Sometimes it feels like creativity never really can strike. When it rains it pours, but when it doesn't it's a desert. I've been in those ruts, where you feel like nothing is progressing forward and your creative juices just aren't flowing to give you the ability to solve problems or make simple decisions.Read More
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So I was watching Top Chef...
Clichés can be horrible things, they can really fix perceptions and force people to overlook the obvious.
I was watching Top Chef, because I like to cook and competition is fun when it involves knives. In this episode one competitor was given access to ingredients early and could choose anything he wanted. To his competitor's frustration, any ingredients he chose were then strictly off limits. The challenge was surf and turf and this chef chose lobster and Filet Mignon - truly earth shattering.
Then it hit me...
The chefs that were given limitations, however minimal, had much deeper conviction in their choice of proteins. The first chef went pacing up and down the large industrial size refrigerator and could not make up his mind on what to choose.
He even commented that "the ingredients were not speaking to him" and that he basically could not find inspiration. Creativity was not coming to him. Instead it hit his competitors like bolts of lightening. Frogs and Muscles. Belly of Pork and Scallops. Suckling Pig and Shrimp. Pork and Eel.
Put creativity in a box...
Let's be honest boxes can be cute. Creativity is all about working within them. Creativity has nothing to do with leaving the box, that would be cheating. Innovation is about answering the questions - what can I do with the tools I'm given? How can I use these resources more effectively?
Raw material is limited, solutions are unlimited. Don't work outside the box, just rearrange the inside by giving yourself limitations to guide inspiration.
Provide yourself artificial limitations...
I would argue that companies, for example, that have smaller marketing budgets have to be more creative and can dream up much more inventive ways to achieve results with less. This means you have to give yourself reasonable limitations to really come up with creative results. Once you make decisions on how you will be limiting yourself, you have effectively limited down the infinite possibilities and allowed yourself to simplify and focus on only those that apply. You can develop a strategically innovative mind by knowing when to limit yourself, hold yourself back in ways that frustrates you. Frustration and need is the mother of all inventions, they do say.
Here is a great TED talk the incapsulates everything very perfectly. Making art within limitation, makes for new never-before-seen results. Embrace the limitations!
There is one social theory that argues we only shape our own identities when they become challenged or threatened. This means that we understand who we are by looking outwards and realizing who we are not.
The best example of this is travel. Did you know that in Asia it is normal to drink out of a bag when you're on the go? To them it is completely normal. For the average westerner this method obviously evokes quizzical looks.
The point is that we take plastic cups as the norm and the only logical way to drink something on the go. However creativity tells us otherwise, there are always multiple ways to go about doing things - never assume you have the best answer.
Travel helps us figure out those assumptions that we take for granted and opens our eyes to new experiences, effectively heightening our creative ability. We learn more about ourselves when we see that others are different from us in ways we couldn't imagine.
Take A Creative Risk
Seeing that travel is the great eye-opener, it makes sense that so many travelers plan creative projects to document or encapsulate their voyages. I would argue that such travel projects are at risk of being extremely creative and dangerously fun. Next time you go on a trip besides planning your flight and housing try planning a creative project - photos, painting, drawings, audio, video - however you wish to capture it. You may find the experience very refreshing and a great source of inspiration even after it's completion.
In a couple days I will be leaving on a trip to Amsterdam, Fribourg, Munich and Madrid and I have decided to plan #projectglob(o). For now, my creative project is going to be a surprise to all of you guys - you will have to wait till I publish it in the coming weeks! Stay tuned!
PART II - The Results
I enjoyed my travels so much - so many countries - so many languages. As with most things, my project made some changes along the way - but I am happy with the results. Every time I come back from traveling I am both a little depressed and also more self-assured. I definitely learned about myself and enjoyed spending times in other cultures and languages. Anyways - here are the results of my travel project. I hope that you will consider trying a creative project on your next trip abroad! Safe travels!