• Laura Rosher

Innovation, Creativity and You

Updated: Feb 26

Odds on, if you currently work in an organisation, you hear the word innovation a lot. Customers, stakeholders, staff, executive and board members are all muttering this elixir of success. Innovation is defined by NESTA as "the successful exploitation of new ideas". generally applying to things that make our lives better, more efficient and more fun. And what trait do we need to be innovative? - creativity!

Innovation and creativity give companies a competitive advantage in rapidly changing markets. In order to succeed at innovation, organisations need to create a culture that enables and empowers their staff's creativity. More on that in a future blog post. The thing I want to focus on first is the benefit of creativity for our individual wellbeing and personal growth.

Research frequently demonstrates a positive correlation between subjective wellbeing and innovation and creativity. When we practice our creativity we demonstrate autonomy and independence in thought, openness to experience and inner life, flexibility of responses, acceptance of the multiple facets of human nature and increased curiosity and interests. In addition, creative and imaginative thought helps develop self-identity and increases our "reservoirs of healing" - all practices that help us build resilience and move towards our self-actualised potential.

In my workshops I often ask participants to raise their hands if they consider themselves to be a creative person. Now this is not scientifically researched data but my anecdotal results show on average only 50% of people raise their hands. I'll ask everyone why they answered the way they did, and then I break out The Great Brené Brown's quote:

"There's no such thing as creative and non-creative people, only those who use their creativity and people who do not" - Brené Brown

Adding to this, many people are already using their creativity on a daily basis, but may not be giving themselves credit for it.

So what stops us from seeing ourselves as creative?

Often people associate creativity with artistic endeavours. They may have struggled in art at school, for example, and from then developed a fixed mindset around their artistic / creative aptitude. However creativity refers to the ability to generate novel and productive ways to conceptualise and do things, including, but not limited to, artistic endeavours.

Creativity is a recognised character strength that can be nurtured and strengthened with awareness and effort.

Personal creativity may not lead to fame and fortune, it can do something that from the individual's point of view is even more important: make day-to-day experiences more vivid, more enjoyable, and more rewarding. when we live creatively, boredom is banished and every moment holds the possibility of fresh discovery. - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

While creativity is not limited to artistic endeavours, there is much evidence to support that getting your paintbrushes or craft supplies out is a great way to improve your mood and happiness. Studies in art therapy have found that personally creating a piece of artwork significantly reduces negative mood and anxiety - more so than viewing art. Studies have also found that when people were experiencing negative moods, their mood improved significantly when asked to draw a picture based on their feelings, compared to those who were asked to draw shapes, complete word puzzles or even write creatively.

When I was emerging from my years of sleep deprived new mum fog, I desperately needed to improve my mood and felt the itch to try something creative. Taking a few social art classes was a game changer for me. I had a total Beginner's Mindset and zero expectations of the result. The value for me was not in the quality of the output but in the mindfulness of the creative process itself. I find swirling paint colours together totally hedonic! There is also that great feeling of accomplishment when practising new skills and creating something original to feel proud of.

After learning basic painting skills I created these original pieces at home in the evenings, glass of wine in hand. Bliss!

Are you feeling the need to innovate? Do you regularly engage your creative brain? If not, are you inspired to give it a go?

Here are some simple ideas that might help you get started:

  1. Thinking about it this way can take some of the pressure off: Being creative does not mean you need to dream up an entirely previously non-existent thought or thing. Creativity means associating previously unconnected ideas or things in an appropriate and novel way. In other words, the ingredients may already exist - it is the new way you connect them into something unique, useful / beautiful that is creativity.

  2. Just the simple encouragement / reminder to "be creative" before a task can be surprisingly effective.

  3. Make brainstorming a habit. Stop trying to think of one perfect solution and try to think of as many possible solutions as you can (known as divergent thinking).

  4. Go for a walk - Behavioural and learning scientist, Maria Oppezzo discusses how moving our bodies gets our creative juices flowing in this great TED talk.

  5. Try something arty. When embarking on your next artistic endeavour find your Beginner's Mindset. A teaching of Zen Buddhism, a Beginner's Mindset refers to having an attitude of "openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject... just as a beginner would". Just immerse yourself in the process without expectation, judgement or comparisonitis and see where it takes you.

  6. Encouraged to innovate at work? TED has compiled this great resource of inspiring talks, exploring the habits of original thinkers, the brilliance of boredom, expanding social networks and even a simple word game.

"To live creatively is to touch everything with joyful unexpected magic... to enchant a room with decoration and colour; to paint pictures, make music, write poems, to play with life. The playful life is one intoxicated by spirit, at once unselfconscious and spontaneous, yet disciplined." - John Lane (Cited by Barker)

Me trying pottery throwing. So fun and challenging!

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