While writing my next creative ebook I’ve begun to explore the question of what influences creativity?
Today, there’s still a large gap in what we know about creative thinking and how it works. We know that creativity is the creation of new ideas in the brain, and that creativity is heavily influenced by everything around us (even the most minute, subtle things).
But there’s more to the picture behind creativity than you might be aware of.
Three key elements make up creativity: a problem, environment, and willingness to explore.
If you look at any creative solution or invention in the past dozen decades alone, you’ll undoubtedly notice that each of these aspects are evident. A problem is initially what spurs creative thinking, the pursuit of a solution is undoubtedly the single most powerful cause of idea exploration. You’re less likely to explore new ideas for the world around you if everything is working perfectly (which, of course, it isn’t). Creativity is therefore influenced by the problems and issues in your life.
Environment, in this case, is broken down into three subsections: first, your historical environment influences your creativity by giving you access to technology and pre-existing ideas that can help guide your new ideas. To quote Steven Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come From: “If you look at history, innovation doesn’t come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect.”
The second breakdown of environmental influence on creativity is an environmental awareness which allows you to understand the ideas and technology that could pose solutions for your problem. This aspect is commonly referenced as “imagination,” where your understanding of the technology and ideas around you influences what you believe to be possible (or impossible).
Lastly, the third deconstruction of environment as an influencer of creativity is one in which failure is acceptable. A hospital is not an environment that exactly welcomes failure, while a classroom ‒ on the other hand ‒ is a prime environment for failures and the opportunity to learn from them in order to get things right.
This brings us to the last element of what influences creativity: a willingness to explore (and fail!). You can have a problem in your life, you can be a part of an environment that provides potential – albeit unseen – solutions to your problem and grants you the wisdom to implement those solutions or to learn from your failures while trying, but if you don’t have the willingness to explore those options, none of that matters.
Each of these three aspects are what heavily influences creativity in your life. If you’re not feeling creative today – or if you’re simply curious about how to be more creative – look around you and see if each of these are represented in your life. If one or more elements are missing, see what you can change right now to get them into your day.
Photo by Derrick Tyson.