When I was a young medical student in the mid-1980s, I was taught that the brain was a rather fixed structure, and throughout life we would every year loose a large number of neurons that could not be regenerated. As many other “medical truths”, this has also proven to be wrong.
We are very much steered by the primitive reactions that are evoked in our reptile brain. One of the strongest of these instincts is fear. Fear is a survival function, and potentially dangerous situations affect us much more than positive signals that say everything is calm and that we can carry on with what we are doing.
Once upon a time (1542–1605) there was a wise and learned Mughal emperor of India, named Akbar. In his court Akbar had “the nine jewels of Akbar”, which were not jewels but his most important advisors. Each of the advisor had his own skill, but the one especially known for his intelligence was Birbal. Emperor Akbar often enjoyed testing Birbal’s wit with various riddles.
There are two ways of solving a problem. In the deliberate pathway, you think analytically. You try out different thinking techniques and slowly arrive at the conclusion. In the spontaneous pathway, you instead let the brain’s subconscious structures do the job and the end-result is an insight that often comes suddenly without any pre-notice.
Often, creativity is associated with something dysfunctional – a problem needs to be solved, something that works badly could be improved. Rarely, we devote our creative ability to something that works well: “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it!”
The Phoenix list is a famous checklist to highlight problems from many different angles. The origin is a tool used by the US intelligence organisation CIA for the training of its agents. The checklist includes both the problem and the plan to solve it.
Being well-organized does not need to be in contrast to being creative. On the contrary, most great artists know the place of smallest thing they need for their creative work and the coolest and wildest rock musician may have his sound studio in meticulous order. Keeping track of your things, and not having to spend 10 minutes every morning to find your car keys also frees up a lot of time for other more useful activities, including creative work.
By learning how to better listen to our inner voice and to be aware of the present moment with tuned down filters and with no judgment, we will also more easily access our intuition. You have probably been in a situation where you intuitively knew how to act without really knowing why. You have simply listened to your “gut feeling” and strikingly often it has turned out you were right.
I have in a previous blog post, written about the differences between traditional and creative leadership. An important task for the creative leader is to take care of the staff and give them “inner nourishment” by creating a creative working environment. This is done by encouraging and strengthening the creative team.
The creative process often takes place in solitude, and not least for artistic creation, an undisturbed space is needed to come in contact with your inner creative essence. Many highly creative people have therefore, in their moments of creating, escaped from the constant noise and distractions of other people.