Henry Ford once said “if you think you’re not creative, you’re not”. Creativity isn’t natural born or God-given. It’s not in the exclusive gift of painters, writers, graphic designers and those in the performing arts. It’s in us all (yes, even you). The bad news is that school and work suppress creativity, so as we get older we lose the opportunity and encouragement to be creative and we begin to feel we (i) can’t do it and (ii) shouldn’t do it. The good news however is that creativity can easily be reawakened. And the start point is to change how you see the world.
Creative people seek difference. They look for the things that others don’t see. Our brain – when faced with a stimulus – will always take the path of least resistance. Have I faced this situation before? If so, what did I do last time? What connections already exist? This obsession with familiarity enables our brain to cope with some ambiguity. It’s why we can easily read the famous passage below, even with the letters mixed up (incidentally, the research referred to is made-up).
So our brain will do its best to use its existing database rather than seek new data. The trick therefore, as creative people know, is to break the pattern and establish new connections. That may mean deliberately changing your normal behaviour – physically sitting in a different seat to see things from a new perspective, changing your normal routines (a different route to work?) or thinking laterally. Take a look at word below. What word do you see – flip, or is it flop? Your brain will jump to a conclusion but is it the only conclusion?
Now look at the FedEx logo below – a very familiar brand to all of us. But most us look at the image (the stimulus) and just say “oh yeah, it’s the FedEx logo”. How many of us see the ‘hidden’ brand icon – the image that defines FedEx’s business – within the logo? Yes, you’ve got it – the white arrow between the E and the X. That’s because we instinctively look at the letters not what’s within the letters.
Study the picture below and find the hidden tiger. Give yourself 60 seconds.
We can all see an image of a tiger in a jungle, right? But I said look for the hidden tiger. Instinctively, most of us will look for another image of a tiger hidden in the bushes – some of us will even insist we can see one in the leaves. The answer, if you look closely, is in the stripes of the tiger. I didn’t say look for a picture of a hidden tiger. I just said find the hidden tiger. It’s that pesky brain again, making us do what we’ve always done.
We’re not always in control of our brain, it does most of its work without us (so to speak) so sometimes we need to train ourselves to open our eyes and seek those new patterns, those new stimuli. Try it next time you’re out and about. I guarantee you won’t look at the FedEx logo in the same way again.
More next week.