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26.05.12 - Creativity can be its own reward

Question: One of the most frustrating things I encounter is the stack of pages detailing ideas for projects that I know I probably won’t get to. How do I embrace the idea-generating process, while also accepting the fact that I won’t be able to complete most of them?

Part of the process of generating ideas is giving your creative and problem-solving abilities a workout. Although the bulk of your ideas may not carry through, they will serve as inspiration and fodder for future projects.

Generating ideas for projects draws on your imagination and leads to more flexible thinking, which benefits you whether or not you actually complete the project. These ideas will infiltrate your life in the way you think about personal and commercial projects, and keep you focused on your priorities.

The Creative Lab   personal project ideas   photographer Zoe Berkovic resized 600
© Zoe Berkovic

Creative Clues

Alex Osborn – the “O” in BBDO – created the concept of “brainstorming,” which is a way for a group to come up with many ideas in a short period of time. The same guidelines for generating ideas apply when you’re working alone. In his book Applied Imagination, Osborn provides four key guidelines:

1. Defer judgment: No criticism right away. Yes, at some point, it is important to judge an idea, but don’t do it while you’re trying to generate ideas.

2. Strive for quantity: Osborn states that “quantity breeds quality.” Basically, the more ideas you come up with, the more likely one or more of them will be great.

3. Seek unusual, even crazy ideas: Osborn said “it is easier to tame down than to think up.” In other words, we can worry later about how to make it work. For now, look for as many seemingly “crazy” ideas as you can – the wilder, the better.

4. Combine and build on ideas: “Piggyback” or “hitchhike” one idea to another to create a new idea.

By using these principles when seeking new ideas or options, you give yourself permission to come up with ideas you might not otherwise pay any attention to – but actually make sense when you think about them, tame them down or add something else.

Creativity or Completion? Both!

The only thing that you can’t change in this process is the concept of not giving up. When we’re faced with a particular challenge or problem, it’s easy to say “I can’t do it” or “I don’t know how to solve it” or ‎“it’s impossible.”

Nothing is impossible. Give yourself the chance to look for ideas before you judge them. Your ability to create solutions may surprise you.

Clearly, the completion of projects is important in the long term. But in a creative process there are not always clearly definable linear goals. The creative process is a flexible one, and the project you set out to complete will likely not be the final one. By allowing yourself the freedom to redefine the project, you gain clarity and feel less pressured by perfectionist thinking.

As Albert Einstein noted, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

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