Managing yourself creatively

The Creative Climate

Basically, three essential ingredients comprise the ideal climate for idea creation: the incentive to produce ideas, the pressure to produce ideas and the willingness to accept ideas.

First and foremost, therefore, see to it that you provide yourself with a compelling reason for creating ideas. Approach your task with a selfish. “What’s-in-it-for-me?” attitude. Actually enumerate the rewards you will reap from the idea you are seeking. If necessary, write them out so that you can see them, black on white. Will you make more money? Get promoted? Beat the competition? Earn the praise of your superiors, colleagues? In short, make yourself thirsty for success. Human nature will do the rest.

As important as incentive in producing ideas is pressure, a sense of urgency about getting the job done. Within reason, the pressure of deadlines, the demand upon yourselves for ideas within a certain time limit, helps to produce ideas and brings out our highest creative abilities.

Unless this sense of urgency is present, ideas will not develop in worthwhile quantity. We all tend to procrastinate and the development of ideas being the tough work it is, the tendency to dawdle here is a particularly strong temptation. The odds are that if you need one idea and have a week to produce it, you will produce it within the week. But if you need two ideas, and have only one hour to produce them, your chances of getting the two ideas may be even better than getting the one. So give yourself a deadline and stick to it.

But providing yourself with the incentive to create ideas and bolstering your resolve by setting a deadline are still not enough. Strange as it may sound, you must also be willing to accept your new ideas.

It is seldom difficult to find good reasons why something new can’t work. But almost every major innovation you can name came into existence because some determined ideas man stubbornly stuck to his guns. People who make their way with their minds almost always experience disappointments and go through times when it seems the better part of wisdom to give up. What separates the men from the boys is a bull-headed unwillingness to quit until they are proven conclusively wrong. They simply refuse to be discouraged by theoretical opinions against their ideas. This attitude is just another way of describing the third requisite of the creative climate- the willingness to accept new ideas by the idea man himself.

This may sound like an indictment of judgment, but it isn’t. Judgment evaluates ideas after we have them. But we cannot use judgment and imagination at the same time. To do so would be like applying the brakes to your car while hitting the accelerator. In both cases, the net result is that you go nowhere and waste energy in the bargain.

The secret is to operate these two parts of your mind independently. When you are after ideas, keep judgment out. Let your imagination run wild. Then-and only then-step in with judgment and decide on the value of the ideas your imagination has produced.