Do you believe this lie about creativity? - THINKERS Notebook

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Do you believe this lie about creativity?

I have this debate with my wife from time to time.

She says she's not creative. I say she most certainly is.

Her reasoning is that she's not artistic or musical, and she's not writer. She also thinks that her role at work (Director of Revenue at a large software company) isn't a "creative" job.

My argument is that she has a far too rigid and simplistic view of what creativity really is -- a point that was reinforced as read Seth Godin's new book The Practice

"Creative, because you're not a cog in the system. You're a creator, a problem solver, a generous leader who is making things better by producing a new way forward."

Nowhere in there does it stipulate that the output has to be artistic for the input to be described as creativity.

Here are the first two sentences of the Wikipedia entry for Creativity:

Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something somehow new and somehow valuable is formed. The created item may be intangible (such as an idea, a scientific theory, a musical composition, or a joke) or a physical object (such as an invention, a printed literary work, or a painting).

Again: creativity can result in artistic expression, but it doesn't have to; in fact, in most cases, it does not.

Whether she wants to admit it or not, my wife is creative because she finds new and useful ways to solve problems. That is creativity, and it's valuable.

She often describes challenging issues at work that she has had to find her way through. And the way through is always her deep understanding of her field and an indefatigable ability to focus on a problem. This allows her to create novel solutions where none previously existed.

That's creativity. (Even if we can't frame it and hang it on the wall.)

And it's important to understand the skills and attributes that contribute to consistent creative output over time.

  • It's not the presence of genius.
  • It's not being being patient enough to await your muse.
  • It's not the ability to draw, sing, or write.

As Godin writes:
"Creativity is a choice, it's not a bolt of lightning from somewhere else.

"The practice demands that we approach our process with commitment. It acknowledges that creativity is not an event, it's simply what we do, whether or not we're in the mood."

My wife is creative because she is a committed practitioner of accounting and finance. She shows up day after day, gathers knowledge and experience, and discovers new and valuable ways to apply what she's learned.

Without the practice, there would be no creativity.

With the practice, she's a creativity machine.

Just don't expect her to admit it. ;-)

My question for you as we kick off 2021 is: how do you view your own creativity?

Are you holding onto simplistic, erroneous views of what creativity really means? If so, you're almost surely more creative than you think, but your mindset may still be holding you back.

And what are you doing every day to give yourself a chance to be creative? You can wait around for it to happen by accident, or you can show up every day, do the work, and guarantee creative output.

Creativity is not beyond your grasp. It's not something reserved for the artists and poets and geniuses.

Creativity is the result of everyday people doing everyday work that improves their little corner of the world.

Here's to a year of committed creative output in 2021!

Take note of the essential difference between being imaginative and being creative.


"Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity is characterised by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions. Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing. If you have ideas but don’t act on them, you are imaginative but not creative."

Read: What is Creativity? (And why is it a crucial factor for business success?) (Creativity at Work)

Becoming more creative won't happen by accident.


"Creative thinkers are not magicians who conjure ideas from nowhere. They have processes and methods. Many people feel that they have no special talents, or think they lack a burning passion, or crave success in an area they are not very good at, or feel either too young or too old or have too many other responsibilities and commitments. The practical techniques creative thinkers use are an example of how almost any hurdle can be overcome with creative thinking."

Watch: 5 Strategies to Become a More Creative Thinker (Time)

Creativity is inherently risky -- and that's okay.


"Show me something new.  Make something that I haven’t seen before.  Don’t be afraid to try something different, even if there is the chance of failure.  Sometimes the answers come quickly, but more often than not the good answers come with time and discipline."

Read: Developing Creativity: What does it mean to be creative? (UMHB Blog)
Quote of the week

Creativity doesn't wait for that perfect moment. It fashions its own perfect moments out of ordinary ones.” 

-- Bruce Garrabrandt