Choosing Creativity: From Having an Idea to Making it Happen
People do not lack ideas. Anyone who ever participated in a brainstorming session will know that we can come up with many ideas quickly. Yet, there is a disconnect between having ideas and transforming them into products or performances. The science of creativity shows that the key to successful creativity is the decision to act—and then deciding to act again and again, despite any physical, mental, or emotional obstacles, until ideas take shape and come to life. The science of creativity reveals the hidden parts of the creative process – from what it takes to get started on the journey of doing something with our ideas, to choosing which ideas to pursue and how, to finding ways to persist when encountering inevitable difficulties along the way. I discuss the biggest obstacles to launching into creativity – risks of failing in our own eyes and reputational risks of creative work, as well as the attitude of possibility when approaching creative work. After having taken the leap, we need strategies of problem finding and harnessing the power of emotions to persist through slumps and creative blocks. Finally, creativity is social even when it appears not to be. I examine the surprising social aspects of creativity and how to draw on them to boost creative work.
Creativity at Work
Creativity is much more than ideas. Steve Jobs did not just have an idea and a vision of a sleek new kind of phone, but he made it happen. Crucially, he did not do it alone. The science of creativity shows what kinds of environments best inspire creativity and create conditions for enduring creativity. I discuss the collective side of creativity at work. Ideas are inspired in interactions with others, sometimes without us being aware of it, or developed in collaboration or with feedback from others. The social influences on creativity can be quite paradoxical. On one hand, creativity benefits from close relationships – those with supportive colleagues, friends, and family. When the creative going gets tough, they can provide emotional fuel to keep us going. But when inspiration is needed, more casual relationships and even conflict about where creative ideas can be taken end up being helpful. I examine the collective aspects of creativity – from interactions between leaders and their followers to team dynamics and organizational supports and barriers – and how to draw on them to boost creativity at work. Crucially, I show how organizational cultures can be purposefully built to maximize creativity.
Creativity is a work and life skill, but it is also a tool of well-being. Doing something creative repairs mood and creative activities contribute to our sense of personal growth, purpose, and meaning in life. The key to this link between creativity and well-being are emotions. Emotions inspire and fuel creativity. Once the spark is lit, emotion skills – how we reason about and with emotions –contribute to moving us along in the creative process from the idea to its realization. These same skills help our social, emotional, and occupational well-being. Creative individuals are in the same time more likely to face vulnerabilities (like anxiety and stress), but also have the resources to deal with them. Understanding the science behind the creativity/well-being link empowers us to both be more creative and better off in our personal and professional lives.