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Creativity is Indiscipline…..and it’s about Time

5th November 2020

What’s the worst brainstorm session you ever had?

Mine was early in my career and this is a genuinely true story. The ‘facilitator’ held a brainstorm session late in the day when everyone was tired. In the middle of the table was a few bottles of Pino Grigio and 40 ‘B&H’.

As the wine flowed the ‘facilitator’ turned into a dictator. Ideas were immediately filtered and dismissed or liked. Then the ‘piece de resistance’ was lobbed in – “Unless I hear a good idea from each of you when I get back you are all fired!” No one was fired because the ‘facilitator’ was three sheets to the wind.

This session was so very wrong in every way. But the reason for the tale is what it tells us about creativity.

To understand the nature of creativity we need to start with what we understand as intelligence. This isn’t just IQ. In fact there at many intelligences:

There are very few completely brand new ideas. Most of our ideas are creative combinations of things that already exist. So nurturing our intelligences helps us create these combinations. If you want to delve more deeply into this do have a read of a fantastic book called ‘Power Up Your Mind’ by Bill Lucas.

How many times have you had a good business idea whilst you were doing something completely unconnected? Or an idea has come about by people simply and openly talking to each other? In so many ways creativity is indiscipline. It cannot be turned on and poured out in a defined and controlled meeting.

Creativity thrives through dialogue, a thirst for learning and through both activity and inactivity. Most of all we need to give it time…time to allow it to happen, time for people to talk. Time for wonderful connections to be made.

Beyond the time for the creative process itself we also need to have time for the pain of the creative process. The testing of the idea, the self-doubt, the going around in circles…until you get to the point where you have something you feel you can really hang your hat on.

That’s a neat segway into how this blog came to be written, listening one Sunday to a favourite album called ‘Discipline’ by King Crimson, and one track called ‘Indiscipline’. The lyrics perfectly sum up the creative process and the idea for this blog came to be, at a time completely unconnected to ‘work’.

“Indiscipline” was heavily inspired by singer Adrian Belew’s then-wife, Martha, and her thought process while painting. She sent him a letter while the band was on tour. This inspired both the lyrics and also the way they are sung.

I do remember one thing

It took hours and hours but..

By the time I was done with it

I was so involved, I didn’t know what to think

I carried it around with me for days and days..

Playing little games

Like not looking at it for a whole day

And then, looking at it

To see if I still liked it

I did!

As businesspeople, do we spend enough time understanding what it is to be creative and nourishing our people’s creative potential? Creativity is not confined to musicians, writers or artists. It is within all of us.

Those businesses that know how to do this will thrive, especially in times of uncertainty and change.

Because they will build an army of intrapreneurs.