I recently attended the 2013 99U Conference put on by Behance. This was my first 99U Conference and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is serious about embracing creativity.
Sometimes reflection is even more important than new learning. Here are some key patterns that stood out to me:
Creativity is a discipline.
We are creative creatures but many of us are institutionalized (read as problems with our educational system) from a young age, which really puts a damper on that skill. If you aren't feeding your imagination and constantly being curious, like muscles those skills weaken or never develop.
Creativity can be taught.
I never really understood what went into creativity because I never stopped using my imagination. The Art of the Deal best selling author, Tony Schwartz, provided a jaw-dropping look into how he sees the creative process, which I will never look at the same way again.
Insight. First find and define the problem.
Saturation. This is the information gathering phase chock full of research. Most designers hate this phase because it isn't "creative" in their mind. From my perspective, the designers I respect most are all about saturating themselves in data and inspiration.
Incubation. This is where you walk away from ideas and thinking altogether, which Schwartz refers to as "thinking aside." He explains that when you shut your mind off, your brain is able to spark the best creativity, which is why ideas pop in your head during a shower, while walking in nature or when you are dreaming. This is often an area I totally ignored since I've never really had the luxury of time, but one I'll be looking to learn and apply in my ever-changing creative process.
Illumination. This is one step we are likely all familiar with. The infamous a-ha moment that stops you in your tracks.
Verification. This is the point where things start coming together; the part where you make it real. This part reminds me of the great scientists of history having an idea, testing it and learning from it.
Learn, modify and repeat. That being said, creativity isn't supposed to be easy, as Cal Newport points out, it takes a level of deep work and focused intent to develop skills and solve problems. Malcolm Gladwell talked about 10,000 hours being the time it takes to master a task. Nonetheless, we have scientific data to back how the brain learns things.
Ideas are nothing without execution.
I don't try to coin phrases, but I've been saying this one for much longer than Zuckerberg and others who take credit for it. I believed this so much that I built an entire company around it. I started my design career working for other agencies and turning "ideas" into reality. I would get handed what I call "pie in the sky ideas" with what felt like seconds left on the clock and had to figure it out. "Why" wasn't a question I got to ask. As a "vendor" it was all about making it happen, no matter how.
You will get your ass kicked.
Acknowledge the critic just don't give them an opinion.
Brene Brown reminds us that showing up will open us up for getting our asses kicked by critics in a visual analogy to the fights at the coliseum in Rome. Lowering your shield and being vulnerable is the only way you can truly create something amazing. Fail fast and don't get too attached to your work especially if you are in the design business. It's never about perfection, it's about solving a problem and iterating fast to improve.
Fail fast and iterate.
Agile thinking isn't a new concept. In fact, it's been being used by software developers for over a decade but its now making its way into companies on a much bigger scale. Embrace imperfection and testing to help you arrive at your product or project goals faster. For me, this means thinking in whiteboards, post it notes, rough prototypes and most importantly, involving customers and users.
I believe if one can embrace failure and constant iteration it will make for better creatives and more effective leaders and collaborators. Hope you enjoyed this post. You should follow me on twitter I post cool stuff sometimes. Now go make something you love.