Inner Mind Creativity Part One: Creative Visions
By Jeffrey Baumgartner
The Power of Your Mind: a Quick Exercise
Think about a conversation you have recently had with someone important to you, such as a friend, a lover, a member of your family, a colleague. Think about what you talked about and how you felt about the conversation. How did the other person feel? Where were you? What did the situation smell like? What did it sound like? What was going on around you?
Now, imagine that you had the same conversation with the same person, but instead of its actual location, imagine you had the conversation while sitting on a nearly empty beach on a warm summer's day. You are both wearing swimsuits. Feel the sun on your shoulders and the sand against your legs. Smell the salt water and fresh, sea-side air. Hear the gentle sound of the waves rolling in. But, imagine you had the same conversation and the same feelings about it. You can probably do this.
Now, imagine you are having the same conversation while walking down a busy city street at night. The sky is dark, but the ground is lit up by street lights and shop windows. People are milling about. There is lots of background noise: people talking, cars driving along, horns tooting, music wafting out of shops. You smell the complex odour of the city. Yet you and your conversation partner have the same conversation and feelings. You can probably imagine this.
Now, imagine you and your conversation partner are in a spaceship in orbit around the Earth. You are floating in zero-gravity in the relatively small space of the ship. The walls are curved, metallic and covered with electronic devises whose lights glow on and off. The air tastes faintly metallic and artificial. You have the same conversation. I expect you can do this as well!
This is the power of the cosmos of your mind, not merely to remember past events that really happened, but to remember events that have never happened; to create new visions from the experiences and knowledge stored away in the various recesses of your mind.
This is also what cosmic creativity all about, using your mind's vast library of experience, knowledge and thoughts to construct creative visions. Not merely ideas, my friend, but elaborate creative visions.
Let's get cosmic!
Creativity starts in your mind and that’s fantastic, because your mind is a wonderful thing – a cosmic space in your control. It contains of all your knowledge, opinions, emotions, experiences, ideas and more. It is a place where you can remember things that have happened in the past, visualise things that will happen in the future and imagine things that never have and never will take place. Your mind is a cosmos where you can build, demolish and rebuild visions. It is a space where you can envision all kinds of scenarios and how they might pan out. You can even look back to your past and envision how aspects of your life might have been different if you had done things differently.
In effect, your mind is a personal cosmos in which you can act out events from the past and the future. It is a cosmos where anything can happen – if you let it!
Think about it (in your mind, of course!). Every invention, every novel, every musical piece, every work of art began its existence in the mind of its creator. For nothing new can be created in this universe if it is not first created in someone’s mind.
The mind is so incredible that not even the best minds on the planet are quite sure what it is or where it exists. It is a question for philosophers as much as scientists.
What do you think? What is the mind? Where does it exist?
Visualise Your Mind
In order to explore situations, actions and ideas in your mind, it helps to have a vision of your mind. How might you visualise your mind today, right now? If I were to ask you to enter your mind and look around, what would you see? A building? A park? A forest? A school of fish? It matters not – as long as you can visualise your mind in one way or another. You can even change your mind about your mind the next time you try the exercises in this book. Nevertheless, it will help for you to have some kind of vision or representation of your mind to work with.
So, hold on to your vision, please. You will need it soon.
Your Mind Is Full of Little Notions
Before we go any further, it is useful to understand a little about how your mind works. Basically it is a combination of magic and godzillions of little notions. Each notion is tiny piece of a memory, a bit of knowledge, a feeling, an opinion, a thought.
The magic, with the help of a spider whom we shall meet in a few chapters' time, strings the notions together to form memories, new knowledge and ideas.
When you remember something from your past, your mind does not dredge up a film of the event and play it. Rather, it magically finds all the relevant notions and instantaneously strings them together to form a memory.
Let us return to the memory of the conversation with someone important (in the opening chapter of this book). When I first asked you to remember the conversation, your mind found the relevant notions and put them together, these notions included memories of your friend, what she looks like, how she sounds, how she converses with you, expressions she makes, the environment where you had the conversation and notions of other details that completed your memory. These notions are normally stored separately in your mind, but in order to recreate the memory, your mind instantly found the notions and put them together for you.
Initially, you probably did not think much about the smell and the background noise unless they were relevant to the conversation. But when I asked about them, they probably came to mind. It was a simple matter for your mind to add those notions to the memory.
Then, when you changed the location of the memory, it was easy for your mind to change a few notions and recreate the memory in a new place. Most likely, you have sat on a beach on a summer's day or walked down a city street at night. So, it was easy for your mind to perform the change of location by swapping a few notions.
When we took it one step further and moved you to a space ship, you probably did not have first hand memories of being in zero gravity. But, you've most likely read about being in space and perhaps have seen films of astronauts both real and fictional. As a result, you have notions in your mind about spaceships, being in orbit and zero-gravity. Once again, your mind was able to swap notions in order to create a completely artificial memory of your being in space having a conversation with someone important to you.
But of course, it was not a memory. It never happened. Instead it was a vision of something that could have happened.
This is the tremendous creative power of your mind: to string together varied notions in order to construct in your mind incredible visions.
A Quick Definition of Creativity
Creativity is that process of combining two or more notions to create all new notions and visions of things that do not yet exist – at least to your knowledge – but which could be made to exist.
For instance, in 1997, Philippe Kahn, combined the notions of a digital camera, a mobile telephone and sharing in order to create the all new idea of integrating a camera into a mobile phone so that you could take pictures and share them via the telephone network. Each of those separate notions was well known at the time. But putting them together created an all new notion.
Today, nearly every mobile telephone can take pictures and send them not only to other telephones, but to Facebook, Twitter and even your grandma’s telephone.
Since then, people have taken the notion of a mobile telephone camera and have incorporated it into newer notions, such as filming video on your camera, scanning QR codes to get information on your telephone and enabling video conversations.
Getting back to Mr. Kahn, Not only did he build the vision in his mind (as others had surely done before him), but he turned it into reality, which is invention, and made a lot of money, which is innovation. But in order to get to invention and innovation, Mr. Kahn had to start with creativity. All innovation and invention starts with creativity. And creativity happens in the cosmos of the mind.
Creative and Non-Creative Actions
In almost any situation, you have multiple choices about actions to take.
Do nothing: You could opt to do nothing. This is a popular choice; or rather it is the frequent result of no choice being made.
Conventional action: You could opt to take the most conventional action. If this is a situation that occurs regularly, taking the same action you always take is the conventional action – at least as far as you are concerned. If you do not know what the most conventional action is, do a web search on your situation. The conventional action – or actions – will quickly become apparent.
Semi-conventional action: You could research your situation and find a less conventional action, but one that suits your situation. This option often provides the widest range of choices.
Creative action: You could envision in your mind a new, unique action; one that is creative. That is the purpose of cosmic creativity. To identify the creative action.
In most situations, particularly those that occur on a regular basis, there is no need to be creative. We take the conventional action.
In some cases, there is no conventional action. This is particularly the case when you are confronted by a new situation for which there is not an established action to take. This may be because the situation is truly unique – such as in the early days of the Internet and e-commerce, when precedent had not yet been established; or it may be because the situation is new to you – for instance you lose electricity for several days during a cold winter – so you will need to take creative action in order to live in some comfort and warmth.
As I have written, in most situations we choose to take conventional action. It is usually easy, convenient and achieves our objectives. In only a very few situations does anyone really want or need to be creative. Let's call these situations “transcendental situations” because we are considering taking action that transcends conventional behaviour and enters the mental realm of creativity. Also, and let us be honest here, “transcendental situation” sounds delightfully pompous!
Bear in mind that a situation becomes transcendental not because it is intrinsically special. Rather, it becomes transcendental because you have chosen to make it that way. A situation may be transcendental for one person, but not for another. For instance, imagine that you and I live in the same suburb and work in the same office 15km away. I might choose to drive to work every day following the same route. In other words, I choose to take the conventional action in this situation.
You, however, decide not only to bicycle to work every day, but to explore different routes between home and work. On some occasions you ride roller blades to work. You even try hitch-hiking. For you, the situation is transcendental. A conventional action is not good enough. You want to take a creative action in this given situation.
Even if you opt to make a situation transcendental, it is still possible that after much consideration, you decide to do nothing or to do the conventional thing. It is the act of seeking potential creative action that turns a situation from being an ordinary one to being a transcendental one.
An Illustrative Example
To illustrate, imagine that every year, you take a holiday in a cottage in the south of France. It’s a beautiful location, with parks, cultural activities and beaches nearby. You know others who vacation in the area. You always have a good, relaxing time – which is what holidays are supposed to be about.
This year, you have received a large bonus at work and have a bit of extra cash to spend. As it comes time to plan your holiday, you start to think about other options – especially since your budget is bigger this year. Your holiday situation has become transcendental.
What are your options?
You could be so overwhelmed by choice and so worried about changing a comfortable routine, that you make no decision and so do not take a holiday this year. (Do nothing)
You could decide that you really like your traditional holiday in the South of France and opt to do it again this year. (Conventional action).
You could research more exotic holidays and decide to take a tour of Burma. (Semi-conventional action).
You are intrigued by abandoned train stations and enjoy photography. So, you do a bit of research and locate abandoned train stations in northern Europe. You plot out a route and book suitable hotels or camping spaces. When the holiday time comes, you plan to load up your car and go from train station to train station photographing them. When you return, you will put them up in a blog to share with others. (Creative action)
In spite of all the fuss about creativity and innovation in business, most of the situations in business today do not require creativity. Reports are best made following standardised templates. And while you might attempt a bit of creativity about the items that you include on your expense account, you surely do not want to be creative about the manner in which you file it for reimbursement!
However, there are areas where you definitely want to be creative: for example in coming up with new product and service ideas; designing new business models; devising ways to sell additional products and services to existing customers; and improving operational efficiency without reducing quality.
In what aspects of your business/work do you not need to be creative? What aspects would benefit from creative action?
Example: Trendy On-Line Clothing Boutique
You – yes you, my dear reader – are a senior manager in a fast growing chain of trendy clothing boutiques. You have been put in charge of updating the current web site, which is presently no more than a promotional tool with shop information, nice pictures, announcements of sales and that kind of thing.
Your job is to update the web site, include on-line shopping elements, exploit social media and drive a significant percentage of sales through the web within two years.
That is your situation and it is clearly a transcendental one. You need to take action. You want to take creative action. Let’s look at the options.
You could, of course, opt to do nothing. In a business context, this would involve participating in a lot of meetings, discussing the situation to death, doing some research, holding more meetings and ultimately failing to change the web presence at all, ideally while blaming an irritating colleague for your failure to take any real action.
The conventional solution would be to look at what your competitors are doing, hire a web development team (or outsource) and create an on-line shop following best practice. Your home page would comprise a very good looking model wearing your clothes. Products would be categorised and shoppers could click on links to see tops, trousers, accessories, special offers and so on. Smaller links, at the bottom of the page, would lead to corporate information, job opportunities and that kind of thing.
Oh, and since social media is de rigueur these days, you will need to set up Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter accounts that will announce special offers, competitions and company news. On Twitter, you’ll exchange occasional twitteresque comments with cool people who follow you. You will pay some of those people to follow you.
That’s all great stuff and it will doubtless result in growing on-line sales.
But, it’s not very creative. Every clothing chain does pretty much the same thing. It’s the conventional action.
You realise that many people like shopping with friends, partners or family. And even those who prefer shopping alone often like feedback on an outfit before buying it, especially if it is something special. Yet, on-line shopping is inevitably a solo activity. Shoppers sit, hunched over computers, look at items and click to buy. It’s all very lonely and not conducive to socialising while shopping. As far as I know, only a very few start-ups are even exploring the possibility of shopping with friends and the start-ups do not have the name recognition of your trendy boutique.
So, you look into ways that two or more people could shop on-line together. This will include a communications window for chat, talking, sharing pages and video communication. Shoppers will be able to show potential purchases to friends and ask for their thoughts. You could even set up an on-line coffee shop for the shoppers to stop, have a coffee and talk over a video link.
Shoppers will be able to look at each other’s shopping baskets and which pages their friends are visiting.
You also realise that there is no need to differentiate between those shopping on-line and those in your bricks and mortar shops. You could, for instance, allow people shopping to take pictures of themselves – using their telephones or photo booths near the changing room – which they can post on Facebook, Google+, Instagram and other social media sites. Their friends can then like and comment on the pictures, giving your shoppers the opportunity to get feedback on new outfits.
Of course, it may take time for a shopper to build up likes on Facebook. So, offer a delayed purchase option. If sufficient friends like a blouse or pair of shoes, the shopper need only click a button to buy them and fetch them later or have them delivered to her house.
Shoppers could also opt to have their images appear on your corporate pages on social media sites. This can help build your reputation as a cool place to shop.
This, of course, is the creative option. Play with it yourself. Imagine sharing an on-line shopping experience with friends. What features and functionality would you include?
As noted, with any situation, we have a choice of possible actions which range from conventional to new and creative; as well as the option of doing nothing at all.
Sometimes, particularly if the situation is a very new one, the established conventional actions have not yet been established and we have little choice but to be creative. But even then, we can look to similar situations for conventional action choices.
Inevitably, the conventional action is a safe option. It has been tried, tested and is expected. It may not result in spectacular success – it is a little too obvious for that. In our example, the conventional action is to set up an on-line shop following the model of nearly all on-line clothing shops. It is what your superiors and customers expect. It looks good. It works. But it is unlikely to be a spectacular success. It has been done too many times before and followers are not leaders by definition. On the other hand, you would not lose your job over a competent implementation of a conventional action.
There’s a lot to be said for keeping your job!
The creative action is riskier. It is not tried. It is not tested. Worse, people often do not like the change that results from the implementation of creative ideas. In our example, the creative, shared shopping experience is more likely to fail than is the conventional action. Your customers might not like your creative action because it is too different. They might find it difficult to work out how to exploit the functionality. They may complain, “I just want to buy a bloody dress – not go on a social shopping expedition!” Implementing new technology may very well lead to technical glitches and other unexpected problems. If your launch is a big publicity one, such glitches could reflect badly on your company.
You may find that people in your company discourage you from taking the creative action. They may worry about its potential risk. They may worry about the costs of building an all new technical solution from scratch. They may remind you of Boo.com – the on-line clothing shop that failed spectacularly at the end of the dot-com boom and which became a textbook case for how not to do e-commerce.
Do Not Sweat the Risk Yet
Fortunately, the creative action here has only taken place in your mind – where it poses no risk (aside from the danger of daydreaming as you ponder the situation and actions you might take). Once you decide to pursue a creative action, you can start thinking about the potential risks and how you might mitigate them. We will look at this later in the book.
The important thing, when building creative action in your mind is not to worry about the risk. It will kill creativity. You can always devise ways to minimise risk. It is far harder to add creativity to a boring idea.
All in Our Minds
So far, all of this conventional and creative thinking has taken place entirely in my mind and, because I have shared it with you, in your mind. That is the tremendous power of your mind when it comes to creativity.
In the next chapter, I’ll explain how you can visualise situations in your mind in ways that make it easy to devise and play with creative actions in your mind.
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