Tanveer Naseer is a renowned leadership writer and speaker, and runs Tanveer Naseer Leadership, a leadership coaching firm. He writes an excellent blog at TanveerNaseer.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @TanveerNaseer.
Do you follow a creative process?
I don’t have a formal, creative process in terms of using a defined series of steps. What I view as my creative process is that I take periodic breaks in my day to break up any potential ruts that might arise, where I treat the slowdowns I experience during my workday as a signal that my brain needs a period of rest, as well as having some time to process what I’ve come up with so far.
Of course, this goes counter to the current notion of keeping our nose to the grindstone from 9 to 5, but the research out there has conclusively shown that if we really want to tap into our wellspring of creativity, if not also sustain our productivity, it’s important that we recognise these ebbs and flows in how our brain works and how it responds to what’s going on around us.
Do you use any tricks or techniques to come up with ideas?
One thing I do is that I read and watch documentaries and shows on a variety of different topics. By expanding my interests and the information I take in from different sources and disciplines, I find I’m able to create novel connections in my brain between these different fields.
Another thing I do is I keep a digital notebook where I write down ideas that come to mind while working with my clients, writing out my next talk, or fleshing out my next blog post.
Does technology help or hinder creativity?
The thing we have to understand about technology is that it’s nothing more than a tool. So whether it helps or hinders our creativity is dependent on how we use it. For example, in the early Ancient Egyptian dynasties, they had to use copper chisels to carve and sculpt their tombs and monuments. Given how malleable copper is, this limited what they could do as their chisels would dull and bend after repeated use.
However, once they started to use bronze chisels, they were able to carve more refined statues and adorn their tombs with intricate carvings. Now the bronze chisels themselves didn’t make them more creative. Rather, it simply gave them the means to express more fully their creativity and ideas.
So we have to understand that the role technology plays in our ability to be creative really comes down to how we choose to use it as opposed to simply viewing it as a means to an end, whether it be to enhance or impair our creativity.
Can creativity be taught?
I think the problem is not whether we can learn to be more creative, but whether we can unlearn some of the habits, attitudes and behaviours that prevent us from tapping into our native talents to create, imagine and dream.
If we think back to when we were children, we had this overflowing ability to create and imagine different worlds and possibilities. Unfortunately, through our education and work experiences, we learned to put aside that sense of wonder and possibility in order to fit into these established slots for what we were expected to do.
So I think we all have the potential to be creative; the real challenge we face is creating opportunities to allow that inner creativity to be released, and using it regularly so we can build and strengthen those creativity muscles.
What’s the biggest challenge facing creative people?
Building on the previous question, I think the biggest challenge we face is carving out time where we put down our smartphones – where we stop checking our inbox or seeing what’s being shared in our Twitter stream and such – and give our minds a chance to wander.
We often like to think that the most creative ideas or products were discovered in one of those ‘eureka’ moments where we almost magically discover the solution. However, research has shown that these moments of epiphany are preceded by a period of rest where we allowed our minds to wander, where we gave our brain the space to filter, sort and combine the various pieces of information we have and to discover these unique connections or bridges.
Unfortunately – especially amongst the Millennial workers – we’re seeing a rapid decline in focus and attention because we’re training our brain to be constantly ‘on’ in order to take in all this information that is being shared on the various social media outlets. Consequently, we’re developing habits and behaviours that make it very difficult for us to tap into our innate creativity.