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Articles tagged “creativity”

Why good ideas sometimes fail

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Poor ideas are often poor because the circumstances around them haven’t been fully explored.

As a result: we believe the idea itself is bad despite the fact the surrounding circumstances or environment are the factors that are actually bad.

We see examples of this often in history: the invention of Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone only came to fruition after many other inventors tried doing something similar. One of the crucial elements their telephone systems lacked which Bell did not was the state of electromagnetic transmitters and receivers.

For example, 42 years before Bell was able to create an electronic, working telephone, Antonio Meucci had already created a working system of communicating between a stage and control room of a theatre using a pipe-telephone system.

In 1854, 22 years before Bell patented his telephone design, inventor Charles Bourseul had already imagined the ideal communication system. Bourseul wrote: “Suppose that a man speaks near a movable disc sufficiently flexible to lose none of the vibrations of the voice; that this disc alternately makes and breaks the currents from a battery: you may have at a distance another disc which will simultaneously execute the same vibrations…. It is certain that, in a more or less distant future, speech will be transmitted by electricity.”

Bourseul’s words describe almost perfectly what Bell later ended-up creating.

It’s worth noting that at nearly the exact same time (some argue even before) as Bell’s invention of the telephone, Elisha Gray created the same system but lost the patent to Bell and his team later on.

The telephone, as Meucci, Bourseul, Gray, Bell, and countless others before them envisioned, was absolutely a good idea. But it wasn’t until Gray and Bell had access to the modern technologies that would make the telephone so elegant to design, as well as ideally functional, that the idea came to fruition.

When considering our own ideas, we must consider the circumstances that allow it or hinder it to become a successful reality. When possible: changing the concept to meet what is possible today can turn the idea into more of a worthwhile endeavor.

A simpler example of this point is the concept of a time machine: Building a time machine is a poor idea because it’s not realistically feasible to do today. We simply don’t understand enough about time or space to create any type of machine that would allow us to travel through it.

It’s a fun idea, but certainly not a feasible one, therefore it would be ridiculous to dedicate oneself to working on a time machine today. Or would it?

By looking at the answers as to why an idea isn’t feasible, we can improve the idea itself as well as predict how it might change in the future.

Similar to how Bourseul predicted that the telephone which Bell would create years later would function through electromagnetic pulses.

To put this concept into practice we simply need to look at our own ideas, particularly ones we may have tried working on but failed.

When we look at those ideas and ask “why” they failed, we begin to shine light onto the circumstances that made it so. We may, in our exploration of reasons, realize the idea was actually good and worthwhile, simply unfeasible at the time.

Sometimes the process of asking and answering “why” means the idea evolves into something unexpected. As artists, inventors, and creators, we need to be open to following that rabbit hole wherever it may lead.

To look at our ideas and ask “why might this fail today?” we can either predict how they might succeed in the future, but we can also begin to see where we can make changes to the idea in order for it to succeed today.

When you’re faced with an idea that seems less-than-great, try asking yourself why it feels that way (then keep asking “why”). You’ll wind-up in a place where the idea makes more sense and is feasible.

Read this next: Creativity as intelligence and day dreaming

Dream photo by Moyan Brenn. Lego time machine photo by Alex Eylar.



“How do creative geniuses come up with great ideas? They work and edit and rewrite and retry and pull out their genius through sheer force of will and perseverance. They earn the chance to be lucky because they keep showing up.”

Via How creative geniuses come up with great ideas

Posted at 9:00 am



What’s the best way to become more creative?

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This is a snippet from an answer I posted to Quora:

There are a lot of ways to “become more creative!” Many of these have been explored by researchers, writers, artists, and educators alike.

We know, for example, that being groggy and having your head in the clouds can lead to having more creative insights (Daydream your way to creativity).

Though it’s important to note that the best creative insights that come from daydreaming are often the result of a period of intense focus just before your mind wanders off (Where Do Eureka Moments Come From?).

Another great technique to spark creativity is to circumvent the regular self-editing parts of your brain, either by waking up 30 minutes to an hour earlier than you usually do (How Interrupting Your Sleep Can Silence Your Doubts and Boost Your Creativity) or by trying free writing exercises (The ways writing helps improve your thinking). Anything you can do to get ideas out—onto paper or otherwise—without much internal debate can lead to greater insights, in theory. This makes sense, since the best ideas often come as a result of having many ideas (though we often do realize this, since our minds are editing and filtering the ideas before our consciousness has time to acknowledge them)….

Which brings us to the meat of your question: what’s the best way to become more creative?

Tricky question with a somewhat discouraging answer, unfortunately. But this is true! It seems the absolutely, scientifically-backed, research-tested, personally tried way to become more creative is to…

Read the full answer right here on Quora.



Inspect and explore to do what you can’t

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A drawer in my kitchen broke at the beginning of last week. You don’t realize how easily you slip into a routine until something breaks.

Despite four people coming in-and-out of the apartment all week, the drawer sat half-in and half-out of the cabinet for three or four days. Eventually, near the end of the week, I found a few spare minutes away from writing and working to look at the problem.

I sat on the kitchen floor, the drooping drawer before me, and shined a light up into the old cabinet that once held the drawer in place.

It took only a few minutes – ten, at most – for me to learn that the drawer was usually held in-place with a single, rubber wheel which sat in a small, enclosed, metal rail along the top of the cabinet. Somehow the wheel had been dislodged. It wasn’t a simple matter of putting it back in place, despite my attempt to do just that.

Instead, upon closer inspection, I noticed that at the side of the cabinet closest to me, the metal rail opened up. Aha! I twisted the drawer, tilted the rubber wheel into the gap in the rail, then slid it backwards to find that the drawer was now fixed. Simple enough!

Later, when conversing with a roommate, I asked why nobody else had taken the time to fix the drawer or at least look into it. His reply: “We didn’t know how to fix.”

But the thing is: I didn’t either. All I did was look at the situation long enough to find a solution. Most of the time (usually) that’s all it takes, to write the book, launch the business, create a product, learn to paint with oils, or fix an ancient, broken drawer.

How often do we go throughout our day thinking we can’t do something, simply because we’ve never taken the time to look at what it takes to make it possible?

Read this next: Everything is easier once you start



What’s the right way to think of creativity?

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Is this the right way to write about creativity? Maybe.

Is this even the right way to view creativity? I could be wrong. You would think after reading and researching and writing on the topic I’d have at least some understanding of what it means to be creative, but I might still be wrong. There’s a lot of ground to cover and a lot that we still don’t know about it.

But, in a way, that’s what creativity is all about: exploring the unknown, thinking where there are more questions than answers, proposing something when you could have just as easily not.

You, too, could be doing that certain thing you do wrong. Maybe you’re a writer who has an obsession with fragmented sentences. Or perhaps you’re an artist who never understood why you can’t treat watercolor the same as acrylic.

Who’s to say what’s right when it comes to creativity? Ignorance and uncertainty are arguably more important than knowledge and doing the right thing.

Are we wrong when we say creativity is about doing something even when you’re not sure it’s the right thing to do?

I don’t think so. So go and think of your creative work or craft however feels right. If you end up at a brick wall, change your thinking however you need to in order to overcome that block.

Exploration and curiosity are at the heart of creativity, there’s no way to mess those up other than to avoid them.

Read this next: The value of making the wrong marks



“You’ll make mistakes, but as long as what you’re focused on is what you’re passionate about, all the other things will fall into place. If there’s anything you’re going to give less priority to, it shouldn’t be your passion. You can never go wrong with that.”

Great advice from Dan Rubin, in celebration of The Great Discontent turning three today.

Posted at 9:14 am