Don't make it about you

I could do an entire seminar on this, a whole day even. But for this medium I'll simply say this; when you're trying to make things, you have to remember that it isn't about you. Critique is hard to take when you imagine it is a critique of you. But when you remember that you have a higher purpose, a shared goal, you can let go of that personal stuff. 

You are not the product. You serve the product. When you make criticism of the product into an attack on you then you do three things: 

  1. You become inflexible; if you've attached your sense of self to the product then you can hardly alter the product without having to alter who you are. 
  2. You lose sight of possibilities; becoming attached to one thing is the best way to blind yourself to other things. Let go of attachment and be more creative. 
  3. You make it impossible for others to share their honest thoughts; people don't want to upset you and if they fear that they will they will withhold the truth. 

Be a more creative team by making sure it isn't about you. 

Stop worrying about being creative and be creative

You know, when people ask me how I come up with ideas it's a tricky conversation because, honestly, it's more about what I don't do than what I do. That isn't to say that a deep dive into the problem followed by some playful noodling with silly associations, and then letting go and allowing new ideas to bubble up isn't something that I do but rather I do those things in the same way that a river flows when you remove whatever is obstructing it. People flow with ideas and insights when they stop doing the things that are blocking them up. 

Creativity is the art of solving problems under conditions of uncertainty. Uncertainty is something that most people find scary so it follows that managing fear and the closing down, avoiding behaviours that it engenders, is a big part of creativity.

Play is a big part of my work. Play is many things but supreme amongst them play is freedom. Yes, play is bound by rules but within those rules we feel a great sense of freedom. In a sense, creativity is finding freedom within constraints. In that way creativity is play. Freedom is the first thing to go when we feel fear, when we feel stress. 

Fear, stress, anger, irritation, a desire to impress people, feeling under pressure, these things cause us to close up and play with less freedom. So when I come up with ideas, when I solve problems, if I'm doing it right if feels like play. It feels like freedom. 

And to round out this little circle of narrative, play and freedom, creativity itself, emerges when we remove the fear and pressure, the anger and stress, that so many of us feel every day, especially at work. This is not easy. It's actually pretty hard. But it's also not complicated. In fact, making it complicated is precisely why most creativity training doesn't work. If you're feeling under pressure to learn loads of tools and techniques and to "get them right" you're not playing with freedom, you're just exchanging one set of stressors for another. 

You might never hire me and that's OK. Obviously I'd love it if you did hire me but even if you don't you can do this; you can try to make work more like play. Let yourself become aware of the parts of your work that make you stress, that causes you to close down, and find ways to remove them or counteract them. Be free in your work, take joy in it, and you'll find your creativity waiting for you.