Graham King

Solvitas perambulum

John Cleese – Take micro creativity retreats

John Cleese gives a great talk on creativity (embedded below). Here’s the summary:

Creativity is a practice, not an ability. It is not correlated to IQ, but is strongly correlated to playfulness.

We have two modes of operation:

  • Closed mode: “get stuff done”.
  • Open mode: curious, exploratory, playful, open-ended.

We switch between the two modes during the day, both are essential. Creativity however only happens in open mode.

To be creative you need to make an oasis of space and time. Close your door, or go somewhere where no-one else is. Spend time in that oasis, 1h30 is about right.

Initially you will remember everything else you should be doing. Either write it down, or just let it wash over you.

Wait. Ignore the anxiety.

Laugh. Humor is great at switching you from closed to open mode. It is a central part of creativity. Giggle all you want.

Then you’ll get into open mode, and creativity will start happening to you.

Don’t take the first answer, keep playing with the problem. Tolerate the discomfort of not having solved the problem yet. Put in more pondering time.

Keep your mind gently on the subject you’re interested in, because it will try to wander. This is a bit like meditation.

Have confidence in the ideas that come. There’s no failure, no wrong. It’s experiment, you’re free to play. What if …?

Ideas often come from connecting two separate frames of reference to make new meaning. When stuck, try generating random connections between ideas to see if one would lead somewhere interesting.

It’s easier to be creative when you have other people to play with. But they need to be likable, trusted, friends. Always be positive about other people’s ideas.

In general, don’t attempt to portray yourself as decisive. That kills creativity. Decide as late as possible. You can’t be spontaneous, within reason.

Thanks Amir – for blogging about that video.