Thinking and Creativity Time

I was at a team meetup in Phoenix in January when we learned about the different types of communicators. I’m a thinker. I like to think. I don’t like to respond to a question right away if I can avoid it.

But there’s really a lot more nuance about it all. I like systems, and systems thinking. Things should have their place and a process for dealing with them. Yet there’s also creativity. Creative thinking doesn’t appear to fit in a box.

Seth Godin did a great podcast with Tim Ferriss that you should listen to. In it, he talks about the difference between Taylorism – making things more efficient for the sake of efficiency – and the creative process – a process aligned with effectiveness, not efficiency.

After I listed to the podcast for the third or fourth time, I began to question Seth’s comment about this – why can’t we use systems thinking and Taylorism to create the space for creativity and intuitive leaps?

Today, I ran into a TED talk about a related topic. Grant talks about ‘originals’ – nonconformists who can champion a new idea. He suggests that these ‘originals’ will introduce an idea or problem into their head, and then leave it alone for a time and let it process subconsciously.

This isn’t a new idea – Hemingway did it, it’s a fairly common process for writers or other creative types. But yet I had never been aware that I was doing it for a reason. I tend to start thinking about 5+ new projects and then seemly do nothing about them for a while. And then a good solution for 2 of the projects will appear and then I do those projects.

I love this idea. A tough problem requires an introduction, and then lots of time to think.

We see this idea promoted for startup founders (PG’s Manager’s schedule, Maker’s schedule), PhD students, and all kinds of knowledge workers. And yet the workforce increasingly is built on being interrupted all day. It’s basically impossible to be a thinker and have space for creativity if you’re interrupted all day without the space to think.

Yet we also need some constraints. No constraints leads to never feeling the pressure to do something. It leads to not shipping your work.

I guess this comes down to ‘moderation in all things’. Too much empty space is a problem, but too many constraints are also a problem. Both prevent results, for opposite reasons.