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John Cleese on Creativity

I watched an excellent presentation from John Cleese last week, and took some notes which I would like to share.

Adam D 3 January 2013

I watched an excellent presentation from John Cleese last week, and took some notes which I would like to share, though I recommend you take a break and spend 36 minutes watching the video yourself and find inspiration to make 2013 your most creative year yet.

My notes:

Creativity is not a talent - it's a way of operating. The most creative people are those that invest the time in moving into that mode regularly. Creative people don't necessarily have a higher IQ than their less creative associates.

You can only be creative when in Open (Playing) Mode. To be creative, you must maintain an Open mode for a long enough period of time to allow your creativity to be activated. When working on resolving an issue, or completing a piece of work you should of course operate in closed mode; focus on just getting the job done. Try to remain relatively Open at other times to maintain the ability to be creative.

Most people work day to day in a Closed mode - there is a never ending list of tasks to get done, and we mechanically work through them one by one without any reflection or pondering time to really allow us to more creatively solve problems, find new ideas or inspiration. We choose the first solution to a problem that comes to mind as it's the path of least resistance - there is so little time to get anything else done - snuffs creativity.

5 steps to create some structure around being creative:

1. Space

You need some space away from interruptions and typical daily demands. No disturbances. No calls, no emails, no conversation, no interrupting actions, procrastinating. Close the door, turn off the to-do list in your head.

2. Time

The space needs to be created within a certain period of time. Start and end at a specific time. A specific, limited, secluded period of exact time is required, otherwise it isn't valued. When you commence the play time, ignore the racing list of thoughts in your mind.  Let it pass. Don't allow it to take over your play time. At least half an hour is required to let this pass - then 1-2 hours of Open time before a break is required, and then perhaps move back into your normal mode of operation.

3. Time

(yes, again) Giving your mind as long as possible to come up with something original. The more time you can allocate, the more creative you'll be.

4. Confidence

Nothing will stop creativity as much as the fear of making a mistake. Remember you're experimenting - you need to be open to anything that may happen. Whatever happens, is OK. You should not be anxious about something being wrong. You're either free to play, or not. Risk saying things that are silly, illogical or wrong. There is no such thing as a mistake. Any dribble may lead to a break through. If you're being creative with others, ensure they're positive forces and support each other. Otherwise creativity = 0.

5. Humour

Gets you from Closed mode to Open mode quicker than anything else. Humour is an essential part of spontaneity and playfulness. It's necessary for creativity. Feel free to giggle all you like while in your space/time oasis.

While in your space/time oasis keep your mind around the topic you're trying to resolve. If the pondering time is invested, the idea will come - maybe not instantly - maybe in the shower, maybe at breakfast the next day, but it will come.

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