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Question everything


I had one of those odd moments the other day when I vividly recalled something from my childhood; something I’d not thought about for many years. I remembered that, once upon a time in the dim and distant past, I was a creative genius.

All children seem to be creativity personified. I agree with Sir Ken Robinson that education beats the creativity out of us and it takes many years of focused effort to recover it. And I’m reminded of something George Bernard Shaw once said:

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

I’m sure there is a deep and meaningful connection between youthfulness, playfulness and creativity which I’ll probably explore in later posts. But I digress.

My personal moment of creative genius came when I was about eleven. I used to love creating superheroes. I had various ideas, none of them particularly original, but one of them was special. I don’t recall what I named him but he was amazing. He was a robot possessed by the disembodied mind of an extra terrestrial who’d been sent to Earth to take down a shadowy organisation of some sort. He wasn’t a military robot,  he was an advanced engineering robot. His arms and legs were made out of a malleable substance that could take on the form of any tool he needed. I suspect that bit was influenced by Terminator 2! This, if I do say so myself, was pretty deep stuff for a pre-teen. But none of this was my moment of genius. My moment of genius was something far less grand.

I remember struggling with what this humanoid robot should look like. In particular, the bit that bugged me, was his neck. I didn’t know why but the way his torso connected to his head seemed wrong. And then, one day, after hours of pondering and sketching I had an epiphany; he’s a robot! Being a robot, does he really need a neck? Couldn’t his head and body be attached any way I liked?

With this in mind I felt free to create him as I pleased. Eventually I settled on his head and body being connected by four metallic tubes. To my little mind this looked really cool and futuristic! It’s only now, looking back, that I realise what a big leap the eleven year old me had taken.

When I’m really struggling I often find that it’s because I’ve got an assumption in play that I haven’t questioned or even noticed. Some legacy idea that no longer fits and that’s screwing up my thought process. Just like the idea that my humanoid robot needed a neck – as soon as I question or throw aside these old ideas whole new swathes of possibilities become available.

Again I’m reminded of how children think – they question everything. Always asking why this and how that. So, when you’re stuck on some creative task – just ask yourself, what would an eleven year old do?

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