Scott Adams, creator of the awesome Dilbert strip, has blogged about why the best way to kill creativity is to encourage it. The creative impulse will out, usually as a response to discomfort or insecurity. Creating an environment which is “condusive” to creative ideas is counter productive.
It reminded me of the wrath of Jeremy Clarkson at the fact the Top Gear offices were painted purple by the BBC in an effort to stimulate creative thought! It did make him quite cross.
Then it made me realise that I’m not sure Adams’ point reflects my personal experience.
I’m not a massively creative person, in that I don’t write poems, sculpt or paint, I don’t dream up massively revolutionary schemes for changing the world around me. But I enjoy being creative. I get a buzz from coming up with innovative ideas, trying different approaches to things and just having the freedom to play.
But all that stops when I’m under stress, or if I’m in an environment where I feel I have to fight to keep my head above water.
The jobs where I feel I’ve been at my most creative are the ones where I’ve felt most secure and encouraged. In the job that I hated the most, I could almost feel the creativity and joy in new ideas leaking out of me like a slow puncture.
I think Scott Adams is right in that some creative people will be productive no matter what, and an office with brightly coloured walls, extra money to indulge in ideas or whatever is not how you guarantee creativity.
But I think there’s a large population of people that will be more creative if the social environment is right; if they feel that new ideas will be welcomed and built on, challenged in a way that refines them rather than killing them.
I once took a course in improvisational acting (I wasn’t great at it) and one of the things we were encouraged to think was to take a “yes and…” attitude during a scene.
The “yes but” attitude was a block to the development of ideas on stage, it stifled instinctive creativity. Thinking “yes and” in response to someone else’s idea meant that all sorts of possibilities arose, some of which were rubbish, but occassionally something great came out of it. It enabled collaborative creativity.
Hat tip to @dajbelshaw for tweeting the Scott Adams post.
Image: thekellyscope – by-nc-sa