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Helpful & Unhelpful Ideas

There is an upsurge in interest in creativity spurred on by the Millennial Generation and the widespread availability, at minimal cost, of new software tools and Internet technologies. Much of it is useful and correct, but much is misleading.

An army of paid and unpaid writers and consultants are now telling everyone about creativity. Much of what they say is primarily to encourage—so who cares if it is right or wrong? But THEE is unequivocal that discriminating what is true or sensible from what is misleading or false is one of our primary tasks as human beings.

With that attitude, this page examines some of the bold statements currently being bandied about. There is no point in providing names or reference links: just Google anything that intrigues you.

Compare your own answers with findings from this investigation.

"You are creative"

WK:Closed True. Creativity is not a possession of the few, but a property of being human.

"Creative thinking is work"

WK:Closed Misleading. Creative work is work. Creative thinking is play. Some insist that play is work. Creativity is hard work: it may be fun, but it entails much more than thinking and brings pain in its train. Once play becomes hard work and pain, it is no longer play as most of us understand the term. Play is essential to creativity.

"There is no one right answer."

WK:Closed Misleading. Sometimes there are many possibilities. But often there is indeed one right answer. It all depends on the challenge.

"Trust your intuition."

WK:Closed False or Misleading. If you do that, you may block counter-intuitive possibilities. Much research has shown that your intuition is intrinsically biased by your past experiences, convention and unconscious influences. «Use your intuition» is pointless advice because all of us use intuition all the time despite its many limitations. It is however, advisable to «take note of your intuitions» as a way to intensify them and then handle them properly.

"There is no such thing as failure."

WK:Closed False. There certainly is failure: it is a normal part of being creative. The advisor usually goes on to say that you learn from failure. But, if failure does not exist, how can you learn from it? Failure occurs repeatedly and you have to face up squarely to it before any learning is possible.

"You do not see things as they are: you see them as you are."

WK:Closed Partially true, because no one can grasp reality. It is especially relevant if you «trust your intuition». Self-awareness is so important because it opens up the possibility to suspend your intuition. You can then step outside your own biases and preferences and see things using an alien perspective or ideology (i.e. see «as others are»). If the viewpoint is too alien, you may be inclined to refuse to do so, arguing that it is wrong or ridiculous.

"Creativity is paradoxical."

WK:Closed True. It requires acceptance and often synthesis of opposites/dualities. However, this is a feature of all aspects of human functioning, not a special attribute of creativity.

"You must foster autonomy to enable creativity."

WK:Closed True. Absolutely fundamental.

"If you need breakthrough ideas, consider anti-conventional thinking."

WK:Closed True. But has anyone ever seriously suggested that conventional thinking is the way to produce new ideas?

"Start being creative by being open."

WK:Closed Sensible, but insufficient and mysterious. The critical feature is a mindset of challenge and it happens that this mindset is intrinsically open and willing amongst several other requirements. It is usually more productive to ask yourself: "what sort of challenge am I ready for?" than to tell yourself: "Be open!"

"Don't kill ideas by ignoring, criticizing, praising, ridiculing, analysing, competing, or changing them."

WK:Closed False. As long as it is without malice or rudeness, why not? Such behaviour may spoil a discussion, but it has no impact on an idea. It's a poor idea and weak conviction that cannot withstand everyday rough-and-tumble. Control is anti-creative. When offering an idea, don't try to control the other person. Just listen, reflect and learn.

"Creativity is technical and analytical, not expressive (as in self-expression)."

WK:Closed True. Creativity is more impersonal than personal. Technical and analytic principles, as well as knowledge, are essential in being creative. Self-expression can be the challenge that is pursued creatively, but it is not intrinsic to being creative.

"Creativity is a tool."

WK:Closed True. Like the mind.

Originally posted: 31-Jan-2012

All posted material is part of a scientific project and should be regarded as provisional. Visitors are encouraged to think through the topics and propositions for themselves. Copyright © Warren Kinston 2009-2016.
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