Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.


Creative people are not different from less creative people. Creative people just find ways to get in a certain mood, in a certain way of operating. They are playful and child-like. They play with ideas and explore them. Most of us know this. In the following video, of which I summarised just some points, John Cleese talks about creativity. It is well worth watching.

At work we function typically in two modes: in an open and a closed mode. In closed mode we act purposeful. We are less humorous, slightly anxious and impatient. We are focused and want to get things done. In open mode we act without specific purpose. We are curious, playful, humorous. We should alternate between the two modes as the open mode helps us solve problems and the closed mode helps us implement solutions.

John Cleese describes five factors that are required to be creative: Space, time, time (sic!), confidence, and humour.

  1. Space: We need a place for ourselves where we are undisturbed.
  2. Time: We need to give ourselves a certain time frame with a certain duration. About 90 min are best as one needs about 30 min too settle down and let go of pressing issues. He discourages longer sessions as we normally need a break after 90 min anyway.
    Set boundaries of space and time for yourself! Separate yourself from regular life and create an „oasis“.
  3. Time: „Play“ with a problem long enough. Give your mind enough time to come up with an original solution. Daydream about the problem at hand. Tolerate discomfort of having not solved a problem longer. Ask yourself always: „When does the decision needs to be taken?“. Do not hasten decision. But be decisive in the end.
  4. Confidence: To play means to experiment. Be open to anything that happens. Don’t be frightened to make errors. You can’t be spontaneous within reason.
  5. Humour: Humour gets us faster from the closed mode to the open mode. Don’t mix „seriousness“ with „solemnity“.
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