We are all creative but our human experience filters, and conscious mind, block out creative bursts. We are much more creative while sleeping when the subconscious mind is free to think outside the box and associate thought fragments in totally new ways. Think about your dreams. You create the characters, the story line, the scenes, the dialog, everything. All of us have a little Steven Spielberg inside us.
The New York Times has an interesting story today Charting Creativity: Signposts of a Hazy Territory. Dr. Rex Jung, a research scientist at the Mind Research Network in Albuquerque says;
“The brain appears to be an efficient superhighway that gets you from Point A to Point B” when it comes to intelligence, Dr. Jung explained. “But in the regions of the brain related to creativity, there appears to be lots of little side roads with interesting detours, and meandering little byways.”
My theory is that sleeping slows us down, turns off the conscious filters, and allows us to dream more creatively. Think about the dreams you have. They are amazingly creative, and we do it all ourselves. What if we could have that same creative ability while we are awake and at work?
Although intelligence and skill are generally associated with the fast and efficient firing of neurons, subjects who tested high in creativity had thinner white matter and connecting axons that have the effect of slowing nerve traffic in the brain. This slowdown in the left frontal cortex, a region where emotional and cognitive abilities are integrated, Dr. Jung suggested, “might allow for the linkage of more disparate ideas, more novelty and more creativity.”
Artists, song writers, poets, comedians, and entertainers of all kinds have that amazing creative ability while they are awake. Their conscience doesn't block the creative spurts. Song writers say they sit down with their instrument and the new song just flows out of them naturally. Creative people don't have the same filters that most people have. This is good and bad. It allows them to be creative, but it also can make their behavior abnormal and erratic. You see, the lack of filters on the creative side can also manifest itself in a lack of filters on the social side. Think Michael Jackson. Amazingly creative, but no social filters for what is normal and acceptable.
Why does our conscience block creativity? From the time we are born we build experience models and filters that help us process lots of information efficiently and keep us safe. I'm sure you have seen babies get themselves into a crying fit because they are tired and overstimulated. They get overstimulated because they react to everything. They don't know what to filter out and ignore, and what to pay attention to. So, everyday we build filters that tell us to ignore that sound of a dog barking, a door closing, a car driving by, or the wind blowing.
We build other experience models that tell us that boiling water is dangerous if touched, smiling people are safe, and agitated people might be dangerous. Over the years we build millions of models and filters that allow us to process hundreds of stimuli per second and stay focused on what we need to accomplish.We do this in business too. We develop rules, models, and filters that tell us what will work, what doesn't work, who is good to work with, who to avoid, and how to minimize or avoid risk. All this experience makes us efficient. But, it also blocks creativity and thinking outside the box.
Most people avoid risk or possible failure at all costs. Remember my earlier post Failure Is Not An Option? Entrepreneurs are just the opposite. They see opportunity and manageable risk, or maybe they just filter the risk out entirely. Entrepreneurs spend no brain cycles thinking about the possibility of failure. It is a waste of time and brain cycles.
Fragment thinking - Dreams are collections or fragments of ideas that are assembled in new, sometimes bizarre ways. Innovation is like that too. It is a collection of known facts and ideas put together in totally new ways. Brainstorming helps us identify the fragment ideas, add existing trends, and assemble a new idea.
Development teams are best when they include an eclectic collection of people, backgrounds, disciplines, and experiences. It is rare that one person will conceive the whole idea from beginning to end. Brainstorming with a diverse team will uncover new innovative approaches...if we turn off our individual filters and are open to new ideas.
So, how do we unlock our creative genius? Take control of our brain. Turn off the filters. Brainstorm with others. Think like we do when we are sleeping. Think positively. Expect amazing results. Dream! Really, dream. Take that same creativity you have while dreaming at night, and apply it during the day. Day dreaming is good!
Note: Sorry about the different size fonts and gray color. The Typepad text editor seems to be borked. Can't get it to do simple things. What I see on the screen is not what renders in the browser. Very strange.
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