A little over three years ago, I’d come to the refreshing conclusion that I was going to start a new career. I’d work for myself and build a business that would inspired me – something I could pour my heart into. But doing what exactly?!
You’re led to believe that divine inspiration will fall into your lap – that light bulb ‘Eureka!’ moment. But when you’re up to your eyeballs with the pressures of work and a bulging inbox of to-dos, when do you have the head space to explore ideas and inspiration? You don’t.
You need to dedicate the time to think beyond your day-to-day and re-teach yourself how to be creative and innovative. But those skills may be more buried than you think…
The common theme running through the world’s most successful people and companies is their unrelenting creativity: their ability to unearth an idea that has value and bring it to reality. These companies look at problems from a new perspective. They innovate, evolve and create opportunities that allow them to take advantage and stay ahead of the competition. I wanted to know exactly how they did it!
I started out by reading books written by successful entrepreneurs. I drowned myself in TED talks on any subject that sparked intrigue. I read about creativity and innovation and how to discover that bright idea. Everywhere I looked, I found two essential ingredients for effective creativity:
One: Embracing failure is part of the course of creativity and innovation
Two: You’re most creative when pursuing the things that excite and inspire you
The problem is, we’re not necessarily brought up to embrace and pursue either of these essential concepts.
When we’re children, the idea of failure is completely alien. It doesn’t exist. If we had a sudden urge to draw a tiger, we sprawled an orange crayon across the page and paraded it across the room, head held high to the praise and applaud of all surrounding adults. The potential for criticism and judgement is completely removed – who’s going interrupt that victory lap?!
When we’re little, whether we’re any good at something bares no influence on whether or not we give it a bloody good go (and have a load of fun in the process!)
Parent: ‘What are you up to?’
Child: ‘I’m drawing a picture of God’
Parent: ‘But no-one knows what God looks like’
Child: ‘Well they will in a minute’
-Sir Ken Robinson
Kids will take a chance, and if they don’t know how to do something, they’ll have a go. They’re not frightened of getting it wrong. This is the ultimate creative freedom; the ideas pour in and there are no obstacles to making them a reality.
When that same kid goes through school, that tiger is assessed for likeness, judged for the use of colour and tone and suddenly that voice in their head appears: ‘maybe I can’t draw tigers?’ We start to doubt our own abilities, we fear other people’s judgment and we adjust our behaviour accordingly. In short, creativity is quashed.
Not only does the school system and the pressure from our peers install a fear of failure and therefore curb creativity, we’re also too often dissuaded away from the very things we enjoy and inspire us the most. We can all recall the words, ‘well you won’t get a decent job doing that’. And all because it doesn’t fit within the subject areas valued as important within a curriculum, or indeed a parent’s idea of a ‘good, solid job’.
With curriculums focussed on academic achievement and schools held to ransom over exam results, teachers are not given the rope to indulge in a child’s creativity. Instead, talents are long buried and at best left only to be indulged in as a hobby.
The case for a more rounded creativity and innovation-led approach to our upbringing is even stronger when you think that the kids sitting in school today will have careers that will come to retirement in 2065. This world, 50 odd years from now, is impossible for anyone to comprehend. The same way it was impossible for my careers advisor to have foreseen my ability to run a small business from my smartphone, reaching thousands of people around the world at the touch of a button.
The reality is that with the technology available to us today, the concept of a career has completely changed way beyond our parents’ nine to five career we all grew up preparing ourselves for.
There’s never been an easier time to run your own business, or to simply make money doing something you enjoy. And it will be your ability to think creatively, adapt and innovate within a field you love that will bring you the most success and, most importantly, the greatest happiness.
That’s the Spirit ®