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