Cre­ativ­ity is a skill

Mikhail Sharanda on the na­ture of think­ing out­side the box and how to shape your sur­round­ings to help guide you

Computer Arts - - INSIGHT - MIKHAIL SHARANDA De­sign di­rec­tor, Huawei­dia

Al­most ev­ery­one would like to be more cre­ative. But at the same time, the more cre­ative ex­pe­ri­ences we have, the less orig­i­nal we be­come. How does that hap­pen? Either way, un­der­stand­ing the na­ture of this process to­day will def­i­nitely help you to be­come a more cre­ative in­di­vid­ual to­mor­row.

Too many of us be­lieve that you have to be born an artist. And the myth that it has some­thing to do with the cre­ative right side of the brain still hasn’t been busted. In fact, both hemi­spheres of the brain are re­spon­si­ble for log­i­cal and cre­ative think­ing at the same time. In­di­vid­u­als with larger brains show higher in­tel­li­gence on av­er­age, but what truly mat­ters is the com­plex­ity of neu­ral con­nec­tions. This way, in­di­vid­u­als who deal with cre­ative tasks daily solve them faster and in a more cre­ative way.

My path was wind­ing, and I wasn’t any good at the be­gin­ning. I was cu­ri­ous about de­sign, but my par­ents in­sisted that I should study com­puter sci­ence. It was a great asset, but I still be­came a de­signer, nev­er­the­less. This ‘it’s meant to be!’ at­ti­tude is some­thing we all would like to be­lieve in. But for me, it was sim­ply some­thing that I en­joyed do­ing for a long time. The more I re­peated the same kind of think­ing pro­cesses, the bet­ter I’d be­come. Look­ing back, it fi­nally be­comes clearer that cre­ativ­ity and de­sign think­ing are not gifts, they’re sim­ply the de­vel­op­ment of your brain. Thus, you can train it and shape it to work how you want it to.

An en­joy­able rep­e­ti­tion turns into a habit. And habits are ex­tremely im­por­tant in the long-term. But do­ing some­thing many times isn’t al­ways enough! Your brain has to con­sider the process as some­thing worth re­peat­ing. As for me, I was in­spired to do some­thing un­usual. I loved the process of cre­ation – and good, en­joy­able re­sults pushed me to re­peat this process again. But you can’t force your­self to en­joy a process sim­ply to turn it into a habit. You need to be in­spired to en­joy the rou­tine.

In­spi­ra­tion is a com­pli­cated chem­i­cal process of the hu­man brain. Where does it come from? How can we make it come to us more of­ten? The main mis­lead­ing opin­ion is that we need to seek it out, but in re­al­ity we need to look for in­spi­ra­tion within our­selves. There’s a sim­ple, yet elu­sive for­mula: you’re in­spired when you’re liv­ing within your val­ues. We find it when we’re look­ing to­wards our dreams or some­thing that truly mat­ters to us.

From there, cre­ative habits get even more com­pli­cated. Re­cently, I’ve faced an­other prob­lem: with time, my cre­ative think­ing be­gan to turn into pat­tern think­ing. The thing is that the longer you work in a par­tic­u­lar in­dus­try, the more you be­gin to think just like ev­ery­one else there.

Did you no­tice that chil­dren some­times say things that might never come to an adult’s mind? That’s be­cause they don’t know much about the world just yet, and they of­ten as­sume any­thing. Chil­dren are try­ing to make sense of what’s go­ing on by us­ing pat­tern recog­ni­tion. We learn to recog­nise words, colours, fa­cial ex­pres­sions and shapes. And we be­gin to build as­so­ci­a­tions, such as ‘green means na­ture.’ Then, more and more pat­terns are de­vel­oped that block our un­bi­ased child­ish cu­rios­ity.

You’re think­ing ‘out of the box’ when you’re not fa­mil­iar with the box. In that si­t­u­a­tion, you don’t have to try – you’re do­ing this ef­fort­lessly. Once you know too much, you have to con­stantly re­mind your­self to break your pat­terns.

The best ad­vice that I can give to help you learn to think out­side the box now, is to con­sider as many vari­a­tions as pos­si­ble. Don’t make an opin­ion, don’t ar­gue on what’s wrong or right. Sim­ply con­sider ev­ery­thing. Re­mind your­self to be un­bi­ased and keep your mind open.

On the whole, all cre­ative ideas are either blind guesses, dis­cov­ery, or your own syn­the­sised knowl­edge that’s pro­cessed and out­put in an orig­i­nal way. But how can we de­fine which idea is truly cre­ative? Did you no­tice that not ev­ery­thing you find ex­cit­ing seems so to other peo­ple? The prob­lem is that we in­ter­pret any cre­ative idea through a prism of our past ex­pe­ri­ences. Un­der this idea, the ma­jor­ity likely wouldn’t un­der­stand a truly orig­i­nal idea. Even if you take a prod­uct that’s con­sid­ered to be cre­ative for most of us, some peo­ple would still find it bor­ing.

It’s im­por­tant to be sur­rounded by peo­ple who share the same val­ues as you. Your men­tal de­vel­op­ment will be in­flu­enced by peo­ple and the sur­round­ings around you. Cre­ative ideas would likely be ap­pre­ci­ated more in a com­pany that’s driven by cre­ative peo­ple where orig­i­nal ideas are cher­ished and shared.

To con­clude, cre­ativ­ity is an ab­stract and longterm process. It needs time, love and pas­sion to be de­vel­oped and pushed to new lev­els. Some­times, you might feel help­less by not know­ing how to be­come some­one you want to be. The path ahead is al­ways hazy, but you have to take a step into the un­known. Just re­mem­ber one thing: when one door opens, an­other one opens, too.

“All cre­ative ideas are either blind guesses, dis­cov­ery, or your own syn­the­sised knowl­edge that’s pro­cessed and out­put in an orig­i­nal way. But how can we de­fine which idea is truly cre­ative?”

What ap­proaches do you take to hone your cre­ativ­ity? Tweet your in­sights to @Com­put­erArts us­ing #De­signMat­ters

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