💡 011 Creativity is not a talent
And one lightbulb joke
Creativity is not a talent.
Creativity according to John Cleese is "A way of operating." This 1991 YouTube talk address this and is full of jokes likes: how many socialists does it take to change a lightbulb?
The problem with creativity is that it seems difficult. It's like running a 5K for someone who doesn't run. Like, c'mon, I can't do that. Cleese nips this complaint right away and offers two helpful pieces of advice.
1️⃣ Be a designer. We are all designers. We are all designers because designs influence actions. Some designs tightly constrain actions and some designs loosely constrain.
At the well-designed-controlled-environment-level is something like this:
But we’re all designers of smaller things, like is your phone next to the bed or in the other room?
So if we’re all designers, how do we design for creativity? Space and time. Set the phone to DND. Sit at the desk. As Steven Pressfield notes, *put your ass where your heart wants to be.*
2️⃣ Think. Yep, that’s the advice.
Rather, Cleese says 'to play.’ That's the second step. To be creative is to let the subconscious bubble up but it doesn’t arrive with instructions on a yellow legal pad numbered 1-7. No. The subconscious has its own language. To be creative one must be open.
"As a general rule, when people become absolutely certain that they know what they’re doing, their creativity plummets." Jon Cleese
Without interruption, think widely.
This will be hard. Most people, says Cleese, don't like it. It's hard to just sit or walk or be. It's hard to just think.
Annie Duke faced this same problem. When she coached people who played poker they wanted to act, to do, to play the hand. But a lot of poker is not playing. Duke's challenge was to get players to feel like they were poker players while also making good decisions. So, she reframed the action.
Rather than playing hands, Duke coached her clients to make choices. Deciding, not playing, is what poker players do. Thinking through the hands, the outcomes, the pot odds, the base rates, and the game-theory-optimal case were what good players did. That was the secret to being a good poker player. This is the secret too, according to Cleese, for operating creatively.
Creative people understand that the doing is different. It’s not measurable in conventional (read: easy) terms. There aren't good metrics. There's no word count. There's no investment return. There are no miles or dollars or calls made. There's nothing to count which means no numbers which means no comparison which implies no value.
Do not fall into this trip says Cleese. Trust that the moments of wide-open thought matter.
After the play, it's time for work.
How many socialists does it take to change a lightbulb? Five, but they don't change it and insist that it works despite the evidence.