Thursday, 10 March 2016

Don't give up too soon

I read with interest this morning an article from the Kellog school of management at Northwestern University entitled "Think you're out of creative ideas? Think again". (The site is a great source of interesting ideas.)

The post reminded me of my aurora hunt over recent weeks. That is creativity, just like the aurora, requires the right conditions be in place - but you can't plan the precise timing of its appearance.

I wrote about my hunt for the aurora in Iceland upon my return, and that was entitled "being in the right place at the right time", and reminded us to keep putting ourselves into the environment that increases the chances of us getting what we want. That is, I wouldn't have seen the aurora if I'd stayed in my hotel room as my friend had.

This week's hunt was a little closer to home. Unfortunately, despite there having been a much stronger electromagnetic storm earlier in the evening, I started my hunt too late, and only managed to see the above after 2 hours of driving around until the early hours of the morning.

The next night, full of inspiration from what others had seen the night before, many made the trip out into the darkness to see the aurora. One tweeter found 50 other intrepid aurora explorers on what they expected to be a very peaceful and quiet hill! Many returned home very disappointed.

There's a number of reasons for the disappointment that tie in with our disappointment when we can't think of that great new idea that would revolutionise our project, team, relationship, life or the world! These reasons include:

  • Our expectations are unclear - the aurora is not something you can diarise. You certainly can't expect to walk out and see it - immediately. In Iceland the trips to hunt the aurora are 3-5 hours for a reason. As the Kellog's post suggests its the same for creativity.
  • Not fully understanding the conditions needed to produce the outcome we want - the conditions for the second night this week were nowhere near as good as the first night. I wrote this blog about not being able to force creativity, and needing to understand what conditions are conducive to inspiring awe and an abundance of ideas.
  • Not having done much planning before hand - many were tweeting to say they had now found the perfect spot for future aurora hunting (north facing, open ground before them, away from any light (including any orange glow from a local city on the horizon)) - me included. As above.
  • Not being prepared - on both occasions it was very cold outside - which meant wrapping up warm and having hot drinks to hand. 3-5 hours in the cold is certainly not going to be fun without these. I wrote a blog Are they sluggish and distracted in you meetings? It asks what environment is needed for people to be in the right state for a meeting - creative or otherwise.
  • Not tracking the conditions and having an effective warning system in place - if this had been in place I'd have been out earlier in the evening. As it was I only realised I was missing something at 2230 after the best had been and gone. Knowing what a creative mindset feels like would help allow you to utilise it when it appears rather than miss it.
  • Not realising that many of the Aurora pictures and videos seen are only possible due to long exposure. That is what can often be seen by the camera can't be seen by the eye. Many great ideas start small and get bigger as they're developed - don't think every idea started as a big eureka moment!
  • Not being satisfied with what we did see - it's why I went out a second night just in case I could see something even better. This disappointment is also linked to expectations as generated by the above point. There's certainly something important about knowing when you've obtained the 20% of great ideas that will deliver the 80% of value improvement.
Next time you're in need of inspiration what do you need to do differently to increase the flow of ideas?

Alison Smith
Landscaping your Life, and Purchasing Coach too

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