A few years ago, I watched TED Talk Tales of creativity and play by Tim Brown. Brown did an exercise with his audience where he gave them 30 seconds to draw the person next to them. After the exercise was done, you could hear a lot of laughter and some people apologizing to their neighbors.
Brown pointed out that when this exercise was done with kids, they usually held up their drawings, proud of what they had done.
He concluded that as we grow older, we become more sensitive to the judgment of others and we start to adopt a conservative way of thinking, thus we become less and less creative over time as we conform to educational and societal standards
So, why do kids seem more creative than adults? Brown points out that not only are kids less affected by society’s constructs but they are also more curious and engage in exploratory play.
There are two things kids can teach us about creativity:
In her Ted Talk Doodlers, unite!, Sunni Brown defines doodling as making spontaneous marks to help yourself think.
Unfortunately, doodling has been associated with boredom and idleness, and it’s a behavior that is stopped usually during our time in the education system because culturally is seen as unproductive.
However, we got it all wrong.
There are 4 ways we process information:
In order for us to retain information, we have to engage 2 of those or engage one of those plus an emotional experience.
When we doodle we are actually engaging all four while still having the possibility of the emotional experience.
So while doodling helps us improve comprehension and creative thinking, it is also very accessible and a less intimidating art form. If we could change the perception we have about doodling into a positive one, then we could use it to enhance our learning process and develop more creative ideas.
Think about this in your next Monday meeting.
Tim Brown talks about how kids engage in exploratory play when they encounter something new. They ask themselves what is this? What can I do with it? And they open themselves up to endless possibilities.
He uses the example of how on Christmas morning kids end up playing more with the boxes rather than what’s inside and explains that “from an exploration perspective, this behavior makes complete sense. Because you can do a lot more with boxes than you can do with a toy.”
Mexican-American artist Ana Serrano made vibrant architectural sculptures out of cardboard inspired on Mexican culture and landscapes. Her installation is named Cartonlandia and makes commentary on Latino pop culture.
Photo by Farah Sosa of Ana Serrano’s Cartonlandia www.artcenter.edu
Google made a virtual reality viewer out of cardboard (named Google Cardboard). It looks like goggles and you put your iPhone inside to have a virtual reality experience.
All with just pieces of cardboard.
How do they do it? How do they come up with these ideas?
Creators make amazing things with simple materials like cardboard because they open themselves to possibilities and explore the world around them. They stay curious. Looking at everyday objects in a different light and challenging what they already know they can do with them.
We already know that innovation and creativity are important in the workplace, and especially important traits to develop as entrepreneurs. But, how can we start becoming more creative individuals?
Let’s rewind to our earlier years and relearn exploratory play. Let go of limiting social constructs that make us self-conscious about sharing our ideas. Kids can teach us that there is a time and place to play (they certainly don’t play all the time) and there are also rules when it comes to play. If we could learn to do this as adults and apply it to our workplace, maybe we would not be afraid to try out new ideas and share them with our peers and create a workplace that nurtures creativity and innovation.