At one point you’ve been in a situation where you didn’t try to be daring or think outside the box because you were more afraid about things going wrong. And when you’re too preoccupied with exerting control, you are more focused on results rather than efforts.
In the age of analytics and optimization, it’s hard to balance organic creativity with the need for measured results. And yet creativity remains to be one of the most valuable skills you can have: 60% of CEOs polled on IBM think of it as the most important leadership quality, while another study finds creativity to be the skill that will continue to drive the US economy. When the creative juices flow, you are more motivated to be productive and more inspired to innovate. But it’s really so much more than that.
Think back to when you were in kindergarten. You could mold your clay into a superhero or paint your world in crayons even though it looked a little funny. That was creativity at work: limitless, free flowing imagination.
Somewhere along the way, you went through the process of “growing up” and learning the “rules” of life. You colored inside the lines with a ballpoint pen instead of crayons and abandoned the clay figures. You became wired to have control.
Control is when you project and demand things to go a certain way. Control is defined as the restriction of activity, tendency, or phenomenon. It’s the opposite of creativity, which is all about the flow. Creativity is being aware of the present moment and exploring what it could be. It’s being curious about the possibilities and coming up with solutions that may not always work.
Creativity means embracing a few risks.
Many people and businesses can’t help but avoid risks. Even when they desperately want to innovate and improve themselves, they tend to cling on to certainty. And we understand why: it’s easy, it’s safe, and the metrics tell you you’re bound to succeed anyway. . They try to make what they want with as little pain as possible because it’s far easier to be in control than to explore the unknown.
Instead of trying something new then refining that to perfection, control-focused individuals tend to stay rigid and milk the same cow over and over again. And when you’re rigid, you pretty much stop growing.
If you or your organization wants to be successful, consistency is the sweet spot you want to achieve. Consistency in creative efforts will lead to coherent results.
Think of any successful brand. Apple’s electronics are a good example of consistency. When a new iPhone is released, many people can instantly recognize it as Apple. Apple products look and feel coherent because Apple has a consistent process in creating them.
The same goes for popular designer clothing brands like Chanel. Even though each piece in every collection is different, the brand itself can easily be identified by its unique and consistent style.
Consistency is the key to unlocking creativity effectively. Even if people are willing to take creative risks, many of them assume they have to wait for inspiration to strike. Once that genius idea appears, you can lock yourself in a room for a few days until you emerge with a perfect, final product.
That scenario rarely happens in real life and there is more discipline to creativity than we think.
Creativity works like muscle memory. You have to train everyday and do the work to excel, even when you’re exhausted or frustrated. When you sit down to solve a problem, write articles, or design a website, there are times when you won’t feel inspired.
The trick is to show up for the task consistently. Creativity will come to you when you make the time and space for it, because it knows when and where to show up.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to become an ‘assembly line’ of creativity who churns out a high-volume of output every week. Pushing yourself to be creative always will sap your ability to produce fresh ideas.
What consistency does is refine your creative efforts. You learn what works for you, improve your techniques, and gain new skills. You become more comfortable with trial and error. And as consistency becomes your new creative habit, you produce reliable results and meet the same goals you did when you focused on control.
When you’re creative, you can breathe new life into your work. The problem with creativity is that when you spend too much time thinking about what you want to create, you never get anything done.
Consistent work can help you connect the flow of new ideas, because you don’t spend much time warming yourself up. Constant inspiration will follow you as you work regularly because even seemingly insignificant moments can trigger your inspiration. Here are four benefits you gain when you aim for consistency:
Whether you’re an individual or an organization, there are key tricks to hack into creativity and foster consistent work. Here are some to train your brain or revamp your environment for better success in creative work:
Contrary to popular belief among creatives, schedules are an asset. You can schedule your day to include sprints and rests. Plan your work around to the time of day when you are at your most energetic, then find break times to recharge. You would be surprised you can do more work without sacrificing quality of output.
You can mix it up and schedule each day a little differently, if you dislike monotony. However, a solid routine trains your brain to get into a creative mode at a particular time each day. If you’re unsure what time of day you’re most creative, stick with what you know. Early birds work well during the morning and night owls thrive a late-night. Feel free to experiment as well - you never know when your creative brain is at its peak until you try.
If you’re working with a team, be sure to allocate time for thinking, looking for inspiration, and trying new concepts. Consider planning a time for inspiration as part of your team schedule and processes: brainstorming, workshops, and coaching sessions are a few ways to collaborate and form ideas.
Nothing drains inspiration faster than monotony. Having variations on a theme, routine, or scenery can help free you when you’re out of creative inspiration. It may require you to do things a little differently, like trying a new software program or tackling a project in a different order. Finding ways to stimulate your brain and shake up your routine can challenge you to think in a new way. The work volume will feel exciting rather than stale.
A surefire way to switch things up? Change your scenery. You’re sure to get work done and keep your mind flexible. Opt to venture out to a coffee shop or work in a different area of your office when you want to spark your brain synapses.
Detail-oriented perfectionists have one fatal flaw: it takes them a long time to actually start producing anything. People tend to trap themselves when they think everything they need to create must be flawless. They are afraid of making major mistakes - which just prevents them from getting to work.
Our creative mistakes in quantity can lead us to insights and improvements for quality. You might not be able to have the perfect draft at once, but at least you have a draft. You can spot problematic areas and revise them as you go along. It’s much easier to improve on something you already created than expecting perfection in the first attempt.