Software Creation Mystery - http://softwarecreation.org

How to Become an Expert: Creativity

cre·a·tiv·i·ty –the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations

Creativity can be developed and improved. Here is my Theory of Creativity in 3 parts

  1. Prepared Mind – prepare your mind to be creative
  2. Right challenges – know what challenges you should embrace now
  3. Creative ideas – use powerful techniques to get new ideas

I. Prepared Mind

Your mind is the main tool for generating ideas. Empty, timid and rigid mind will not produce successful ideas.

What should be the qualities of the mind to get great ideas and solve complex problems?

  1. Knowledgeable – know problem domain and other fields that can inspire new ideas
  2. Flexible – able to vary and adapt the ways of thinking
  3. Forceful – eager and resolute to find a solution
  4. Easy – clear and free from stress and fear
  5. Playful – can surprise and break rules
  6. Intuitive – come up with ideas without thinking and reasoning
How can you develop these qualities and prepare your mind to be creative?

1. Feed Head – make mind knowledgeable

“If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.” – Carl Sagan

Organize regular information channels for delivering intellectual food for your head and push your mind outside of familiar boundaries.

Build optimal flow of information in areas of your interests

  • Subscribe to blogs, magazines, podcasts, rss, twitter, etc.
    • Balance broad (e.g. techcrunch.com, digg.com) and deep sources (specialized sites or thought leaders blogs).
    • Group online sources (rss, blogs, twitter) based on frequency of updates and value to avoid missing valuable posts in the pile of shallow news.
    • Periodically review existing sources and re-arrange or remove them to keep the feed optimal for your current needs
  • Scan for new books, blogs and articles
    • amazon.com is the best site to find great new books
    • Collect references and mentions from trusted sources
    • Use sites like www.stumbleupon.com to discover new blogs and articles


Probe other fields
– regularly try new fields for potentially useful information, interesting ideas and new perspectives.

Start with general fields – history, art, economy, philosophy, management, psychology, physics, engineering and many others. Dig deeper if you find the field interesting.

  • Subscribe to magazine and websites with interesting articles in wide range of fields targeted for general audience (e.g. New Scientist for science fields)
  • Search for highly ranked sources that are interesting and deliver good overview of the selected field.
  • Again, amazon.com and Google search are good starting points
  • Connect new information to your field – approaches, concepts, problems, solutions

Content analysis – keep your hand on pulse of your society and industry – general trends, key events, statistics, buzzes, news. All this information can be a valuable source for understanding present and future.

Take notes – write down facts, thoughts and problems that can give rise to the new ideas, solutions or topics for future investigation

  • Find good tools to capture your thoughts – otherwise you can lose great thoughts and ideas forever
  • Maintain Brainbank – collection of idea starters (undeveloped idea briefs) for specific topics in designated virtual or physical folders

2. Prime Your Mind – make it flexible

“The mind is everything. What you think you become.” – Buddha

Train mind to be creative, flexible and open to the world. Do not allow to stale – shake and exercise it every day with

  • daily idea quote – come up with few ideas every day for any aspect of your professional, public or private life.
  • routines – change what you do and how you do from time to time
  • experiences – strive for new experiences – travel, engage in the new activities, meet new people and attend new events
  • thinking techniques – improve how you think, always look for new approaches

3. Explorer’s Drive (Energy, Courage, Self-Belief) – make mind forceful

“The wind and the waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators.” – Edward Gibbon

Eager, brave and energetic mind can tackle any challenge and overcome any difficulty. A human without this explorer’s drive is passive bystander following beaten paths. This person will not be creative.
Believe in yourself. Remove psychological and physical barriers to be creative. It is a complex topic how to overcome these barriers and develop a strong inner self. You can find many recommendations – raising self-esteem, finding meaning in life, positive thinking, improving health and lifestyle, diet, physical exercises and fulfilling daily activities and so on. Whatever it takes, but make an effort to ignite the drive, if you miss it.
You should believe in three things:
  • better ideas exist
  • you will find them
  • you can make mistakes
Explorers often fail, but you will fail for sure if you don’t try and don’t believe in yourself.

4. Clear Mind – make it easy

“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.” – Jim Goodwin
Anxious, overwhelmed and stressed mind will not cooperate well. Meditate, relax and slow down sometimes to make your mind ready to be creative.

5. Fun, Play, Being a Child – make your mind playful

“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” – Pablo Picasso

A normal adult becomes more serious and conservative with age that incur heavy cost – decreasing ability to find surprising and groundbreaking ideas.

Try to

  • have fun, play
  • forget dogmas, break rules
  • be curious and spontaneous
  • be silly and illogical

Encourage your inner child and don’t let him to grow up 🙂

6. Train gut feeling – make mind intuitive

“It is through science that we prove, but through intuition that we discover.” – Jules H. Poincare
Our subconscious mind is much more powerful than linear conscious mind and in the same time it is much more difficult to control. The greatest thinkers know how to use both minds. In essence, gut feeling is your internalized experience, a form of pattern recognition and the way to communicate with subconsciousness. It can be encouraged and trained.
Every time you have problem try to come up with ideas and solutions without thinking. Good intuition enable you to
  • know how to attack the problem without know how you know
  • relate problems in one field to unrelated another field
  • recognize the crux of the problem
  • see general solution to the problem
  • recognize solution because it feels right

(by George Turin, of the University of California)

II. Right Challenges

“He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious” – Sun Tzu

And still, creative person with prepared mind can waste talent and energy on solving irrelevant problems. You should focus on the most important problems instead of stretching yourself to fight any challenge.

  • Select few important battles that you can win instead of squandering your energy in useless fights.
  • Actively prioritize, select or reject your outstanding challenges.
  • Select challenges that you are ready to accept and come up with ideas and solutions.
  • Focus and work the challenge

1. Know your problems

“You won’t find a solution by saying there is no problem.” – William Rotsler

Monitor your life, inquire your situation and make your problems explicit. Solving right problems in the right time is the best way to apply your creativity and improve your life.

Regularly,

  • keep the journal of interesting problems – problems you want to solve
  • see waste – useless activities and commitments in your life. Streamline your life to have more time for important stuff.
  • measure key parameters of your life – health, happiness, career, achievements, wealth. Small changes that you barely notice could lead to serious future problems.
  • go and see (Genchi Genbutsu) – if you feel that something is wrong, do not hide, but understand and face the challenge
  • ask 5 whys (Kaizen) – find root causes of your problems. Do not discard problems as impossible to solve – convert into challenges and opportunities for making your life better.

(the list is inspired by Toyota Production System)

2. Accept challenge

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” – Will Rogers

The last step before working on the challenge is to accept it. We have so many distraction in our life, we procrastinate and keep postponing actions. You have to make a serious deal with yourself to succeed with challenges. Accept the challenge means to commit yourself to work on it. Period. Commit, focus and work the problem, otherwise your attempts will be in vain.

Questions to assess your mind preparation

  1. Do I have good sources of information and adequate knowledge?
  2. Do I have broad perspective of various fields?
  3. Am I flexible and open-minded?
  4. Do I have drive, energy and courage to embrace challenges?
  5. Is my mind clear and relaxed?
  6. Am I playful, curious and free of dogmas?
  7. Does my intuition work well?
  8. Do I know my challenges?
  9. Do I accept them?

Action Plan


Daily Weekly Monthly
Feed Brains: blogs, twitter, websites, rss, podcasts, books, magazines, audio, video
  • read
  • think
  • take notes
  • scan for new information sources
  • rearrange or remove sources to keep them optimal
  • plan learning for the week
  • content analysis – news, events, buzzes
  • select a new general field for learning: get overall picture, find top ranked sources, add to learning plan
  • set and evaluate strategic learning goals and plans
  • analyse industry trends and statistics
Prime mind
  • generate 5 ideas daily
  • change routines
  • meet new people
  • look for new experiences
  • learn new thinking techniques and improve existing
  • travel, visit new places
Clear mind
  • meditate
  • connect to nature
  • do what you like
  • retreat and rest
Boost drive – energy, courage and self-believe
  • diet
  • physical exercises
  • fulfilling activities
  • praise your achievements, work on weaknesses
  • find meaning in the life
Have fun, play
  • laugh, play and don’t miss any opportunity to have fun
  • have fun, do stupid things (within crime code and human norms :))
  • have a lot of fun 🙂
Train intuition
  • come up with ideas without thinking
  • sharpen gut feeling – evaluate success of your intuitive ideas
  • spend time understanding your inner-self
Know your problems and work on them
  • log problems
  • work on accepted challenges
  • monitor life parameters
  • Kaizen – ask 5 whys, find root causes
  • streamline and remove waste from your life
  • Long-term planning and life review
  • Convert problems into opportunities
  • Accept or reject challenges

If your mind is prepared, you are ready to use your creativity for solving challenges. The next post will equip you with powerful techniques for getting new ideas.

Resources

Thinkertoys: a handbook of creative-thinking techniques, Michael Michalko
How to get ideas, Jack Foster

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Comments

Very nice post, and very nice quotes. Thank you.

Comment by Erik Clairiot | March 17, 2010 5:29 am

[…] I’ve been looking to improve my creativity lately when I stumbled upon this article on my RSS feeds: http://softwarecreation.org/2010/how-to-become-an-expert-creativity/ […]

Pingback by A Good Article on How to Become a Creative Software Developer (or in general) « Edwin Jaury | March 23, 2010 2:59 am

Hi Andriy Solovey,

This blog has tickles a lot of my thoughts, so felts forgotten. The material is in better way framed. It boosted me to move forward. If any richer than ‘Thanks’ you know please have it coz right now i dont have that word.

Comment by Prathamesh | August 21, 2010 2:25 am

This blog have little value without you and your comments, thoughts and discussions. Please, leave your comments. You are welcome to debate and criticize any idea, but, please, don't attack other people. Thanks for your contribution!

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