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A clear head, a deep heart and thick skin will help raise your creativity

A genuine sense of creativity requires you to put yourself in another person’s shoes, and look for solutions

Steve Jobs often insisted innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.
Steve Jobs often insisted innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.

Creativity is a highly desirable and yet widely elusive attribute in both personal and professional spheres. A generally accepted definition of creativity is to come up with ideas that are both useful and novel. If an idea lacks utility, it’s nothing more than a daydream, whereas if it’s not novel it is all but common sense. Balancing, or rather striving for, the dual requirements of novelty and utility calls for specific thinking paradigms and temperaments, and even some physiological traits.

Here are the three quintessential characteristics that can possibly raise your creative yield and, hopefully, have a rub-off effect on those around you. The attributes are having a clear head, a deep heart and honing a thick skin.

Staying original

First up, the imperative of thinking clearly. We are surrounded by more noise than probably at any time in history, and yet we manage to distil the signal from the noise. The creative types are far more adept at it. Research suggests that clear decision-making stems from a well laid-out set of rules, or rules of thumb. Such heuristics help think through complex contexts with ease.

The ensuing clarity of thoughts helps you focus on the precious few and keep distractions and temptations at bay, much needed for producing anything remarkable. That’s what Steve Jobs referred to when he observed that innovation is saying “no" to 1,000 things. A clear head help both conserve and converge energies, and hence, help thing through problems for longer periods of time, which is essential for complex problem-solving.

Creativity is not just about thinking though. A genuine sense of creativity calls for empathy, and your ability to put yourself in other person’s shoes and look for solutions. Studies on emotional intelligence, mindfulness, meditation, empathy and social intelligence show emotions play an important role in problem-solving, for you must feel about the problem and not just think about it.

In fact, leaders such as Satya Nadella and Anand Mahindra, are very vocal about the importance of cultivating workplace empathy and its impact on creativity and employee well-being.

While you need to have a clear mind and empathy for the cause and the potential users, you must also demonstrate high levels of conviction and drive, which means being thick-skinned. In the words of George Bernard Shaw,“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man." Being unreasonable necessitates you not getting too much perturbed by what people say about you, for any original idea would disturb the status quo. The key is to persist against the odds because every new idea looks ridiculous in the foresight, but obvious in the hindsight.

There is a sufficient research to indicate that creativity has little correlation with intelligence, unless one has low latent inhibitions. Those with low latent inhibitions are not too much concerned about what other may think of them, as much as they can learn from a new situation. They are more adept at making newer connections across contexts and domains, and as a result, have a greater ability of associative thinking, a quintessential trait of creativity. You ought to be sensitive towards what other feel (read a deep heart), but not too sensitive about what other feel about you (read a thick skin). Amazon’s Jeff Bezos once famously said, “If you can’t tolerate critics, don’t do anything new or interesting."

Pavan Soni is the founder of Inflexion Point, an innovation and strategy consultancy.

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