Creativity

I’ve just had a weekend full of creativity.

If you remember, creativity is just one of the facets of a fully functioning person – so I hope you’ll forgive my excitement.

What do you imagine I was doing? When we think of creativity we often think of painting, drawing, writing, crafts etc., and they are all creative activities, but this weekend I was mostly problem solving.

Mr. Yellow Dot and I are in the process of converting a camper van, we’d just had it insulated and the next task was lining the walls and ceiling. We had a plan but the creativity comes into play every time the plan doesn’t quite go according to… well, plan. How do you get the cut out for the window in exactly the right place? How do you get the cut-outs for the sky lights in the right place? (It sounds like the same problem but needed 2 completely different solutions) What do you do when the ply-wood is too flexible to sit between the saw horses? The list goes on.

My point is that creativity is not something that should just be saved for your hobbies but could be applied to every aspect of your life.

Creativity is often defined as the production of novel and useful ideas. With that definition it is easy to see that you are being creative if you start doing things in a new and useful way. At the moment, lots of people are applying creativity to reducing plastic in their lives – some people are inventing new products (bamboo toothbrushes and stainless steel straws for example) others are just changing the way they do things (refusing straws, shopping at re-fill stores, using paper bags for fruit and veg etc.) – an equally valid and creative response to the problem of plastic in our oceans.

But why do I say we “should” be creative? Because there is a wealth of research which demonstrates the link between creativity and well-being. (For example, Tamlin, Conner, DeYoung & Paul, (2016) show links between creative tasks and positivity, Perach and Wisman (2016) demonstrate ways in which engaging in creative tasks can buffer anxiety.) Conversely, a lack of creativity can lead to real problems.

Last week I had a conversation with a graphic designer who works as part of an in-house design team for a large organisation. You would imagine that creativity would not only be desirable, but absolutely essential for a graphic designer (the clue is in the job title) and yet, in this instance, a change of manager has led to a situation where the whole design team are micro managed, told what to produce and are not really allowed to design.

In response to that situation team members are feeling undervalued, de-motivated and, in some cases, are suffering the ill effects of excess stress and anxiety. Denying employees the ability to exercise some creative autonomy creates the ultimate lose-lose situation and the impact will no doubt soon be felt by the organisation as a whole.

So, what’s going on with the manager? I haven’t met him but I suspect he is not open to new experiences, he is pre-judging the possible outcomes (believing his way to be the best), he is allowing fear to dominate his decision making and he is not demonstrating or allowing any creativity in his role. In summary he is far from a fully functioning person.
If his team cannot influence him to change (and they should, of course, try) they need to find new outlets for their creativity and, potentially, somewhere new to work.

So this week (and every week), I urge you to inject some creativity into your life. Try to find one thing every day that you can do in a novel and useful way. Paint if you like, make up a bedtime story for the kids, find 100 uses for a paperclip (ok that’s novel but not particularly useful unless you are trying to sell more paperclips), encourage people at work to contribute new ideas, save time by combining tasks (try doing squats whilst loading the dishwasher) but most of all, have fun. Remember, the fully functioning person is not looking to add to the “to do” list, just to approach it in a new way.

Have a great week and please let me know how you get on.