Don’t Be Precious (with your ideas)

in Creative Thinking

Three magic words for people who create things are: don’t be precious. Being precious means you’re behaving as if the draft, the sketch, the idea you’re working on is the most important thing in the history of the universe. It means you’ve lost perspective and can’t see the work objectively anymore. When you treat a […]

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Saving Your Creative Soul

in Creative Thinking

I spoke at TEDXDepaul last month, on the invitation of Daniel Gurevich. He gave me free reign to decide what to talk about, a liberty I enjoy, so if you like this talk you can thank him too. At the event I met Alexis Finch, who was sketchnoting the event at the same time I liveblogged […]

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What I learned from Improv Class

in Creative Thinking

A decade ago I took a class in improvisation on a dare with some friends. I was surprised how much the class helped me experience daily life. It made me a better speaker and teacher too. Recently I decided to take improv class again, and again I was surprised. I’d forgotten how much forgotten. My […]

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The amazing invention of Braille

in Creative Thinking, Innovation

While studying to write the Myths of Innovation I read hundreds of accounts of how world changing inventions came to be. While many of those stories are in the book, there are hundreds more worthy of telling. Today is the birthday of Louis Braile, one of the inventors for the amazingly clever system of writing […]

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Do you want a bar in your workplace?

in Creative Thinking

Taking the question of how much does your workplace affect creativity in a new direction, the folks at Janelia Farm, a biomedical research lab, have a pub in their office. Complete with ping pong, beer and coffee. You can watch a short interview about the pub and some of the employees opinions about it: The […]

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Idea beginnings and endings

in Creative Thinking

The beginning of a very bad idea often feels very good. And the beginning of a very good idea can feel very bad. Even the sharpest intuition is wrong much of the time about where an idea will lead. Sometimes what seems like a great idea at first falls apart as you develop it, but […]

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John Cleese on Creativity

in Creative Thinking

I recently re-watched this excellent talk by John Cleese (of Monty Python) on creativity. The best parts are after the 10 minute mark, and I suspect many people give up before then. His ideas reminded me of Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats, since they both emphasize modes and frames of mind. Here’s the video with […]

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The hypocrisy of bosses asking for ideas

in Creative Thinking, Management

I discovered the CBC Comedy The Newsroom a decade ago, while watching PBS late one night. I didn’t know what it was, but found the first season of this well written, darkly funny show thoroughly entertaining. One favorite scene captures the hypocrisy of claiming you want ideas. Acerbic self-obsessed news director Finkleman asks his staff for new ideas, but rejects everything anyway. […]

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How to find your voice

in Creative Thinking, Writing Well

You have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself – Miles Davis There is a paradox you must accept if you want to find your voice: it takes work. This is counterintuitive because all of the great voices we admire, whether we find them in reading John Updike or Ray Bradbury, or […]

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Bob Ross, Picasso and Creativity

in art, Creative Thinking

Growing up in NYC in the 1970s, with a mere 4 TV stations, any show in regular rotation on PBS was seen by millions. One show on PBS was called The Joy of Painting, staring Bob Ross, who was born 70 years ago today (and died in 1995 at 53). I had no interest in […]

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Does your workplace affect creativity? Mostly no

in Creative Thinking

There’s a misguided trend in looking to architecture to explain why some groups of people are creative and others are not. There are flawed assumptions at work and I’ll explain why. Articles in the New Yorker, New York Times and Fast Company point to office design, suggesting the environment has primacy over determining which groups of people […]

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Fermat and ideas are made of other ideas

in Creative Thinking, mailbag

A nice email from Ro about how the proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem is an example of ‘ideas are made of other ideas‘: Hi Scott, My name is Ro, I’m from Italy and currently a graduate student in computer science from the University of California Irvine. On a monthly base I catch up with your essays, […]

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How to be creative – the short honest truth

in Creative Thinking

I’ve spent a decade studying how creatives do what they do and its simple: they work. Creativity is best thought of as a kind of effort, not an abstract thing – it’s what goes on when you are trying to solve a problem. The problem could be writing a poem, making a song, designing a […]

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Triple inspired by a film: Girl Walk All Day

in Creative Thinking, movies

I’ve said before we live in the best age in history to be a creative. It has never been easier to manifest ideas in the world. The tools, the sources of funding and the means to promote work are easier to access than ever. I recently watched a film called Girl Walk All Day. It’s […]

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Ideas vs. Time: how long does an idea take to develop?

in Creative Thinking

People often ask writers and filmmakers how long they worked on their most recent project. The mistake made is people think in terms of calendar time, instead of time spent actually working on the project. A month can go by where zero hours of work on the project happen. But on the other end of […]

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Syallabus for my Creative Thinking Course

in Creative Thinking

I used to teach a class at the University of Washington on Creative Thinking. I’d love to teach it again, but these days I travel too much. Now and then I get asked for the syllabus. Here it is: Syllabus for COM 597 – How to Create and Manage Ideas (PDF)  

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Creative Thinking Hacks: Video

in Creative Thinking

Here’s my fast track course on creative thinking. Everything you need to know in about 20 minutes, with some excellent Q&A that follows. Thanks to Creative Mornings and David Conrad of Seattle Creative Mornings. If you don’t like videos, here’s Creative Thinking Hacks – the essay.

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Glass & Glass on creativity

in art, Creative Thinking

Ira Glass, of This American Life, interviewed his cousin, the famous composer Phillip Glass. Here are some excerpts on creativity and process (full interview): Ira: In 1964 you moved to Paris and studied with Nadia Boulanger. Could I ask you to talk about what she was like? Phillip: I always get into trouble when I talk about […]

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In defense of Brainstorming

in Creative Thinking

Periodically popular articles arise decrying how flawed brainstorming is. Jonah Lehrer wrote a popular article in the New Yorker, Groupthink: the brainstorming myth, but there have been, and will be, many others. Most of these articles have poor frameworks, miscasting what brainstorming was designed to do, and how ideas in workplaces are actually developed. I have […]

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