Why does anyone hire someone for their creativity? Is it just a matter of needing to get a job done and not having the resources to do it themselves?
On balance, I’ve found that there is a deeper reason, but it’s one that’s not very well expressed by either the buyer or seller of creative services.
To explain, let’s get something out of the way first.
Creativity is poorly understood when only thought of as a noun or an adjective.
You’ve heard this kind of conversation before: “Hey, let’s bring in the creatives on this project.” Or “we can leave it to the creatives to fill in the details here.”
On that point, I like what Mike Monteiro, author of Design is a Job, cautions: “Never, ever, ever let them call you a ‘creative.’ It’s a way to be disenfranchised.”
Why? Because that way of thinking is couched in a notion that you are someone–and with membership in a special group of someones–who just show up and make things look nicer or work better with the wave of some magical creative wand.
It assumes your ability to produce great work simply comes from having an inherent knack for it.
Worst of all, it is creative-minded people themselves who help perpetuate this, because they assume that pretty much anybody could do what they do if they had the time or the inclination.
See creativity as a verb.
That’s how designer Milton Glaser–among many others–sees it. And this is the part of creativity that is not very well understood in the deeper motivations I see in the marketplace. As a verb, being creative means there is both a method and discipline to what you do.
You are driven by thought. Not impulse.
Creative mindfulness means you exercise your hard-earned skills in a methodical way that pays respect to the fact that your time and your output have intrinsic value.
It conveys action. If you are doing your job correctly, you impose order on the ideas you generate.
But here’s the really hard part.
If we are being honest, creative mindfulness–the more you practice it–produces more uncertainty than it does complete answers to problems.
The older I get and the longer I do what I do for a living, the more open I am to the truth that I don’t really know anything for certain. That’s a paradox, but it’s one you can learn to live with.
Certainty means having the conviction to know the answer to a problem. Instead, what I find is that while I’m steadily better at finding methods to quickly arrive at solutions, I’m far less willing to trust in the same solution over and over again.
Don’t stay in love with your ideas.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when tackling a new project is to apply old thinking to it.
It’s not so much that old ways aren’t as good as they once were. It’s that you risk skipping over the most important attribute of creative mindfulness: your capacity for curiosity.
Forget what you know. Instead ask questions such as: Why does this thing work the way it does? What assumptions are driving that idea? Is this the right order of things?
Two great insights to help wrap this up. First, physicist Richard Feynman: “I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong.”
Second, from writer Dani Shapiro: “When I think of the wisest people I know, they share one defining trait: curiosity…they are motivated by their desire to explore the unfamiliar. They are drawn to what they don’t understand.”
That is what is at the heart of creative problem solving.
It’s not about knowing the answer.
It’s about your willingness to look for it.
Even in the dark waters of the unknown.