Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Yesterday, while working on a video project with a colleague, Jane, I was taken aback by her offhanded remark. Out of the blue, Jane blurted out: “I’m not creative.”

Surprised at her self-deprecating remark, I asked her to elaborate on what she meant. Jane replied: “Oh, I’m just not born creative. Creativity is a special gift. Only a lucky few have it.”

That triggered our interesting discussion on creativity.

I suggested that creativity is less a special gift and more an attitude.

For example, if I spent an entire day thinking about an idea, I am sure to be more creative than if I just spent 5 minutes on the idea.

I believe creativity is a choice. We will be more creative if we choose to be creative, and the reverse is also true. If we choose to be uncreative on the premise that we are not born creative, we are making the wrong choice.

It’s not whether you have it or you don’t. It’s whether we want to be creative, or we don’t.

Jane then wondered: “Can one learn how to be more creative? Can creativity be taught?”

“Oh, most definitely, Yes!” I responded.

There are tools and techniques that one can learn that help you generate ideas. I introduced Jane to the work of two creativity gurus – Edward de Bono and Roger van Oech.

Edward de Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats” system uses role playing for individuals to look at issues from different perspectives.

There is the WHITE hat for detached and objective thinking; RED hat of feeling and intuition; BLACK hat of negative judgement; YELLOW hat of positive judgement; GREEN hat of divergent and alternative thinking; and BLUE hat of process and control thinking.

The individual when thinking about an issue will put on a different hat one after another to examine it from different angles.

Roger von Oech’s Four Creative Roles system also encourages us to shift from role to role when tackling an issue.

First, one looks for new information and spot unusual patterns, like an EXPLORER.

You then generate new ideas by experimenting with different ways of arranging the information gathered, like an ARTIST would.

You next evaluate the ideas generated and decide on its merits, just like a JUDGE.

Finally, you act on the selected idea fearlessly like a WARRIOR against naysayers and other obstacles.

Jane was motivated to be more creative but wondered if it was too late for her: “Creativity starts at childhood, and since I didn’t begun then, I’m afraid it’s too late for me now”.

She reminded me of many examples of people who started creating late in their lives and still accomplished much.

Anna Mary Robertson started to paint in her mid-seventies when she couldn’t knit anymore as her hands were stiff and ached from arthritis. She was eighty when an art collector first spotted her work in a shop window. She quickly won acclaim and became a world renowned artist. Anna Mary Robertson produced 1,600 pieces of work, including 25 in the year she passed away at age 101.

COLONEL Sanders was sixty five years old when he was forced to close down his thriving fried chicken business because a new highway bypassing his diner took away his customers. Instead of giving up, COLONEL Sanders came up with the idea of franchising his fried chicken recipe. He would let franchisees use his recipe and charge them 5 cents for every piece of fried chicken sold. COLONEL Sanders crossed the country in his car to sell his idea while living off his $105 welfare cheque. He was rejected 1009 times before clinching his first deal.

At the end of the discussion, we agreed that EVERYONE IS CREATIVE AND EVERYONE CAN BE MORE CREATIVE.

Some people are more creative because they are strongly motivated to be creative and put in intense creative effort. They developed habits of using tools and techniques of idea generation. Their creative muscles are strong through repetition and persistence.

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