You can find my views, on how I believe ANYONE can be creative, in either:
- A chapter titled "Creatively Changing Light Bulbs - Creativity and Problem Solving" in the book Manifest: Our Call to Faithful Creativity , which was launched at the Manifest Creative Arts Festival.
- A workshop in the General Conference's Accent Magazine. (download the creativity issue here or view below)
Practicing Creativity / Creativity and Problem Solving
How many creatives does it take to change a light bulb? (The answer a little later on.) Everyone is creative. God made us that way. Believing you have little creative ability probably comes either from a misunderstanding of what creativity is, or not realising there’s methodical steps that can lead to creative results. Some are so effortlessly creative it’s hard to comprehend how they arrive at such an outside the square result. However, these ‘creative geniuses’ are usually following, often subconsciously, the steps we’ll soon look at. This means anyone can potentially reach such radical creativity if they just knew how.
What Creativity Isn’t?
For some, the measuring stick to show if someone is creative or not is the arts: from painters to writers and everything in-between. But don’t get caught thinking creative means artistic. Artistic could be likened to the skills needed to safely drive a car, while creativity could be likened to the skills needed to navigate a car to a specific destination, no matter what roadblocks may be encountered along the way. You could say artistic is more skills based while creativity is more thought based. An artist may not be creativity, and mechanically churns out the same copied artwork over and over again perfectly. A artist who is creative would be creating something new and interesting each time. A creative who has no artistic skills whatsoever is stuck with innovative ideas and no ability to get it on ‘canvas’.
What Is Creativity?Creativity is essentially inventive problem solving. Most often it is used to combat two opposite
- Boredom – the need to make a familiar situation unfamiliar and interesting
- Confusion – the need to make an unfamiliar situation familiar and easy
You Try: Which problem category do the following challenges fall into?
- You’d planned to cook a meal for a family arriving soon and discover that some of the ingredients you thought you had are missing. You have no time to go and buy more.
- You’re in an airport, luggage is checked in, your flight is delayed for five hours and you have little money at your disposal. You have young children in your care.
- You need to make an ad to convince more than 50 percent of your church’s members to attend a business meeting.
- You want to create a drama that communicates God’s love to people who have never grasped the concept before.
How to find Creativity
Step 1: DefineThe best place to begin in solving a challenge with creativity is to be clear about two things:
1. What the current situation or challenge is.As well as speeding up your journey to a solution, knowing where you are and where you need to end up will give you a more focused solution. Unfocused creativity can take you off track and you could end up using a “solution” that doesn’t actually solve the problem.
2. What the desired outcome or solution is.
So before you get too creative, be clear on where you are now and where you want to be.
You Try: Define the specific problem elements of the four earlier examples and also the specific outcomes you hope to achieve for each.
Step 2: CreateThere are four main methods that help deliver a creative solution, which we’ll look at now.
A. Detective method(Great for: games, activities, and plays)
For some, this will be the first port of call, especially when there’s a tight deadline to meet. Others will use this as their last resort when attempts to come up with their own creative solutions fail. The mantra for the detective method of creativity is: “Go online or get living examples” (or G.O.O.G.L.E.).
Whether to save time or to help when you’re stumped, seeing what already exists will often create a solution for you. Using the internet or asking friends or experts for their creative solutions for the challenge ahead of you can really give you a kick start, if not provide a complete solution. Sometimes the foundation of an existing solution can be adapted to better suit your specific needs.
You try: With the four earlier examples, what search engine keywords could you use to find existing solutions to the challenges?
B. Stocktake method(Great for: unexpected challenges, activities with few resources)
The stocktake method consists of three basic steps:
- List how many different attributes exist in the current situation.
- Explore how each listed attribute could be substituted with a variation.
- Experiment with different combinations of substituted attributes and see what you end up with.
Example: Make an ad to convince church members to attend a business meeting.
1. List the attributes we have to work with.
There’s the ad format and the tone of the language, the church members that need incentive to come, the meeting’s advertised agenda, and its time and location.
2. Explore the variations of each of the listed attributes.
- The ad format: A bulletin paragraph, a printed bulletin insert, posters, a promotional video clip, an email out, up-the-front announcements, an acted drama, a song, a sermon, personal phone calls, text messaging, Facebook posts, PowerPoint slides.
- The tone: stern, friendly, mischievous?
- The church members who need an incentive: food, giveaways, concert, games, trivia, craft, child minding, linked to some other activity or event?
- The meeting agenda: boring, critical, entertaining?
- Time: weeknight, Sabbath afternoon/evening, Sunday morning/afternoon/night?
- Location: Church hall, parking lot, parkland, restaurant, forest, beach?
- It could be: a drama that promotes a fun afternoon in the forest, with trivia games intermingled with the business meeting.
- It could be: personal phone calls regarding the critical nature of the upcoming meeting and free pizza to all those who attend.
- It could be . . . so many other variations!
You try: Use the stocktake method to find a solution to the following challenge:
Being stuck at the airport with some children you need to entertain.
1. List what’s available to work with. Let’s start with our personal inventory: A pen, box of mints, and wallet/purse (and its contents).
2. Explore what can be done with these items individually.
• Pen: Write, draw, colour, score, spin, roll, click, throw, drop, catch, balance, pull apart.
• Box of Mints:
3. Experiment with what activities you can do with individual items on their own and then by combining with another item. Come up with ten activities and then decide on your three best activities to solve the problem by using the ‘stock’ of items you have.
a. ____________________________________________________NOTE: That was just our personal inventory explored. We could also look at the attributes of the building around us, our clothing, the signs, the people, or make a small purchase to add to our inventory.
C. Brainstorm method(Great for: finding ‘far out’ ideas, titles, and advertising)
If the above method seems all a little too regimented, or you just can’t put your finger on a unique enough solution, it might be time to set your brain’s rational governor to “off” and let your thoughts roam unrestricted for a moment.
Brainstorming is the process of listing idea after idea as they come to mind, no matter how random they might be.
It can be done individually, but a group brainstorm will usually get more ideas flowing and take you to concepts you’d struggle to ever invent yourself.
But despite the whole point of the process being “free thinking,” here’s some structure to guide the freedom into something useful:
- Define the issue and desired outcome first.
- List the known or obvious solutions, even if they don’t completely solve the challenge or problem.
- Start listing “crazy” variations to these solutions.
- Continue on with any ideas or concepts that come to mind, without stopping to discuss good or discount bad ideas. You're after quantity, not quality. There is NO wrong idea to write down.
- When all the ideas come to an end, spend a minute or two exploring each idea's merits:
Sometimes a great idea or two will become obvious during a brainstorming session; sometimes it will still be hard work, with a solution possibly coming to someone in the group days later.
- Is it worth exploring further or ignoring?
- Are there any elements to the idea that can be used elsewhere?
- Are there any elements to the idea that mean it won’t work? If so, explore what would be needed to make it work with that inhibitive element or how it could be replaced.
Here’s a real brainstorm’s result when trying to find an interesting way to begin a workshop about creativity (perhaps you’re in the middle of it now). The list developed as follows:
Famous quote twisted, story, example, joke, song, puzzle, different language, web address, GPS directions, ten commandments, analogy, metaphor, wrong topic, creativity for dummies, creativity 101, light bulb, apple fall on head, flash back, quiz, cartoon, school, blackboard, detention, driving test, personal trainer, gym membership, poem, point form, fanfare, infommercial.There are several good ideas here, and some clearly not.
But essentially it helped me choose an opening to this workshop.
And how many creatives does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Who says it has to be a light bulb? (And there’s a nod to the stocktake method.)
You try: Go through the brainstorming steps listed to come up with an enticing title for a youth trivia night.
D. INSPIRATION method(Great for: long, unsolved challenges)
Finding a creative solution is not always easy. As well as trying the other methods, sometimes creativity just appears in random moments.
For some, creativity comes in a quiet or uninterrupted place like in the shower, in bed at night, watching the ocean or clouds, or driving a car. Other times, you might find inspiration as you see or hear different things or interact with different people. And sometimes inspiration comes from experiencing a movie, song, artwork, or simply seeing someone else’s solution to a similar problem.
Given its fickleness, this is a difficult method to use if you need quick results (or as an activity to try in a workshop). But being still and letting inspiration strike is another important method for finding creative solutions to long term challenges.
Share: Where are you when you come up with your best/craziest ideas?
Step 3: EvaluateOnce you have your creative solution, evaluate it with your initial brief to see if it is an acceptable, workable or worthwhile solution. It’s also a good exercise to evaluate how well it worked after the solution has been implemented. If it is not working as you envisioned, maybe it’s not too late to implement some of the variations you thought up along the way.
You try: the solutions you came up with for the children at the airport, get those items and try out the activity on some kids – evaluate what activity they liked the best. See if they have any ideas.
Finally, the first thingAll said and done, the ultimate source of inspiration for creativity comes from God. The ultimate thing you can do before you even attempt to be creative is pray for inspiration, then delve into one or more of the methods suggested.
God has more creativity than we can handle.
When inspiration does strike and it’s an outstanding success, even if you didn’t pray, give Him the glory. Without God and the abilities He’s given us, we wouldn’t have any creativity!
Ponder: God was creative with His design of earth, but how much more creativity has He used in Heaven and the other worlds?