Obsession with Productivity Can Kill Creativity.

Don’t Let It Kill Yours!

How would a “productive day” compare to a “creative day”? What would, if anything, they have in common? Chances are not much.  One might think a productive day would be closely aligned with scratching off items on a to-do list. On the other hand, someone’s idea of a creative day might not even have a to-do list.

475px-The_ScreamOur current work world is obsessed with productivity. We are inundated with books, articles, white papers, to time block this and time block that; all just to do more work. But our relentless quest to be productive is undermining one of the most important abilities in today’s workplace: creativity. What of the future, though? Will machine learning and artificial intelligence perform the routine aspects of our work at the expense of our ingenuity and creativity?

So how do we create the right conditions for creativity, particularly when we are trying to deal with a to-do list?

Consider this comment from screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (the mastermind behind the television show West Wing and films like Moneyball and The Social Network). He told The Hollywood Reporter that he takes six showers a day. “I’m not a germaphobe,” he explains but when his writing isn’t going well, he’ll shower, change into new clothes, and start again. Sorkin’s trade relies on him minting something fresh on a regular basis. And it occurred to him that his best thoughts were not happening in moments of fevered concentration, but when he was in the shower. So he had a shower installed in the corner of his office and makes regular use of it. He has described the process as “a do-over” for triggering original ideas.

In 1939, James Webb Young, a Madison Avenue advertising executive, wrote a definitive guide to the process of creativity, A Technique for Producing Ideas. In this short book, Webb Young reminds us, “that an idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of old elements.” In his view, the skill of creativity is the ability to spot new connections between familiar thoughts, and the art is “the ability to see [new] relationships.”

Fifty years later, Steve Jobs observed something similar: “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

Webb Young also lays out a remarkably simple technique for creative thought. It involves stimulation. Continue reading

Boosting Your Creativity – Just Like Einstein – Even in Crisis Times! Part 1.

Even during times of crisis and major uncertainty, creativity is very useful. The outbreak gripping the world at present, the Corona Virus (covid-19), is causing all sorts of interruption globally. The pandemic is causing us to think like we’ve never thought before or at least in a very long time.

Creativity brings itself to the forefront once again. How we use it to solve some almost unthinkable problems is up to us. Fortunately, we have viable resources upon which to fall back.

In the continuing process of exploring the myriad aspects of creativity, I was intrigued by this article from the Trillo blog regarding how Albert Einstein used a certain kind of “play” to enhance his creative streaks. What’s appealing to me is that all of us can learn from this, whether or not we’re engaged in a global pandemic.

I dare say everyone wants to boost their creativity. Now especially. How about boosting it on a par with the likes of Einstein? Well, it has to do with what’s referred to as Combinatory Play.

What the heck is Combinatory Play?

“Combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought.”
– Albert Einstein

The term “combinatory play,” also known as combinatorial creativity, was perhaps first coined by Albert Einstein in a letter to French mathematician Jacques Hadamard. In an attempt to understand mathematicians’ mental processes, Hadamard asked Einstein about how he thought.

Einstein-final

Einstein’s letter reply, later published in Ideas and Opinions, explained that his thinking process transcended what could be communicated in the written or spoken word, but that there was “a certain connection between those elements and relevant logical concepts.”

Huh?

Well, Einstein was known to play violin whenever he was stuck on a tough problem and often spoke of how music influenced the way he thought about math and science. His sister, Maja, said that sometimes after playing piano, he’d get up and say, “There, now I’ve got it.”

Albert Einstein quote

Call it combinatory play, combinatorial creativity, or intuition—we’ve all experienced that flash of insight, that fleeting moment when a solution we’ve been grinding away at reveals itself in an unexpected place. Playing violin helped Einstein theorize about time and space. What might be your Combinatory Play?

“Creativity is just connecting things.” – Steve Jobs

Steve+Jobs

Stuck in Traffic on the Neural Pathway to Nowhere

Understanding why Combinatory Play boosts creativity, means we should look at how the brain works.

The brain’s building blocks are neurons: nerve cells that receive and transmit signals along neural pathways. In Harvard professor of psychiatry John Ratey’s A User’s Guide to the Brain, certain pathways are forged at birth, like the ones that control your breathing and heartbeat. Others can be manipulated by learning. So when you’re stuck in a rut, your brain’s neurons could literally be stuck on a neural pathway you’ve carved out through your behavior.

The good news is you can get your brain unstuck by choosing to make new connections—forge a new neural pathway. Ratey explains, “A person who forcibly changes his behavior can break the deadlock by requiring neurons to change connections to enact the new behavior.”

If you’re frustrated by mental processes that lead nowhere, it’s kind of like your brain is taking the same old route to work every day because that’s what you’ve trained it to do. But if the highway is congested and you’re sitting in traffic, it’s up to you to tell your brain that there’s a new route it should take to get to where you want to go.

Comfort In Familiarity

Your brain is continually striving for order and predictability, and as a result, can get pretty set in its ways. While reverting to familiar paths can keep you safe and comfortable, it can also hinder your creativity. Therefore, it’s important to quiet this part of the brain if you want to invent new solutions. Combinatory Play can help you do this by relaxing your mind.

The Brain’s Inclination for Seeking Patterns Encourages Innovation

As clinical psychologist Victoria Stevens explains: “Our pattern-seeking behavior is an essential part of creative thinking, although it can also produce false assumptions and biases when previous experiences lead us to beliefs we do not question. In addition, finding links, connections, and patterns between apparently dissimilar things is essential to creative thinking.”

Your pattern-seeking behavior can benefit you in creative thinking. Just remember to:

  • Question your assumptions
  • Try to find patterns where it seems like none exist

Combinatory Play allows you to zoom out, see the bigger picture, and spot the patterns. This is especially true at times like this. Think and act creatively and responsibly, not out of fear or panic but out of rational, logical thought. The calmer we are, the better.

Continued in Part 2 . . .


Thanks to Amy Rigby in

Friday Fun Quotes . . . is baaaack!!

It’s back. Friday Fun Quotes. Sorry we’ve been away for awhile but other priorities surfaced and we’re just now trying to get back into the swing of things.

Searching through the online Quote Bag, some of the gems I found are listed below. They are a variety of ad-related and TV-related quotes from some very significant folks in our culture such as David Ogilvy, Rod Serling, Steve Jobs, and Van Gogh.

So, without further ado, enjoy!

If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, and the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular. David Ogilvy, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Great designers seldom make great advertising men, because they get overcome by the beauty of the picture – and forget that merchandise must be sold. James Randolph Adams, member,                       Advertising Hall of Fame

Our current obsession with creativity is the result of our continued striving for immortality in an era when most people no longer believe in an after-life. Arianna Huffington

RodSerlingQuote-singular evil

RodSerlingQuote-where will he

I want to put a ding in the universe. Steve Jobs

VanGogh Museum

Van Gogh Museum

‘something like the colour of a really dusty potato, unpeeled of course’. Van Gogh painted in earth tones. He wanted to show that they ‘have tilled the earth themselves with these hands they are putting in the dish, and that they have thus honestly earned their food’. 

We don’t grow unless we take risks. Any successful company is riddled with failures. James E. Burke, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

NightGallery-Michelle Lee

The weed is employed by the aging witch who has used up her present body to facilitate her entry into the new, young body she has chosen for herself. #GalleryQuotes #NGS2E3, “Since Aunt Ada Came to Stay” (Night-Gallery) Michelle Lee

***And, finally, with a wink and a nod . . .***

The man I knew, my dad, was nothing like the black and white image walking across the MGM soundstage… #my lampshade, guitar and I don’t know where he got the rest of the outfit. Anne Serling, excerpted from “AS I KNEW HIM: My Dad Rod Serling”

RodSerling-at home

Rod at home

Friday Fun Quotes: Imagination’s Elixir

Here ya go. Your weekly respite into the world of famous and sometimes infamous quotes from a variety of personalities. Any one of these could prove motivation for that ad you’re working on, tweak your imagination, inspire you or just plain bring a smile to your face.

Did you ever wonder if Charlie Brown ever felt like he was living in The Twilight Zone or if Snoopy ever wanted to remodel his doghouse from a Frank Lloyd Wright design?

It’s Friday. Have some fun. Enjoy!!

CharlesShultz Quote

Rod Serling-Behind Curtain

 

The writer broadens, becomes more observant, more tempered, wiser… It  is not something that is injected into him by a needle…  It doesn’t  work that way. It’s a tedious, tough, frustrating process, but never,  ever be put aside by the fact that it’s hard.– Rod Serling

 

The scientist has marched in and taken the place of the poet. But one day somebody will find the solution to the problems of the world and remember, it will be a poet, not a scientist. – Frank Lloyd Wright

A great architect is not made by way of a brain nearly so much as he is made by way of a cultivated, enriched heart. – Frank Lloyd Wright

It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation. –        Herman Melville

There is a muse. But he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer station. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there, you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. –                Stephen King

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.– Steve Jobs

Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag. -                Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

11 … 10 … 9 … ignition sequence start … 6 … 5 … 4 … 3… 2 … 1 … 0. All engine running. Liftoff! We have a liftoff — 32 minutes past the hour — lift off on Apollo 11. Tower cleared. – Jack King

quote

 

 

 

 

 

Could This Be the “iYacht”?

New Photos of Steve Jobs’ Yacht

American Luxury Magazine (from which you can view additional photos) recently sent out an e-newsletter featuring a variety of super-luxurious items. Among them was a select group of photographs featuring Steve Jobs’ yacht. Yet again, creativity and innovation done the Apple way.

A 256-foot yacht designed for the late Steve Jobs was captured in numerous photographs as it sailed in to the British Virgin Islands.

Steve Jobs Yacht

The yacht, called Venus, was designed by Philippe Starck. Jobs reportedly commissioned the building of the yacht after sailing on his friend Larry Ellison’s Yacht. The yacht was not finished until 2012, nearly a full year after Jobs’ passing.

The yacht has six bedrooms and features high-tech automation systems. The exterior is crafted from aluminum and steel and looks strikingly similar to an Apple product.

The yacht is now owned by Jobs’ widow Laurene Powell Jobs.

(Photo credit: Beth Colt, photographer and owner of Woods Hole Inn, @woodsholeinn on Instagram)