One of the most powerful tools in the creative toolbox today


It’s attention.

Consider who we, as a global civilization, are moving faster and faster into a type of “Imagination Age”. A time where technical skills and a informational knowledge are not enough to provide value in the society. Instead, we each need to have the ability to generate creative ideas on-the-fly and do something with them.

Whether or not you believe an Imagination Age is truly coming, what is evident in the modern world of instant information, robotic progress (including AI), and technological breakthroughs, is that we – as creatives – have to be better equipped for managing our own creativity.

More than any other time in history, it’s not enough to simply have good ideas. We have to know how ideas work together, and be able to formulate possibilities instantly.

What that means is that simply maintaining our creativity isn’t enough.

In his book, Focus, New York Times Science reporter and Pulitzer Prize nominee Daniel Goleman explains what traits we need as creatives in the coming years:

  1. We have to pay attention to ourselves, how we feel, what inspires and motivates us, and how we prefer to work
  2. Other people, what motives our peers, what problems are they encountering in their lives and what solutions might we offer them
  3. And the world, what problems are at-large in the world as a whole, who is doing what to solve those problems, and where in the world are interesting things happen.

To benefit from these traits, we need just one thing, undoubtedly the most powerful tool in a creative’s toolbox today. What is it?


The ability to not only pay attention to our own creativity and abilities, but also to those we might be able to collaborate with or solve problems for, opens up a vast world of possibilities. Far more is possible when we pay close attention to ourselves and our local – as well as broader – communities.

In her article “The Creative Adult is the Child that Survived” Rita King exclaimed this truth elegantly:

“The only thing stronger than your imagination is yours connected to the billions of others all over the world.”

Of course, the only way we’ll be able to benefit from collaborating with the imagination of others is to pay attention.

It’s true of our own creative passions as well. Without the ability to pay attention to what we’re focusing on now (and asking whether it’s the best thing or the thing that matters), how will we know what to work on?

Where is your attention lately? Is it on the type of creative work you want to be doing, or is it time to adjust your focus?

If you feel completely unsure, simply remind yourself of what you want to achieve.

Photo via Deb Nystrom.