One thing that I have always struggle with has been my lack of… artistic abilities. Even after taking art classes from Grade 1 all the way to Grade 9, I still struggle to sketch a stick figure. Musical instruments were something I enjoyed, but was never 100% passionate about. And singing? Let’s not talk about singing.
I think because I never enjoyed all of these art forms or forms of creative expression, I just resigned myself to thinking that I just wasn’t a creative person. That creativity was a gift that you win in the genetic lottery. Once I lost that lottery, I resigned myself to thinking that I would forever be stuck in this boring well of blandness where they toss all the stale popcorn and watered down oatmeal.
But my big realization of the past few months has really been that creativity is not an innate skill, but something that you constantly work at and improve. It’s a muscle that constantly has to be exercised, stretched, and pushed beyond it’s limits.
Why do I bring this up? There are two main reasons. The first one is that quite simply a lot of people believe that their creativity is just a fixed pool. It’s frustrating to see a lot of people limiting themselves like that and labelling themselves as “uncreative”. The second reason is that I truly believe that your creativity, innovation, and ingenuity is going to be the single most important skill to have in the future. Let’s dig into this a little more.
One of the biggest trends of today is artificial intelligence and machine learning. While your terminators are still (thankfully) a few miles away, artificial intelligence and machine learning have already started to slip into your life. Google uses AI. Facebook uses AI. Computers can look at pictures and tell you whether you are looking at a cat or a dog and what breed they are. Google translate is now machine learning based, and learns languages faster than any of us could possibly hope to achieve.
So what? Who cares?
Well it matters for the future. What makes you different from a computer? What makes you special? It used to be that we could say stuff like “I can play chess” or “I can tell you that picture is a monkey” or “I can drive a car”. Not anymore. Computers can do all of those things too. So what skills or voice or spark of creativity do you have that makes you different from a computer? The answer to that matters more and more, especially if the computers are getting smarter by the day.
The single biggest differentiator is creativity.
So what is creativity? It’s not necessarily the ability to be musical or artistic that we associate from a young age. Creativity can and should apply to fields like math, engineering, finance, or research.
To me creativity should be about seeing things from a new perspective. Connecting the dots and discovering new patterns and ideas. Creativity is about taking these new ideas and perspectives and making them a reality.
So Where Do I Think That I Am Creative?
- Asking good questions that flip perspectives around and force people to think during my interviews
- Dancing and combining new moves I’ve learned (much to shock of my sister)
- Coming up with all these random ideas to write about, I have a really long document that is constantly growing
- Coming up with marketing ideas for the business
I say if you’re trying to show creativity, you shouldn’t have to stay within the realm of the “arts”. You can be creative even in the most “boring” of places, I mean, asking questions isn’t exactly the most interesting thing in the world is it? If you are coding, have a passion for math, or love engineering, there are so many opportunities to be creative there too. Is there a cool project or idea you can create? A new way at looking and solving a math problem? A machine or robot that’s just waiting to be created?
Can You Practice or Learn Creativity?
There’s an author who goes by the name of James Altucher. One idea of his that I try and practice whenever I can is simply sitting down, and writing down 10 ideas every day. One concept he proposes is “idea sex”, taking two completely unrelated concepts from different fields and figuring out a way to combine them together. It doesn’t matter how bad they are, just write it down and keep brainstorming. With ideas, quantity truly trumps quality.
One random example? I’ve been curious about how effective instagram has been for discovering content and sharing pictures. People just seem to love pictures! Wouldn’t it be interesting to try the same concept on a “boring” platform like linkedin? I’m sure all those business people like pictures as much as anyone…
I’ve recently been a little sore. A massage would be great, but they’re pretty expensive and I don’t really want to go to a spa or anything. You know what else used to be really expensive? Getting a DS so you could play video games, but now you can do that stuff on your own. Wait… what if there was an app that would give you a massage? It would tell you where to put it on your back, you press go, and it just turns on the vibration to loosen those knots on my back.
Clearly. This is a terrible idea. Woops.
But hey, when you come up with ideas, no one ever has to hear about them (unless you’re putting it in an article like this), so who cares how crazy your ideas are? All that matters is that you practice putting your mind in that creative place. It’s like working out. The more you do it, the better you get at it. And when the day comes where you actually have to brainstorm, or you want to start a business, or anything, it’s going to be that much easier to start if you had practiced before.
I challenge you to sit down and come up with 10 random ideas right after you finish reading this post. If you dare, post them in the comments below 🙂
Here’s an interesting article on AI that I really enjoyed if you want to read more: https://backchannel.com/the-myth-of-a-superhuman-ai-59282b686c62