Thursday, January 05, 2006

Causing Creativity

Is is possible to take actions which make you more creative? I think so, and I am not alone.

I started my professional career in a process-oriented job. I drove ships for the Navy. It took me about two years to qualify to do that, after my initial training schools. Although there was a lot to learn, it was not a creative role. Judgement was considered key, not creativity. I became good at absorbing information, synthesizing it and judging effects. I certainly did not think of myself as creative. I did not create professionally or as a hobby during those years.

However, graduate school in engineering often did require creativity. Theses, design contests, even class projects occasionally required invention. I found it hard, very hard, to return to a process-oriented job after that experience. When I left the Navy, I suddenly had to be creative again. I needed to find work, create a new career for myself. Eventually, I co-founded a series of companies, wrote patents, invented new technologies. In short, the act of changing environments lead me to become creative in a way I didn't anticipate.

There is some reason to think that one's activities can influence behavior, including creativity. The Smithsonian has a nice site on this very topic. They note the similarities between creative action in adults and play in children.

Child development experts generally recognize four types of play: (a) exploration/tinkering, (b) make believe/visual thinking, (c) social play/collaboration and (d) puzzle play/problem solving. Perhaps one needs to explore all four types in order to foster creativity.

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