So, I’m talking to five beaming young people after TEDxStormont last Thursday. They’re all 20 something, glowing with energy, smiling like mad, and we’re blue streak style sharing ideas, theories, making connections –it’s a fast-paced, highly generative conversation. It occurs to me, all at once, that moments like this — are how communities are formed. And how prosperous futures are created. For Northern Ireland, I think the lasting value of the event is not the content delivered, the fun experienced, or even the many videos that will eventually be posted. The lasting value is the community it created. I won’t attempt a comprehensive report on the event and all the speakers (I was one) but here’s a bit of background.Read More..
“If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to meet it.”
Last week, a personal hero of mine, Jonathan Winters, passed away. He had a long, full, complicated, crazy, and indeed, mad, mad, mad, mad, life. If you don’t know who he is or why I’d be doing a post about him in a creativity and innovation blog, please just go to YouTube and watch this. If you really want to snort milk through your nose, try this one.
Winters was a comic genius, a creative tour-de-force, and, a man who “used” his affliction with bi-polar disorder positively. He was one of the first public figures to admit to treatment for mental illness having “gone to the zoo” (as he put it) on two occasions. Thankfully, he found stability in his art.
Growing up, his Verve recordings were a model for me of using make believe to have fun, and he gave me and many of my peers the simple permission to be goofy. I could wax for hours on his talent as an entertainer, but I want to focus on his skill with improvisation.
Comedy improvisation was simply not done before JW. Comedians had set routines. He totally broke the mold, and his ability to spontaneously think and create inspired many to follow, most notably Robin Williams. He was a recognized innovator in entertainment, and he sold millions of albums and won all sorts of awards.
Here’s what we can learn from JW: Sometimes creativity isn’t about thinking, it’s about Not Thinking. As soon as you start logical-analytical processing, you essentially shut down spontaneous thought. JW learned that when somebody threw him a pen and pencil set and said “see what you can do with this” he didn’t have time to think, he had to simply react. This short-circuits the logical-analytical processor most of us live our conscious lives in.
Guess what? Your brain will give you ideas faster, and often better, if you simply allow yourself to get into the flow of what’s right in front of you. JW was the master, but we can all do this — if we practice. How do you practice? Pick up an object and start free-associating about what else it could be. What you’ll discover as you do this exercise now and then, is that your ability to just “go with anything” improves. This is not about being funny, it’s about being more self-expressed. It’s about access to your own spontaneous “thinking” generator. Yes, you have one. And by the way, JW “practiced” improv skills all the time, at the bank, while having a beer, you name it, the stories of his antics are legendary.
With this improvisational skill in hand, you’ll have better ideas, and more ideas. It’s very simple, and, it works like mad (like mad, mad, mad, mad, mad).
Thanks Jonathan, I loved you.
For more information on how your organization can include spontaneous thinking in idea generation and new product development see Gregg’s Keynote speeches, training, and consulting services. For a complete front end of innovation process, see the KILN offerings. KILN’s IdeaKeg trend-centric and kinesthetic whole-brained stimulus might be the perfect vehicle for your next idea generation offsite.
For an interesting related piece on how your conscious mind can get in the way, read this Wall Street Journal article by Alison Gopnik.