would try to explain all the details of what the job entails (and watch eyes turn into frosted glass).
Somewhere along the line I started understanding my own job better and answering this question became a whole lot easier. “I solve problems” I would say. What I had come to understand is that art and copy were merely tools I was using to solve the problems in front of me, whether they were client briefs or crazy ideas in my head wanting to come out.
And, the truth is, I still answer the question like that. Even though my role has grown to encompass so much more than purely creating through design or writing.
“Everyone is a creative agent. … The tools are your imagination and your imagination is limitless.” – Oliver Herring
Once I share this with people, they generally reply with the most common lie humans tell (themselves and others): “Oh, that’s cool. Sadly, I’m not creative.”
This lie is in fact so common and so regularly repeated that most people have actually tricked themselves into believing it. The truth is that everyone is creative. Some people might be more consciously aware of their creativity and they’ve trained themselves in an expression of that creativity (art, design, music, etc.) but all humans – with no exception – are creative.
Once we understand that creativity is problem-solving, this becomes plainly obvious even. Can you find a route to drive to work? That’s creativity. Can you cook a meal? That’s creativity. Can you dress yourself? That’s creativity, even if you end up wearing Crocs and a Three Wolf Moon shirt.
“A key ingredient in innovation is the ability to challenge authority and break rules.” – Vivek Wadhwa
So how does one unlock the latent creativity that’s been repressed by years of repeating the the great lie: “I’m not creative”?
In a 2013 study entitled “The Cheater’s High: The Unexpected Affective Benefits of Unethical Behaviour” scientists found that breaking rules has two clear immediate benefits. Firstly, the “cheater’s high” – a mood lift, confidence in your abilities and a sense of being smarter. Secondly, a greater sense of freedom. An ability to think beyond previous constraints.
This increase in confidence and ability to think more laterally subsequently makes for the perfect combination for an increased ability to think creatively.
In other words, the best way to be more creative is to break more rules.
And if creativity is nothing but problem-solving, breaking the rules becomes a rather useful #lifehack for those times you’re stuck.
“Creative thinking inspires ideas. Ideas inspire change.” – Barbara Januszkiewicz
Simply put, if you’re stuck – break the rules! Instead of bashing your head against your office desk, take a notepad and go work from the park for a few hours. Ask a colleague from an unrelated department for their input. (You’d be surprised how many great ad campaign ideas I’ve gotten out of the guys in finance!) Heck, do what NASA did and throw the problem open to the public. Consider all the rules that define the situation you’re in and start breaking some of them.
Chances are management’s initial meltdown over your flagrant violation of work processes will turn to glee very quickly when you show them how it helped you come up with the concept that will pay for all their Christmas bonuses.
The best part is, it’s a technique that compounds.
Because, as we’ve seen, the more you break the rules, the more creative you get. And then, as Dan Ariely showed, the more creative you are, the more likely you are to break the rules and the better at it you get. The ultimate snowball effect.
Before you know it you’ll be the very same creative machine you previously claimed not to be, destroying all problems that cross your path. While you’re wearing Crocs even. You rebel, you!