John Cleese on How to be Creative

I haven’t posted in a while (read: looooooong while) so I should be spanked. Anyway, this will get the ball rolling again.

I watched John Cleese talk about how to be creative on Sunday and it was quite insightful. Encouraging creativity in myself, those that work with me and those that work for me is something I’ve always been very interested in. Cleese does a great job and, if I remember back to Uni correctly, the points he makes are very much in-line with current academic thinking.

You can watch the video here:

The 4 key take aways for me were:

  • You can’t be taught to be as creative as Mozart or Rembrandt but you can foster situations in which you are at your most creative.
  • People can operate in two modes: open and closed. In the open mode people are child-like and playful, this is when they are at their most creative. In a closed mode, people are focused on a task and getting things done. This usually comes with a slight anxiousness.
  • The 5 major things that lead to creativity (or getting you into that open mode) are:
    • Space – Create a space for yourself that is disconnected and a bit different.
    • Time – Set aside a block of time to ponder a problem and guard this with your life. Cleese says set aside no more than 1 hour 30 minutes. I’ve read elsewhere that this is the ideal amount of time to spend on anything and then you need a short break otherwise you won’t be working at an optimal level. Thinking back to a client meeting today, I spent 1 hour 45 minutes with a client today I could feel my brain wavering around the 1h 20m/1h 30m mark. (Theory in practice, amazing!)
    • Time – A bit of a laugh having a second time, but this second time is about time for your subconcious to mull something over. After g
    • Confidence – People need the confidence to believe that what ever they think up is possible. You can foster this by never saying “no” or “wrong” and instead building on what was said.
    • Humour – This is an essential element of that open, playful mode people need to be in.
  • Intermediate impossibles are important: if you can’t come up with something start with completely crazy ideas. For example, I was wondering how I might sell a new product Terem is considering, my mind was blank. So I wrote “donkeys use nachos to promote this service”. Sounds silly but it was amazing how quickly I crossed this out and wrote a creative answer. Edward de Bono calls these crazy ideas “intermediate impossibles.”

I also found his “Serious v Solemn” discussion intriguing, but that is a whole other post on its own.

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Scott Middleton
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