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A Moment of Creativity

Written by Carmen Teodorescu - 11 June 2018

Carmen Teodorescu
Feeling sucked dry of all your fresh, new, innovative ideas? Get a creative boost from Carmen!

A few years ago, I was attending a public speaking training in a beautiful mountain area. Between the theoretical training modules there were practice sessions. The purpose being that every trainee would have time to practice for the public presentation they would have at the end of the course.

During the practice sessions, I was having problems finding the right theme for my presentation. I had chosen something and then I changed the theme and two days before the “big speech” I still didn’t have the right topic.

While struggling to find it, the trainer introduced a new concept: Active dreaming, an exercise which can help you find more clarity in something you want, find a solution to a problem you are stuck in, think of an idea about something that bothers you, or simply find an out-of-the-box answer. I was curious to see what it was all about, so I paid attention to the explanations and then I immersed myself in the journey.

What is Active Dreaming

Active dreaming has 4 rules:

  • First, you have to THINK of something you want to solve or achieve. I wanted to find a good topic for my presentation;

  • Second, you have to do the exercise while WALKING ALONE, preferably in a quiet and natural environment. When I did this the weather and location were perfect: a beautiful sunny day in a mountain area full of trees and close to a river;

  • Third, you have to have ZERO INTERNAL DIALOGUE. This means doing the exercise without thinking of anything (if you think that it’s easy, try it yourself…try to calm your mind and count how long you can last without thinking of anything);

  • Fourth, you have to keep your VIEW/SIGHT UNFOCUSED. This means that you should not focus your sight straight in front of you, but try to focus using your lateral/peripheral view.

While doing this, an object (a rock, a bird, a tree, the water, a cloud, a flower…etc) enters into your view and catches your attention. This is the moment when you should stop, take a picture of the object or note it on a post it and think of a possible connection between the problem you want to solve and the message that the object might be sending you.

My Experience with Active Dreaming

I walked for about 40 minutes. During this time, a couple of objects popped up and caught my attention. They helped me think of novel ways to talk about myself  - the presentation topic I kept coming back to at the time. After the exercise, I decided to talk about my career path. I participated in the “Professional Development” section and I named the presentation “Professional Search”. It went quite well considering it was my first real public presentation.

For me, active dreaming was a new way to relax, walk among the trees, listen to the birds and the running water and try to connect with the objects around me.

Later, I had other opportunities to repeat this exercise and every time I found novel ideas for what interested me at those moments.

Active Dreaming worked well for me, but it is not the only thing I do. It is is just one technique you can use to get a creativity boost. There are many other things that I do to help me think more creatively. 

Creativity Tips and Tricks

  • ONE I also do some other things to help me enter into a creative mood: I listen to music, drink a cup of tea, eat something sweet, sit somewhere comfortable, take a relaxing aromatherapy bath.

  • TWO Something else that helps me is to think about the topic I want to solve at many times during the day: while driving, while walking to the office, while taking a shower, while sitting in different chairs or locations than normal, etc. I then ask myself this question: how can I look at this topic in a different way? And I write down everything that pops into my head.
  • THREE Try to imagine yourself without limits or imagine yourself coming from a future where everything is possible (If the image of the eccentric poet below doesn’t click with you)

    I once read a research article about students who were asked to find as many possible alternative uses for a specific object (like a brick, a ping pong ball, a paperclip, a book or a fork) as they could in a limited amount of time. A third of the group was asked to imagine they were “an eccentric poet,” another third was told to imagine they were “a rigid librarian,” and the final third wasn’t told to imagine a specific stereotype. The study found that participants who imagined themselves as eccentric poets thought of the most uses, while those who took on the persona of rigid librarian thought of the least amount of uses (the ones not given a specific stereotype ended up somewhere in the middle). 
  • FOUR Depending of the subject, sometimes I involve other people. We brainstorm in small groups and again when I brainstorm I pay attention to my mood. I need to be relaxed and to enjoy the brainstorming process.

Making Creativity Happen

But what do you do next? You have just discovered that spark but some totally different skills are needed to make it happened.

A great idea won’t materialize by itself. It requires a lot of hard work, perseverance, endurance, discipline, stubbornness, responsibility, and  a good dose of reality. You need to keep your feet on the ground to overcome the obstacles, to cooperate and find the right support to make it a reality.

And then, equally as important as the creative person is the system, the people around who have to recognize and validate a creative idea and support the process of implementation.

So, not only must the individual be creative, but the leadership team, management, and the company have to be able to distinguish among all the ideas which ones are valuable and worth the effort and the investment.

And you can’t just have the skills to recognize it, you also have to nurture a creative environment that can generate novelty. This means implementing a mentoring program, an educational system that can quickly create a base for the new generation and then prepare them to be creative. It means allowing mistakes, actively soliciting ideas, rewarding creativity, and cultivating interaction, encouragement, openness, proactivity, diversity and playfulness.

The Big Deal with Big Ideas

So, to find that great idea, that original way to solve something, you have to use your knowledge, potential, imagination, curiosity, passion, and fantasy. You have to wonder, ask questions, and be flexible, open minded, rebellious, and wild. That way you can live in the clouds, have fun and enjoy the process. Creativity is more a state of mind than an ability we were born with.

So let’s encourage, cultivate, nurture and recognize creativity, who knows…someday we could all be saved by a creative idea.

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