What if your life and your work were infused with creativity? If you followed last week’s call to action, you may be already doing it.
The idea that convergent and divergent thinking represents two different ways of looking at the world is true. Psychology Today describes it this way. A convergent thinker sees a limited, predetermined number of options. By contrast, a divergent thinker is always looking for more options. Many of us get stuck in convergent thinking and, as a result, don’t see the many possibilities available to us. A divergent thinker is looking for options as opposed to choosing among predetermined ones.
Divergent thinking is creativity at its essence. If you are predominantly a divergent thinker and you encounter a setback, you immediately begin looking for creative options.
The snag is “normal life,” mass culture and societal norms favor convergent thinking and discourage divergent thinking.
Creativity expert and researcher, George Land showed this vividly through a creativity study, testing 16,00 children ranging in ages from five years old to 15 years old. His creativity test, actually the same creativity test he devised for NASA to help select innovative engineers and scientists, determined the percentage of creativity among the 1,600 children.
- Test results amongst 5 year olds: 98% were determined to be creative geniuses
- Amongst 10 year olds: 30% were determined to be creative geniuses, an 68% drop
- Amongst 15 year olds: 12% were determined to be creative geniuses, an 86% drop
We think, as we get older we get smarter, right? We THINK we have more answers but in fact once solutions are discovered they become calcified, frozen and formalized. People make models and flow charts out of these answers and for us, discovery stops!
We already have the right answers. Not through our own discovery but based on someone else’s right answer. School and life does this, operates this way. We are taught the right answer and chasing the right answer supplants our creativity.
Then we fear we don’t have the right answer, we are afraid to speak up, raise our hand, we quietly sit in the back. George Land gave his same creativity test to 280,000 adults: 2% scored as creative. That’s a 96% drop from a 5 year old.
Most adults hear “creativity” and think artist, sculptor, wood carver that’s true all those people are creative. But just because you are not an artist per say, doesn’t mean you are not creative. It is well documented that authentic creativity, the real deal is inborn, natural and normal for everyone. It’s simply the intelligent search for new and better solutions. We all have more creativity than we realize.
You might be saying ideas come to the gifted. That may be true. It is also true that ideas come to all of us. But still, even the talented and gifted have to develop ideas into something coherent, useful and applicable to create value out of those ideas.
So does this shed light on where the talent actually resides? Maybe you’ve heard it said that there is no lack of ideas. Ideas are not the shortfall. The lack is in the effort and commitment to developideas into something coherent and valuable.
What can a “normal”, “average” person do to bring more creativity to bear?
If you want to make you life and work a masterpiece give yourself the space, the permission to play messy and create some flops along the way.
Wacky, off the wall, hair-brained ideas are great! There is a connection from the wacky to the reasonable. Want an example? Think Aflac and their white duck. After searching for wacky ideas, they did the all-important heavy lifting, the convergent follow up. For Aflac the idea almost wasn’t accepted but through an industrious, convergent effort, Aflac made their wacky risk a calculated risk and sales have been climbing ever since.
This takes an enormous amount of time and effort. The luck, success and mastery comes after the work.
There’s a story about Pablo Picasso, the famous sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist and stage designer who is considered one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century.
He became good at producing his art in quick form scratching out remarkable art in just minutes.
Picasso was walking though the market one day and a woman spotted him. She stopped the artist, pulled out a piece of paper and said, Mr. Picasso; I am a huge fan of your work. Please, could you do a little drawing for me?
Picasso smiled and quickly drew a small, but beautiful piece of art on the paper. Then, he handed the paper back to her and said that will be one million dollars.
But Mr. Picasso, the woman said. It only took you thirty seconds to draw this little masterpiece.
My good woman,Picasso said, it took me thirty years to draw that masterpiece in thirty seconds.
Picasso isn’t the only brilliant creative who worked for decades to master his craft. His journey is typical of many creative geniuses. Even people of incredible talent rarely produce astonishing work before decades of practice.
You may know the Michelangelo carved the statue of David. He said, if people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.
Bruce Springsteen explained his experience by way of simple math. In an interview for his new book Born to Run, he said, your creative spirit, hunger, desire and ambition has to be greater than your fear, your loathing, your resistance. So there it is folks, simple math. Your input has to be greater than the resistance.
Do you have the courage to bring forth the gifts that are in you and not yet known?