Published on Jan 19, 2020

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People seem to have the idea that creativity & innovation can many times be the insight that we seemingly receive from nowhere. We see the image of Archimedes in the bathtub, and think that we can have that same experience.

And at times we may experience that lightning bolt. But more often than not, creativity is a deliberate, iterative process involving building the base of knowledge, challenging ideas, including the insight of others, and for significant quantum jumps, actively exploring the unconscious.

Pain & frustration

One myth we have is that the creative process is all fun. And certainly there are the moments where you are working in a stream of consciousness and thoughts are seemingly coming to you spontaneously. Or when you are working in a team and suddenly feel alignment on a challenge that you have wrestled with for a long time.


However, the majority of the process is actually painful and frustrating-The pain you feel for example the first time you share the idea in a group, and everyone tells you why it will not work. Or the frustration you feel when you test your new idea or concept and it fails miserably. This where more of the time is spent, than in celebrating the new product or service that you believe will change the way business is done. So to be truly creative, be prepared to have a thick skin.

The reason for this goes to Picasso’s famous quote-“Creativity is first of all an act of destruction.” A creative act changes the way we do or view something-and by definition, most human beings do not embrace change. True creativity will often challenge something in which we have an interest, making us more resistant. It could be as simple as the resistance we get when we implement a new software solution that that will make the delivery of HR services more efficient in the long term, and people prefer the way they have always done it. Or it could be as large as when someone’s role needs to change because the direction of the organization is different. People resist change, and creativity is the ultimate in change. Now that we have addressed the challenging part let’s talk about how to truly engage in the creative process.

Building the Base of knowledge-The Hard Skills

The ability to be truly creative in an area is directly proportional to the extent of your base of knowledge about that area. For example, the creative jump that my seven-year old son can make in terms of his paintings would not compare to the kind of creative jump that someone like Claude Monet could make, who studied for years and years. If you study the work of many of the greatest artists, you will first find very simple drawings the body, or one part of the body, done over and over again until a level of perfection was achieved. And these have typically been done long before the paintings or other works of art for which they are famous. The parallel is the same in sports-Lionel Messi is one of the most creative soccer players the world has seen and when you watch him, you are often left asking yourself “how did he do that?” But to be able to express himself creatively in that way, he first spent thousands of hours mastering very basic hard skills-the way you angle your foot when you pass a soccer ball, when you shoot a soccer ball, when you control a ball out of the air. Having the base of knowledge or hard skills is required before you can express true creativity about something.

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