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What separates you from the flock? Ask your Creative Genius ;-)
When speaking to groups, I often greet my audience with, “Hello, Creative Geniuses!” After a few seconds they grasp the fact that, yes, I am talking to them. Then I ask “How many of you think of yourself as a Creative Genius?” Typically only a few people raise their hands, looking sheepish.
Because we all believe “Creative Genius” is a term reserved for someone who is artistically creative, or an innovative business wizard. They are the exceptional people who fill the world with color and beauty, or come up with brilliant, life changing ideas. In contrast we regard what we do every day as maybe a little bit creative, and certainly not genius.
When I am facilitating a workshop as a performance illustrator, someone inevitably approaches me and says,
“I don’t know how you do that! I don’t have a creative bone in my body.”
Tempting as it is to bask in the implied compliment, I prefer to point out to them that just getting dressed and navigating our way through our day involves some level of creativity. In fact every simple choice we make involves tapping into our creativity.
Any time you attempt to solve a problem, big or small, you are utilizing your creativity as you mentally envision all of the options. Working at lightning speed, you draw on your innate creativity to explore how each possibility might play out, and ranking your options in order to select one that best solves your problem. Creativity in this way is actually a skill that is automatic.
By rethinking what we label as creative, we embrace a wider definition of the word. Wikipedia defines creativity as the process used to come up with something useful or of value. I prefer instead Dr. E. Paul Torrance’s definition. He calls creativity …
"... a process of becoming sensitive to problems, deficiencies, gaps in knowledge, missing elements, disharmonies, and so on; identifying the difficulty; searching for solutions, making guesses, or formulating hypotheses about the deficiencies: testing and retesting these hypotheses and possibly modifying and retesting them; and finally communicating the results.”
Wordy, I know, but I think it covers what I am suggesting.
When you and I creatively consider our options while making any decision, we activate our imagination network¹. That is the part of our brain that allows us to daydream in order to imagine possible outcomes. In fact you’re doing it right now as you read this page by transforming the words I have written into a kind of daydream that allows you to imagine in pictures each of the concepts I’m describing.
But because imagination isn’t tactile or tangible, you can’t hold it in your hands, and most people don’t value this simple act of imagination as creative.
Consider this: creativity is inherent in every person, it’s not something that you either have or don’t have. It’s hardwired into your brain. Creativity is a natural ability. How and when you consciously access your creativity, and choose to apply it, is what makes all the difference.
Well what about the genius part?
If most of us struggle to accept the fact that we might actually be creative, consider the issues that arise when we encounter the label ‘genius’!
Where did we get the idea that genius is only for a select few?
In ancient Rome, a genius was thought of as a sort of genie that followed you around and whispered insights into your ear. The word itself comes from the Latin ingenium meaning ‘of your innate talents and capabilities.’ I think the latin is more in line with what I am proposing than the Roman definition.
We all have a genius for one thing or another and sometimes for many things. Our Genius is something we do well, without a lot of effort. It doesn’t necessarily mean something that results in an Oscar nomination, but rather springs from an authentic expression of who we are and what we care about. Very few of us are comfortable claiming our inherent genius, because we only equate genius with people who have a high IQ, but it’s actually much more than that.
Genius can be the simple act of figuring out how to fix the kitchen door, or it can be as big as finding a cure for malaria. We are swimming in a sea of genius potential all day, every day. This genius, combined with a spark of creativity, is responsible for even the smallest decisions you make every day.
In the time of St. Augustine (354 CE), people were aware of the mystical aspect of the genius within themselves that nudged them toward a new idea or a new direction. Genius in that era was described as a person whose soul was more expansive and struck with feelings than all others. The title of genius in today’s world tends to be exclusive and it immediately separates you and I from our ability to utilize our intuitive “genius” process.
In my work with organizations, teams and others, I make drawings to create a picture that depicts their shared visions and goals. These drawings form a map that is then used as a tool to guide their ability to achieve those goals. Over the years that I have done this work, it has become abundantly clear to me that Creative Genius is everywhere.
With a blank piece of paper in front of us, and permission to draw what we imagine could be, the flow of creativity and genius can be amazing. When given the freedom to take a concept and expand it, we can tap into this essential portal of new ideas.
“My goal in hosting this series is to provide your inner Creative Genius with a simple tool to help you listen and trust that powerful faculty hardwired inside of you! “
The quest for bigger, more profitable solutions and emphasis on the bottom-line rules the day to day work in most office environments. As a result, internal and external competition set the tone. Yet research shows that to truly win in a business market, a team needs to align themselves with their talents and strengths. One of the best ways to do this is to actively cultivate a relationship with the Creative Genius inside. Making this connection opens the floodgates and allows new ideas to flow. And more importantly, it gives everyone a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that leads to even more creative genius.
I invite you to consider this series a challenge to those of you who would never in a million years call yourself creative or a genius. As the CEO of your own life, give yourself permission to start experimenting more deeply with listening, and acting on insights that seem to come from out of the blue.
Whether your motivation is a desire to bring more creativity into your personal life or your career, the Creative Genius Equation can activate that process to enrich every aspect of your life. With practice, it will help you integrate your natural strengths and talents to produce new solutions and ideas.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to open and heighten that dialogue with your Creative Genius. Here’s a simple task that you can use to get started.
Open one of those notebooks you bought in the past when you decided to “start journaling”. ;-) At the top, write something like…
“Dear Creative Genius, let’s chat. From this moment on, I would love it if you could make it very obvious when you are giving me insight, hints and realizations. I promise to write down everything I notice. With love, ____________ (your name here).”
Now, the tricky part is to pay attention. But hey, you’re still a little stuck inside due to the Pandemic, so start to turn up the volume on your Creative Genius and notice in the next week every time you get an inner nudge, insight or aha. Note the time of day and what you were thinking about then track this week to see what you are learning.
There is no better time than now to Up Your Creative Genius. I love you and I’ll see you next week!
1. Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind