When Your Muse Strikes, Follow It.

I don’t know how Seth Godin does it. He writes and publishes a blog everyday, 365 days a year. I have trouble publishing my two blogs each WEEK!

Part of my problem is having something interesting to publish. That is every blogger’s nightmare. There have been times I write a blog the night before because I came up with an idea and just developed it.

When I’m in a pinch and nothing comes to mind, I try and change my focus. In a way, I let myself become distracted, not by merely doing something else but by switching creative gears and concentrating on another creative project.

It was where my muse wanted to take me, so I let it. What is a muse you might ask?

Muse, in Greco-Roman religion and mythology, any of a group of sister goddesses of obscure but ancient origin, the chief centre of whose cult was Mount Helicon in Boeotia, Greece. They were born in Pieria, at the foot of Mount Olympus.

They probably were originally the patron goddesses of poets (who in early times were also musicians, providing their own accompaniments), although later their range was extended to include all liberal arts and sciences—hence, their connection with such institutions as the Museum (Mouseion, seat of the Muses) at Alexandria, Egypt. There were nine Muses as early as Homer’s Odyssey, and Homer invokes either a Muse or the Muses collectively from time to time.

Virgil (centre) holding a scroll with a quotation from the Aeneid, with the epic Muse (left) and the tragic Muse (right), Roman mosaic, 2nd–3rd century ad. Courtesy of the Musée Le Bardo, Tunis

As the creative juices begin to flow and my “new” project begins to take shape, I begin to develop several ideas that would make for interesting blog posts. I did, however, make sure I finished what I had previously started so I could “celebrate” the accomplishment (a musical slide show).

Whether or not you follow your instincts when you have a calling to do so, is up to you. Your mind and imagination are wondrous tools in the creative process. Don’t ignore them.

 

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.

 

Live Long and Prosper, Ukraine!

Creativity vs Strategy

Creativity depends on strategy to be effective and successful. And vice versa. Do they need to live in harmony together? From the United Kingdom, the British agency Five by Five’s strategy director Catherine McPherson and creative director Ravi Beeharry discuss the secret to an effective relationship between creativity, strategy and craft.

Strategy, creativity, or craft – which is more important to a successful ad? And how should they work together?

“It used to be like a relay race, with each department handing the baton to another along the production line,” says Five by Five’s strategy director Catherine McPherson. “But today rather than strategy handing over a brief and washing its hands, we’re now running alongside the creatives and cheering them on.”

To an extent, the secret to effective advertising has always been found in the relationship between strategy, creativity, and craft. Too much strategy can leave a campaign feeling more like a PowerPoint presentation, whilst unrestrained creativity risks derailing a brand’s messaging. Get the balance right, however, and you land on the kind of genius which works miracles in the marketplace.

“While there is a balance to be struck, there isn’t a simple formula,” notes creative director Ravi Beeharry. “You have to look at it on a case-by-case basis. Take the iconic Meerkat from Compare the Market, for example.

You might look at that and consider it to be an example of creativity which went a bit out of control. What is a meerkat saying about that brand? But in practice it was enormously effective because the balance was right in that instance”.

Knowing which element should take prominence, the pair agree, comes down to your definition of success. 

“Does success mean winning at Cannes, or does it mean driving sales in the short-term? Or is it brand recognition? It might sound obvious, but being intentional about the end result is the first step to getting the balance right”, says Catherine.

“Something we’ll reference quite often at Five by Five is Peter Field’s research into the recent decline in creative effectiveness, and one takeaway from that has been that we don’t look for compromise between strategy and creativity but rather look for harmony. They should feed into one another”. 

“The best creativity bounces off strategy like it’s a springboard”, notes Ravi. “And craft is the execution – actually, let me rephrase that. Craft is good execution. Knowing the precise balance between those elements will ultimately come down to judgement and context. It all adds up to having strong ideas, clearly communicated”.

‘Strong ideas, clearly communicated’ is Five by Five’s strategic approach to briefs. It’s what ensures their clients’ brands get noticed, processed and recalled – and it’s ultimately what delivers effective campaigns. 

And as Ravi notes, when it comes to measuring a successful campaign, context will always be king. However, in recent years a fracturing media environment has made identifying that context all the more challenging. 

The Ever-Growing Crowd

One reality of the modern industry is that an idea can no longer realistically be designed to live in one place. The seemingly endless proliferation of channels and platforms which occurred in the last decade has created a marketing landscape with more nuance than at any point in the industry’s history. But, according to Catherine and Ravi, there are still ways of finding the right balance between strategy, creativity, and craft. 

“Something which we’ve lost sight of, I feel, is precisely what we should be using these different platforms for. They don’t need to be additional challenges, they should be seen as additional tools.

“If you’re going to take one single idea and contort it to fit a TV screen as well as a mobile phone, then I’ve no doubt that storytelling and quality will suffer as a result. But if you work out how to take a central idea and present it in a bespoke way for different formats, then you’re far more likely to have an impactful campaign”, she says. 

For Ravi, there’s an opportunity for brands to become more memorable by elevating creativity and craft across multiple platforms. “It’s probably true to say that there’s a focus on promotion over entertainment at the moment”, he says. “And perhaps much of the culture and capabilities of social platforms, for example, lend themselves to promotion.”

“But look at what Nike put out just recently after Nadal won the Grand Slam. There wasn’t a single pair of trainers or shorts advertised, just a celebration of a sporting achievement which played into Nike’s brand in such an obvious way it doesn’t need underlining.

I came across that video on Twitter, so that’s a great example of using a social platform to drive results through entertainment. It’s a great execution of strategy, creativity, and craft”. 

In the words of both Catherine and Ravi, these kinds of pitch-perfect ideas are the cumulative result of a long-term approach to each of strategy, creativity, and craft.

“McDonalds is another example of a brand that gets this consistently right”, says Catherine. “They run a lot of product-focused ads on the high street but they also consistently come out with beautifully-told stories based on human truths, designed for TV.”

“It’s creativity, strategy, and craft working in perfect harmony over the course of many years. And it’s because they’ve nailed their brand-building that the shorter-term promotions work so well”. 

That long-term approach, then, is perhaps as close to a ‘winning formula’ as a brand is likely to get. But, as Ravi points out, the best insights are invariably based on a kind of magic which can’t be bottled. 

“At Five by Five we have an unprecedented number of tools and analytics available to us”, he says, “but those genius ideas which link strategy, creativity and craft together can’t come out of a formula. If they could, it wouldn’t really be genius”.

 

Live Long and Prosper, Ukraine!

 

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.

Turning Gobbledygook Into Useful Garbage

Stumped. Writer’s Block. Stymied. Confused. It’s all a jumble of nothingness.

What Do You Write When You Don’t Know What to Write About?

So, how do you turn nothingness into somethingness? Start writing! Anything.

The words will come, thoughts will flow and, eventually, creativity will blossom.

You can’t force it, however. It must evolve naturally, at your own pace. Usually, if a creative suggestion doesn’t appear in your thoughts within about 20 minutes or so, abort the process and go on to something else. Then come back to it hours later or the following day.

Some writers think before they write. Some think as they write. Some writers don’t think at all; they just write a bunch of gobbledygook. That’s fine, as long as you go back and turn the gobbledygook into useful garbage.

Turning that garbage into something quite palpable and enticing will take a process of editing and refinement but when you’re at this stage, you’ve got it made.

 

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.

 

Live Long and Prosper, Ukraine!

 

Emerging Creative Trends to Watch for in 2022

Research shows that creatives are faced with fewer resources and greater demand. They helped their businesses pivot to remote work last year by improving productivity and learning new technical skills. Further, and in contrast to the trend of bringing design talent and work in-house for the past several years, in-house creative teams are more inclined to partner with outside creative agencies and freelancers.

 

That’s according to key findings in a new report based on a survey of 400 creatives and marketers. The fourth annual Creative Management Report by inMotionNow and InSource, a professional association for creatives, identified industry changes stemming from the pandemic, along with creative trends to watch over the next year.

 

These findings demonstrate just how much creative teams have evolved. More importantly, it underscores why marketing and business leaders have become increasingly reliant on creatives for that vital Design Thinking, a process that starts with user insights, challenges assumptions and redefines problems, not just for design and deliverables.

 

Below are three takeaways for marketing leaders.

 

1. Providing Strategic Value Is Now Table Stakes for Creative Teams — Balanced with Speed, Resource and Volume Constraints

 

The study identified the top three challenges facing creatives as follows:

 

  1. The speed at which they are expected to work (73%)
  2. Too few resources to accomplish the work (61%)
  3. High demand for more creative content (59%)

 

While those are all familiar challenges to most creatives, what they did not identify as a top challenge is of equal interest: Respondents didn’t identify “being seen as a strategic contributor” as among the top three—for the first time in the four-year history of the survey.

 

“We have a seat at the strategic table, but that’s because we’ve earned it and we continue to earn it every day and raise the bar on what we can contribute,” said Hank Lucas, head of creative services at global life sciences organization MilliporeSigma.

 

Lucas was one of five outside experts who contributed written analysis about the survey’s findings to the report.

 

“We’re not just here to make some pretty stuff,” he said. “Tell us what you’re trying to achieve and let us help you move the needle.”

 

2. Creative Problem-Solving and Adaptability Were Crucial to Remote Work

 

In subsequent questions, respondents were more precise about the specific resource constraints presented as the pandemic unfolded. While 58% said their workloads had increased, about one-third said their teams experienced layoffs and furloughs. In addition, another 31% faced budget cuts which eliminated some of the technology tools that facilitate the creative process.

 

Despite the adversity, creatives rose to the occasion and brought their problem-solving talents and adaptability to bear. Most creatives (57%) claimed they “became more productive” despite cuts to budget and staff. Another two-thirds of respondents learned new skills such as video, livestreaming and podcasting, all of which proved pivotal to business continuity during remote work.

 

The resource constraints may have also prompted creative and marketing leaders to rethink the in-housing trend—that is, bringing design talent and work in-house rather than using external agencies—that’s unfolded in recent years.

 

While in-house creative teams still manage much of the work, the majority (86%) reported that they currently partner with agencies and freelancers. Further, in 2021 about one-third of teams are planning to increase the work they send to outside resources. This creates new opportunities and demands for tools and processes for collaboration.

 

When prompted why they hire outside agencies, respondents stated that their top reason was in order to access specialized skills (64%). Subsequent responses were a need for increased capacity (44%), assistance with strategy development (24%) and quicker completion of work (20%).

 

“The beauty of working with freelancers is that you don’t have to go through this whole hiring and onboarding process,” says April Koenig, founder and CEO of Creatives on Call. “You can find people who have the targeted skill sets that you need and get them in and get the work done quickly.”

 

She notes that approach may also help with fatigue and burnout, which have become critical leadership issues over the past 12 months. “This really helps alleviate some of the physical and emotional pressure that teams face when the organization is so reliant on them,” she says.

 

Continue reading

Boosting Your Creativity – Just Like Einstein – Even in Crisis Times!

4 Ways Play Gets You Out of a Brain Rut, and Helps One Deal with a Crisis.

The human brain can get stuck in a rut thanks to neural pathways and a fondness for the familiar. So how can you free your brain and lead it on a path to innovation? Based on research and real-life examples from great minds, here are four ways Play can get you out of a brain rut:

1. Cross Train Your Brain

Each cross-training activity works a different, but complementary, part of the body that will help get you stronger in the overall event, task or project. In other words, if you’re a novelist, try your hand at poetry. If you’re a painter, dabble in sculpting. If you’re a computer scientist, play around with web design. For instance, how did playing violin help Einstein theorize about matter and energy?

A study from UC Irvine and the University of Wisconsin found that giving piano lessons to preschoolers significantly improved their spatial-temporal reasoning— a key skill needed for math and science—much more than giving computer lessons, singing lessons, or no lessons at all. So try a new activity within your field or related to it; you’ll expand your neural connections and strengthen your brain overall.

2. Take a Shower, Go for a Walk or Do Some Other Mundane Activity

First, creativity and relaxation could be linked. I’ve found that whenever I’m really tired, my creativity just hits a wall. Trying to go on is fruitless. Wrap it up and go to bed or walk away from whatever it is you’re working on and come back to it in several hours or the next day. Depending on when you’re doing this, try something boring, like showering or taking a walk (though some folks would argue that this exercise is not boring) or go for a swim. These tasks don’t require substantial cognitive effort, so our brains are free to wander. And contrary to popular belief, a brain “at rest” isn’t really resting at all. ZZZ's

Some researchers believe there is a positive correlation between our daydreaming state (occurring in a brain region that becomes more active at rest) and creativity. Mind-wandering may allow the conscious to give way to the subconscious, so the brain can connect disparate ideas.

Second, distractions may boost creativity. Research by Harvard professor Shelley Carson found that high creative achievement was associated with low latent inhibition, or the capacity to screen out irrelevant information, especially if the participants had a high IQ. For the creative mind, inspiration can be found everywhere. Sometimes, you just need to distract yourself long enough to notice it. Continue reading

Ye Olde Creativity Survival (Tool)Kit

Last week I posted about my upcoming trek to Baton Rouge and shared a list of creative guidelines to keep in mind when enhancing one’s creativity. That was what I shared with the ad club of Baton Rouge last Friday. One of the main items I shared was the Creativity Survival Kit and that’s what I’d like to review on this post, especially for folks who have no idea what I’m talking about.

One of several different colored Creativity Kits the Baton Rouge ad club made as giveaways.

The Creativity Survival (Tool) Kit is simply any container or bucket filled with items that make you feel creative or think creatively. The contents can be almost anything depending on the individual.

They can be notes that remind you of various things, especially those items that are too large to fit into your bucket. They can be serious or silly. No judgements here; after all, it’s YOUR kit.

One of the main elements in the Kit is a stack of Post It Notes. The timed exercise, lead by a moderator, is thus: Whatever problem confronts you to be solved, needs a specific question to be asked that may help solve it. The more specific, the better.

The challenge is to come up with, say, 50 ideas in five minutes or, if you dare, 100 ideas in ten minutes. Once this is done, pick your 25 best ideas and, are you ready for this . . . TRASH THEM! Then from the 25 remaining, select your next 20 best ideas . . . and . . . TRASH THEM!

I know this is not what you’re used to doing, but trust me, this is a different take on a standard way of drilling down to the best idea. I call it the Evil Twin Technique.

Now, you’re left with five “maybe not-so-great-ideas.” For the purposes of this exercise, select three of them that you feel are good and, you know the drill, TRASH THEM. From the two remaining, trash one that you feel is better than the other one. You have one idea left. It may not have been one you thought about when you first began or one that you paid little or no attention to during this process.

You’ve come upon your Evil Twin. Whether or not it pans out as a worthwhile idea to help solve your problem remains to be seen. Your due process may bear that out. If you can combine this exercise with the more standard approach (instead of trashing the “best ideas,” keep them and simply narrow the list down to just one), it will be interesting what types of solution approaches one could come up with.  

Some other items in my kit include

and my certification

along with my alter ego, Snoopy, and his pal, the Energizer Bunny. What can I say, I have an eclectic tool kit!

As my business card states, “Crayons. The essence of creativity.” Crayons are colorful and so should your world of creativity. Similarly, your Creativity Survival Toolkit should reflect your colorful personality and lend itself to enhance your creative world.

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog,Joe’s Journey, for personal insights on life and its detours.

A Dozen Tips to Enhance Your Creativity

• Creativity needs to be synonymous with “FUN!”

• Idea Tub – can be a physical place or thing and/or an electronic file. It’s a compilation of all ideas
ever submitted since you started keeping track, but organized as to be readily accessible.

An elaborate Idea Tub

• Don’t let the execution bury the idea. Your message will be diluted and possibly even confusing if
the creative is too cute, too complex or just plain dumb. Think napkin, not computer.

• Realize your own sense of creativity by challenging your imagination and stimulate thoughts to lead
yourself to a new level of solution.

• The idea, for best results, should be media and discipline neutral. Otherwise, you limit yourself.

• Focus on how you’re going to make the idea work and be relevant. But, never fall in love with it.

• Don’t ever underestimate the power of the mind or your imagination. Don’t ever be afraid to ask,
“Why, Why not or What if . . .?”.

• Ye Olde Creativity Survival Kit — Any sort of container in which you place whatever makes you
FEEL creative and THINK creatively. In this industry, silly is sometimes serious business.

• Thinking at Warp Speed – Generating ideas at breakneck speed is a great way to capture ideas on
Post-it Notes (one per note) in answering a specific question to solve a problem. Remember Giant
Post-its for your “idea wall” which can foster brainstorming and open-door policy idea addition.

• Drill Down Technique – Discovering THE idea. In this unusual method choose your five best ideas
and ELIMINATE THEM, choose five more and ELIMINATE THEM. The last idea Post-it may or
may not be the best, but it’s one to which you normally would not have paid much attention. Go play.

• As ideas are developed, make sure their essence is refined. Make sure your ideas are clear and
you can explain their basic value in about 20 seconds. If you can’t explain it to an 8-year old so they’ll understand it, you need to refine your idea more.

• Don’t manage creativity; manage for creativity. Provide an environment that is open and receptive
to new ideas, and that builds failure into the process. Acknowledge error or failure in a constructive
and supportive way.

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for personal insights on life and its detours.

Ever Been on a Creative Hot Streak? A New Study Finds That It Involves These Two Habits

At one time or another, we’ve all been on a creative hot streak even if we didn’t realize it. The words flowed freely, the design snapped into place magically making for very impactful creative. But how did that happen? How does one get on a “hot steak” of creativity? A new study from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University may have a road map.

The secret involves experimenting with a wide range of subjects, styles, and techniques before perfecting a specific area of one’s craft—what the authors describe as a mix of exploration and exploitation.

“Although exploration is considered a risk because it might not lead anywhere, it increases the likelihood of stumbling upon a great idea,” the study’s lead author, Dashun Wang, said in a statement. “By contrast, exploitation is typically viewed as a conservative strategy. If you exploit the same type of work over and over for a long period of time, it might stifle creativity. But, interestingly, exploration followed by exploitation appears to show consistent associations with the onset of hot streaks.”

Wang’s findings, published in the journal Nature, sought to identify periods of intense creativity in the work of visual artists, as well as film directors and scientists. The team used image recognition algorithms to analyze data from 800,000 artworks from 2,128 artists, including Jackson Pollock, Frida Kahlo, and Vincent van Gogh. The rest of the study was based on Internet Movie Database (IMDb) data sets for 4,337 directors, and publications and citations on the Web of Science and Google Scholar for 20,040 scientists.

Creative trajectories and hot-streak dynamics: three exemplary careers. Data analyzing the work of Jackson Pollock, Peter Jackson, and John Fenn.

Creative trajectories and hot-streak dynamics: three exemplary careers. Data analyzing the work of Jackson Pollock, Peter Jackson, and John Fenn.

Pollock, who achieved widespread popular and critical success with his groundbreaking drip paintings from 1946 to 1950, is one of three creators singled out as examples in the paper.

Director Peter Jackson, who famously made the “The Lord of the Rings” epic fantasy trilogy after experimenting in genres such as horror-comedy and biography is another.

John Fenn, who won the 2002 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work with electrospray ionization, having previously studied numerous other topics is another.

The paper identified patterns in the creators’ work over time—changes in brushstrokes, plot points or casting decisions, or research topics. It noted the diversity both in the period leading up to a hot streak, which typically lasts about five years, and at other times in the subject’s career. Five years?!

I found this to be surprising in that most hot streaks I’ve personally encountered have been anywhere from a few hours to several months. I’ve never thought of them in terms of years. Anywhoo . . .

In all three fields, the trend tended toward a more diverse body of work in the period before a hot streak than at other points in time. Then, during the hot streak, the creators tended to continue to work in the same vein, suggesting “that individuals become substantially more focused on what they work on, reflecting an exploitation strategy during hot streak.”

So when is your next hot streak coming up and will you know it when it hits you?

This post is based upon the article by Sarah Cascone of Art Net News.

https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2015/12/Jackson-Pollock-1950_L2011001166.jpg
Jackson Pollock at work in 1950. Photo: ©1991 Hans Namuth Estate Courtesy Center for Creative Photography, the University of Arizona.

Creativity Tip #24: Trying to satisfy everybody never got anybody anywhere. Focus on what’s important, then do it.

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for personal insights on life and its detours.

How Creative Are You? Take the Creativity Test.

Do you think you’re creative? Let’s find out, shall we. According to researchers from McGill, Harvard, and the University of Melbourne, a quick test could reveal how much creative potential lies within. A recent article by Connie Lin in Fast Company magazine explores an interesting take on a creativity test.

Creativity has long been considered tough to quantify. But an international cohort of researchers from McGill University, Harvard University, and the University of Melbourne are tackling that challenge with a recent study that claims a four-minute test could reveal how much creative potential lies within.

HubSpot Blog

Here’s how it works: 1) Take a seat. 2) Think of 10 words that are as wildly unrelated—in definition, category, or concept—as possible. 3) Input here.

That’s it—the rest is algorithmic magic. The test, which is called the Divergent Association Task, then employs a computational program that measures the “semantic distance” between the words. For example: The words “cat” and “dog,” which are different but somewhat related, would have a shorter semantic distance than the words “cat” and “tunnel,” which bear fewer links.

According to researchers, people who can conjure up words with greater semantic distance might objectively be more creative. So if your words were “green,” “blue,” and “purple,” you might be deemed less creative than if your words were “sashay,” “gumption,” and “leaf.”

Results of the Divergent Association Task (DAT) appeared to match results that study participants received from two other well-established creativity barometers (the Alternative Uses Task and the Bridge-the-Associative Gap Task), suggesting it’s at least as effective.

The DAT, however, does not divine creativity in umbrella terms, but rather tests one specific type of creativity: divergent thinking, which is the capacity to generate an array of diverse solutions to an open-ended problem.

According to Jay Olson, the creator of the DAT, that’s just a “sliver”—but it’s the first step toward understanding creativity more broadly, and how it might be cultivated in the minds of the next generation.

“Creativity is fundamental to human life,” said Olson, who is a doctoral graduate of McGill’s Department of Psychiatry and a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard. “The more we understand its complexity, the better we can foster creativity in all its forms.”

The study is in National Academy of Sciences Proceedings.

So, how creative are you?

Creativity Tip #26: Everyone needs a Creativity Survival Kit. What is that, you ask? It’s any sort of container that holds items that make you feel or be creative.

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for personal insights on life and its detours.

Don’t Look Now, Our Creativity is Leaking

Portions of this post are based on excerpts from the book by Michael Easter, The Comfort Crisis. We spend an awful lot of time consuming digital media, lest we get easily bored. A recent study looked at what happens to a bored mind without easy access to media?

The Canadian neuroscientist James Danckert recruited some volunteers and put them into a neuroimaging scanner, and induced them into a mood of being bored They had them watch two guys hanging laundry for eight minutes. You could say they were bored out of their gords!

While bored, a part of their brains called the “default mode network” fired on. It’s a network of brain regions that activates when we’re unfocused, when our mind is off and wandering. Mind wandering is a rest state that restores and rebuilds the resources needed to work better and more efficiently when we’re focused on the outside world.

Mind wandering is also a key driver of creativity, which is why other studies have found that bored people score significantly higher on creativity tests. Research dating back to the 1950s may explain why we’re now facing a “creativity crisis.”

If I didn’t already know this was a 1950’s Classroom, I would have guessed it. Has that look and feel – BTW, where are the little girls?

Ellis Paul Torrance was an American psychologist. In the 1950s he noticed something off target about American classrooms. Teachers tended to prefer the subdued, book-smart kids. They didn’t much care for the kids who had tons of energy and big ideas. Kids who’d think up odd interpretations of readings, inventive excuses for why they didn’t do their homework, and morph into mad scientists every lab day.

The system deemed these kids “bad.” But Torrance felt they were misunderstood. Because if a problem comes up in the real world, all the book-smart kids look for an answer in … a book. But what if the answer isn’t in a book? Then a person needs to get creative.

He thus devoted his life to studying creativity and its uses for good. In 1958 he developed the “Torrance Test.” It’s since become the gold standard for gauging creativity. The TTCT (Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking) assess how creatively a child’s mind works and are often given to children to determine advanced placement or as part of an entrance examination. Instead of traditionally taught subjects such as reading or math, these tests assess creativity. Children are scored on a number of aspects, including:

  • Creative titles for pictures
  • Expressions
  • Imagery
  • and Humor

He had a large group of children in the Minnesota public school system take the exam. It includes exercises like showing a kid a toy and asking her, “how would you improve this toy to make it more fun?”

Torrance analyzed all the kids’ scores. He then tracked every accomplishment the kids earned across their lives, until he died in 2003, when his colleagues took on the job. If one of the kids wrote a book, he’d mark it; if a kid founded a business, he’d mark it; if a kid submitted a patent, he’d mark it. Every achievement was logged. What he found raises big questions about how we judge intelligence.

The kids who came up with more, better ideas in the initial tests were the ones who became the most accomplished adults. They were successful inventors and architects, CEOs and college presidents, authors and diplomats, etc.

Torrance testing, in fact, bests IQ testing so much so that a recent study of Torrance’s Kids found that creativity was a threefold better predictor of much of the students’ accomplishment compared to their IQ scores.

Now, according to Easter, we’ve killed off one of the main drivers of creativity: mind wandering. The result? A researcher at the University of William and Mary analyzed 300,000 Torrance Test scores since the 50s. She found that creativity scores began to nosedive in 1990.

She concluded that we’re now facing a “creativity crisis.” The scientist blames our hurried, over-scheduled lives and “ever increasing amounts of time interacting with electronic entertainment devices.”

And that’s bad news. Particularly when we consider that creativity is a critical skill in today’s economy, where most of us work with our brains rather than brawn.

Despite what productivity gurus will have us believe, the key to improving creativity might be to occasionally do nothing at all. Or, at least, not dive into a screen. We’ll think distinctly, in a way that delivers more original ideas.

Yet, ironically, society’s tech giants still deliver more advanced software to supposedly aid us in our creativity, while holding us increasingly captive. A proper balance has yet to be realized. And may not ever.

While it may sound silly, occasionally doing nothing works. At least for me, it does. Of course, my body may not be doing anything but my mind is usually traveling at warp speed. It’s usually during these times that I let my mental forces do what they’ll do. More times than not, they produce . . . an idea . . . several ideas . . . a partial script . . . something to which I can apply time-in-the-future to develop.

Boredom is just one evolutionary discomfort we’ve lost from our lives. Easter’s book, The Comfort Crisis, investigates nine others, covering what happens to our bodies, minds, and sense of self without them—and the benefits we can reap by reintroducing these evolutionary discomforts into our lives.