Creativity is More Than a Great Idea by Lisa Hunt-Wotton
Thomas Edison once said;
“Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration”.
Having a great idea is the smallest part of the creative process. Understand that most of your ideas will not grow wings and fly no matter how good they are. Successful creatives understand that there is a great deal of material that ends up living on the studio floor. A great idea is only 1% of the journey, the rest is hard work.
Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality (source). It is the process by which you take a good idea and make it happen. Known in some circles as Imagineering. This term was introduced in the 1940s by Alcoa to describe its blending of imagination and engineering (Wiki). Walt Disney then adopted this expression into his empire and created the Walt Disney Imagineering Research & Development, Inc. which is the research and development arm of The Walt Disney Company. Walt Disney was a man who understood that anyone can have a great idea, but few can put in the perspiration and hard work needed to get it off the ground.
To be an Imagineer you need to:
2: Have great ‘organisational skills and relentless execution’ (Belsky).
3: Leverage communal skills to get the job done.
4: Have good leadership and strategic skills.Lose the Fear of Being Wrong and Kill the Idea
When you are brainstorming, there are no good ideas or bad ideas just ideas. Of the 100 ideas you imagine, 99 of them may be no good, but one of them might just work. Fear is the monster that we must battle to the death. We are afraid of what people think and of what they will say.
“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”Joseph Chilton Pearce.
If we are to succeed at making ideas happen, we must lose our fear of being wrong. We must also learn to let go of ideas that don’t make the cut. “Walt Disney is known for his boundless creativity, not his skepticism. But it turns out that Disney went to great lengths to ensure that his creative teams vetted ideas ruthlessly and killed them when necessary (Belsky).
The quality of an idea is not the idea itself but the fact it can fly and stay up in the air.
The general population believes that creatives are unorganised, whimsical beings. For any creative to be successful they must be organised. Just don’t expect that their organisational process looks like yours. Many creatives falsely believe organisation kills the creative process. I believe it is like gardening. A tomato plant will creatively produce oodles of delicious tomatoes but it needs staking so that the tomatoes can be supported, it needs structure. It also needs fertile soil, rain and sun. Without structure ideas fail to build and thrive. Without the proper attention they die and wither on the vine.
An important discipline which aids the creative process is journalling. I have a diary which is ruled off into three areas. The biggest section is the ‘Action’ area. The second is the ‘Idea’ list, and the third is the ‘Back burner’ area. I can get distracted with ideas and not action the strategy. So I make a place to log ideas but I wait to go through those until I have worked through the action area. Back burner is for those ideas that are good and possible but not for now. Timing is a huge issue as it involves maintaining your wellbeing and actual capacity. If I followed through with all of my ideas, I would kill myself.
If you are working with other people in teams or groups, the most important part of the brainstorming session is the execution. Who is going to action that? Do they know they are actioning that? IF not you will gather at the next meeting and wonder why nothing has been done. Also set a date for the action or it will be postponed. It can get very frustrating if people do not own and follow through with the action. It only takes on person to knock the wheel of the little red wagon.
Community forces you to articulate your ideas, to find language and to sell it. You are forced to step out of the creative bubble and face reality. You learn to love critical thinking and feedback. There is a safety in the collaborative process and many rewards. Collaboration produces a rich stew for ideas to bubble and marinate and form deeper layers. Other people bring their expertise to the table and highlight weak areas or danger zones you may have missed whilst you have your head full of the wonder of the idea. Be prepared to hold this process loosely and to not get pushed out of shape or to take things personally. You need to learn to sift and keep the kernels of grain and blow away the chaff.
Learn to harness the forces around you. Community is all around you use it. This can be work colleagues, family, neighbours, other creatives. They may not understand your idea at first but this will force you to develop marketing strategy and language which will develop your idea. You need to articulate your idea well. We seldom achieve anything on our own. We all have weak areas and this is the beauty of community. They can highlight those areas and sometimes they will even step in and fill the gap.
Every week I am approached by people who believe they have a ‘great idea’, and it may well be a great idea. However, they lack the discipline to perspire through the creative process. Instead they hand me the idea as if I will run and jump and do cartwheels and offer to do all the hard work for them. Some even ask me to write the language and the narrative for them. If you cannot do this yourself, then 1: You have not thought the idea through properly. 2: You have not done the hard work of engaging the community process YOURSELF. 3: You are not organised or able to receive feedback.
How often do you walk along and trip over a large nugget of gold and make instant thousands of dollars? No, you have to prospect, dig, mine, sift and dig and sift more and if you are lucky, you may after many months, you may gather grains of gold. Just because YOU think your idea is amazing does not guarantee cash return. Step out of the creative bubble and let community speak reality, support or perspective.
There are far too many dreamers and not enough doers.
We are desperately in need of great leaders. Your ideas will only thrive in an environment of great leadership.
I believe the evidence of a great leader is that those around you are thriving.
Great leadership is more than just having a vision, it is rolling up the sleeves and jumping into the trenches. It is being accountable. It is taking the responsibility when things go wrong. It is knowing when to encourage and empower and when to prune and cut back. It is a balancing act and it require compassion and discernment.
Once again it comes down to hard work. There is no avoiding this. There is no free pass, no easy ride. Maturity is the fruit of good leaders. They have the muscles required to go the hard road. Good leaders understand that there is joy in the process. They know that it will require perspiration but the end result is worth the hard work.
Belsky Reference: Belsky, Scott. 2012, Making Ideas Happen
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