In an economy based on idea generation, it is up to you to keep your greatest assets—your awareness and creativity—nourished, fine-tuned, and ready at hand. The problems of a complex, dynamic, and rapidly shifting world are rarely resolved with analysis alone. Instead, leaders need fresh ideas.
To supply them, you must invest in your personal creativity.
How, you might ask, does a person do that? Let’s draw an analogy from how corporations create new products. Just as they budget for the systematic, in-house pursuit of knowledge found via Research and Development, individuals need a similar strategy. I call it "Creative R&D."
To stay "fit" for creativity, you need time for reflection and renewal. Dancers and athletes stretch. Singers perform their scales. Musicians practice their instrument. Today, we’re all creators—and creativity requires regular practice.
Whether you’re a marketing diva, software engineer, real estate broker, entrepreneur, or team leader, the personal practice of Creative R&D will help your discover practical, fresh solutions, in the phases of mindful reflection, quiet transition time, and a way to harvest your insights.
Some scientists grumble that in an overly commercial world, there’s too much emphasis on applied science and not enough on pure science. But even when there’s a lot of pressure for results, it may be impossible to generate them without the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake.
Similarly, creativity requires the "pure science" of being present to yourself, through contemplative practices like meditation, yoga, or t’ai chi. Alternatively, you could take ten or fifteen minutes each day to sit quietly with your morning coffee, walk in nature, or let yourself breathe. It might be tempting to zero in on a specific business issue now, but try to resist the urge and stay in the moment. Trust that you will reap the reward of fresh insight very soon.
As we apply ourselves to this discipline, we gradually develop the capacity "be in the present moment." Living in the present renews your spirit, lifts your heart, and nurtures creativity. Your time given to the now, whether spent walking in nature or sitting in silence, is its own self-validating reward—pure science for the soul.
You can also extend the afterglow of your now time by gently emerging from this deeper state into a quiet zone that is not yet flush with day-to-day tasks. This is a rich and fertile space in which you can capture the insights you gained in silence or to clearly articulate your desires. You might also simply take some extra time to appreciate the joy or peace you have just experienced. In this quiet zone, you may find yourself breathing more easily and feeling relaxed. And be careful to notice any key words or images that come to you at this point.
You might discover, as I have, that this transition zone is essential to your creative practice, because it strengthens the link between your creative source and your everyday thoughts. Now's the time to recall any creative issues that require new insights. But do so gently. Encourage them to emerge and flow. Soon you'll collect them all.
Meditation offers a long list of wonderful benefits, but it poses one curious problem, at least for me: practitioners are not encouraged to take notes.
When I’m in a meditative state, I find myself experiencing creative breakthroughs and fantastic ideas, but recalling those gems afterwards is difficult at best. One thing I’ve learned over decades is that the ideas that appear during contemplation can vanish in an instant. So I bridge this gap by pausing to carefully collect and appreciate those precious insights.
I usually journal after meditating. Pen in hand, I sit in silence, reflect, look out the window, brainstorm—and write. Journaling enhances your creative practice by supporting you to gather and apply your reflections. From the notes in your journal, you might draft your first book, compile a brilliant marketing plan, or sketch a technological breakthrough.
A journaling practice nurtures your unique inner voice. One of the best ways to enhance your journaling experience is by designing questions in advance to ask yourself in order to stimulate your creative flow. They can be general, like "How are things going for me at work right now?" or more specific like, "How can I get my colleagues to share information on the new project?" Asking yourself questions deftly addresses the most common fear people tend to have about journaling: what if I have nothing to say?
When journaling you’re following in the footsteps of humanity’s most creative geniuses— both Leonardo da Vinci and Thomas Edison were aficionados of the craft. Leonardo filled seven thousand pages with jokes, reflections, sketches, inventions, and financial records, while Edison jotted down words, pictures, and diagrams, filling 2,500 notebooks, according to Michael Gelb, author of How To Think Like Leonardo da Vinci and Innovate Like Edison.
Creative R&D lifts you above day-to-day responsibilities, restores your energy, and sharpens your creative skills so that you’re poised to engage challenging problems. A creativity practice helps to unravel complexity, provides a platform to experience inspiration in your profession, and allows to complete difficult tasks with grace.
The world yearns for fresh approaches. Those can only come from inventive individuals accessing—and nurturing—their creative power.
Patricia Aburdene is a leading social forecaster and co-author of the number one best-seller Megatrends 2000. She serves as an ambassador for the Conscious Capitalism Institute and is on the advisory board of Satori Capital, a social equity firm. This piece is based on "The Wealth of Creativity," a chapter from her most recent book, Conscious Money.
[Image: Flickr user Puntxote]