Newsletter #515 – Stimulating Creativity and Innovation

creativity 6I have an ongoing interest in creativity, innovation and other ways in which new ideas develop, innovations emerge, or effective communication occurs. I wonder why some paintings or music cause our spirits to soar while other compositions fall flat? How do good writers and speakers craft their messages and keep our interest while other presenters show an innate ability to be dull and boring? Some teachers, marketers, coaches and blog-writers think creatively and connect effectively. Why do they flourish while others fizzle?

Occasionally I read books or articles on innovation and effective communication. More often I look at how magazines are laid out, how speakers present their ideas or how writers grab and hold their audiences. I’ve learned the value of knowing creative people, connecting with individuals or groups that are different from me, wandering around the local art institute or listening to music with which I am not familiar.  Business magazines show me the importance of developing new concepts, researching new hypotheses, and wrapping new ideas into effective presentations.

Fast Company is one of those business magazines. It never mentions coaching or counseling and rarely says much about leadership. But the editors model creativity and occasionally write about it. In the February 2013 issue, FC editor Robert Safian says this about innovative thinking in our age of Facebook and text-messaging:

The art of creative conversations may not seem like a natural topic for a magazine that covers business. Many of the companies we cover have helped create new worlds of constant innovation. But when you ask their execs how they develop their industry-reinventing ideas, they come back again and again to face-to-face dialogue. There is no better way to test your assumptions than in conversation with a peer—no better way to learn, to experiment, to be prodded.

Discussions on creativity and innovation can be motivating.  For good reasons they can dominate the attention of artists, leaders and even people-helpers. They can pull us forward and stimulate progress. But creativity and related issues can become like gods calling for worship. Things that are new, different or lauded are not necessarily better. They can lead to chaos when they ignore lessons from the past or have no anchor in solid values, competent skills and life purpose.

Please comment on this, including how your creativity develops.


  1. I have learned as a Psychologist who is now in Seminary that “thinking outside the box” is a source of creativity as measured by most people. This is not taught in school and can take the form of allowing students to expand on their answers rather than limiting them to “an” answer. I teach this in college Psych and Medial courses. Thanks, Ewing von Schmittou


    1. Ewing, I love your perspective. I am one of those psychologists who got my degree then went to seminary. Graduate school and seminary were both good experiences for me but neither stimulated much creativity or freedom to think. Students move into their careers and run into problems because they have never learned to make adaptions to the changing world in which we live and work. I do a lot of thinking outside the box and enjoy connecting with people who do the same. Like you. Sometimes I try to move away from any box because that can (but not always) squelch the freedom to be creative or innovative.


    2. Jenny, Wow. I love your brief and insightful comments. I think they are right on target. Your words remind me that Michael Jordan missed thousands of shots before he became a basketball superstar. It’s true that most of us are tempted to get things right (close to perfect) every time and think we have to do everything well. In an earlier newsletter I wrote that I am learning photography. My teacher is a 22 year-old college student. I want to be consistently as good as he is, taking great pictures with great creativity. I need to delete most of my efforts before I get better. Give me another five years and I will even be taking the photos to illustrate my own newsletters. But that kind of creativity and competence will take lots of time, practice, and failures before I get there.


  2. GIving oneself the option of failing, changing to another pursuit after a trial time, and not being the “best” at something is important to my efforts in trying new things. As a young person I felt that I had to excel in everything I tried, but I slowly discovered that that sort of thinking is very limiting and basically counter-productive. It’s well-known that T.A. Edison found 4,000 ways NOT to make a lightbulb before he found one that worked! Learning through failure can be under-rated, but it works for me.


  3. From some masters of creativity:
    “Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”
    Ray Bradbury
    ‎”Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
    Scott Adams
    “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.”
    Erich Fromm
    “Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can plan weird; that’s easy. What’s hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”
    Charles Mingus

    Great questions Gary. Stimulating.



      These include your post Larry. You have left us with some really good quotations. I especially like the reference to simplicity.

      Like the essence of great leadership is humility, I think the essence of great creativity is simplicity. That applies to paintings and flower arrangements but is applies as well to writing and to public speaking.


  4. As a PhD in Psychology I have learned through teaching courses in Memory that Encoding is the initial source of a rich and available source of info from Long Term memory. Without detailed Encoding from sensory detection and subsequent transfer to sensory memory the rest of the Information Processing Model of Memory is a struggle. In addition, prior to returning the contents of “working Memory” to LTM the “tweaking” of working memory results in an additional richness to the contents of LTM.


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