How to be creative: Non-silly advice from John Cleese

How to be creative: Non-silly advice from John Cleese

Via @danforthfrance via @hotdogsladies comes a talk John Cleese gave about creativity and how to encourage it.  I was amazed at the common sense level advice given that rang true from my own experience and, as always, by Cleese’s ability to speak without appearing to move his bottom lip:

John Cleese – a lecture on creativity

Cleese makes the following high level points:

  • Creativity is a mode of operating and not a talent
  • Creativity happens when you are ‘open’ and not ‘closed’ where ‘open’ means a state of play and ‘closed’ a state of tactical completion-ism
  • Block off multiple small amounts of time (he said 90 minutes) rather than some huge session once a week
  • For creativity to foster you need:
    • Space (quiet, free of distractions)
    • Time (set start and end times so you can let go of other worries)
    • Time (you have to be patient and allow yourself time to think and chew on a problem and not quickly resolve the tension of not knowing)
    • Confidence (that you will think of something and not die alone then get eaten by your cats after never coming up with anything)
    • Humor (it helps us move from closed to open and encourages play and new combinations of ideas)

At an organizational level he raised some interesting points:

  • You can be more creative in groups if you are confident and work well together, but it can go bad easily:
  • It is hard to be creative if people expect you to be (or appear) very decisive
  • It is hard to be creative around people that you are trying to impress
  • To discourage creativity discourage humor and people talking about intermediate ideas that might be bad
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