At the launch of a leadership programme the other day, I asked the group what they were each looking to achieve. One of the participants said: ‘I’m hoping it will make me creative’.
I’m really looking forward to exploring that with her – because as I jotted that up on the flip-chart I was thinking: ‘but you already are – you’ve just forgotten’.
Beth Neilsen Chapman described it beautifully in an interview a few weeks ago: ‘creativity is like oxygen: some of us breathe deeper than others. It’s not that it’s not available to you, it’s not that you’re not creative – it may be that you don’t know how to use what you were born with’.
So the pragmatist within me is fascinated by how we re-learn that – how can we rediscover our innate creativity?
I recently read a really useful little book called: Think Like an Artist…and Lead a More Creative, Productive Life, by Will Gompertz. It’s full of ideas about the thought processes, attitudes and behaviours of successful artists and I wanted to focus in on just one of the book’s concepts here, which is that: ‘artists are brave’.
Michelangelo initially refused the gig to paint the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. As well as the challenge the building posed logistically, he considered himself a sculptor not a painter; and he totally disagreed with Pope Julius II’s vision for the work. Julius eventually convinced him, essentially telling Michelangelo to ‘paint what you like’. Gompertz writes:
‘Michelangelo decided that if the commission was going to be seen as a failure, he might as well fail spectacularly.’
He painted for four years, lying on a scaffold, arms aloft, but what he produced was bold and unparalleled. Somehow, Michelangelo overcame self-doubt and decided to ‘go large or go home’. True creativity requires daring and fearlessness of both failure and non-conformity.
This frees us to think differently, and most importantly, to give things a go and experiment. The world can squish our imaginations and we learn to play it safe.
‘The creative adult is the child who survived’ wrote Ursula Le Guin.
No one ever tapped John Lennon on the shoulder and said: ‘hey, why don’t you try writing a few songs?’ Productive creativity requires giving ourselves license to put ideas out there for the world to judge, and that takes bravery.
We love building programmes that take people away from the day-to-day and invite them to think wider, and to breathe a bit deeper – it’s a privilege and a joy. Over the years we’ve developed and squirreled-away a wealth of ideas and techniques to support creative thinking, and we’re always happy to share, of course.
If you’d find that useful, please drop us a line and we’ll send some resources your way!