Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What is creativity

"Creativity is just connecting things." - Steve Jobs

Creativity. We always seem to think other people have it and we don't. Or that it's some mysterious thing that appears out of nowhere and we have no control over it. This new book delves into what creativity really is, how it works in the brain, how it's a part of each of us. Completely fascinating.

IMAGINE from Jonah Lehrer on Vimeo.

Jonah Lehrer, from the introduction: "The sheer secrecy of creativity — the difficulty in understanding how it happens, even when it happens to us — means that we often associate breakthroughs with an external force. In fact, until the Enlightenment, the imagination was entirely synonymous with higher powers: being creative meant channeling the muses, giving voice to the ingenious gods. (Inspiration, after all, literally means ‘breathed upon.’) Because people couldn’t understand creativity, they assumed that their best ideas came from somewhere else. The imagination was outsourced.”

As he begins to explain, it's just our own humble brains sifting through all kinds of bits and pieces all day long. Putting things together, trying to make sense of random information, making connections, accepting them or rejecting them, and then sometimes there are "AHA" moments, when two dots connect that we hadn't expected to. The excitement to have discovered something we think is new and that will make sense to other people too - that's the point of creativity.

"Creativity shouldn’t be seen as something otherworldly. It shouldn’t be thought of as a process reserved for artists and inventors and other ‘creative types.’ The human mind, after all, has the creative impulse built into its operating system, hard-wired into its most essential programming code. At any given moment, the brain is automatically forming new associations, continually connecting an everyday x to an unexpected y.” - Lehrer

And as I read on, I think "Ahhh. Why didn't I think of that before?" But it's really all about where you put your focus. Because where your thoughts go, that's where your own creativity lies. Some days I'm only thinking about smells. Or colors. Other days it's the business of the business - operations and functions and process. And still other days it's marketing and selling. I'm not sure if all that scattering around is more or less creative. But I'm looking at it in a whole new way.