Creativity is something you can develop. Everyone has some kind of creative spark. You need tools to release those creative sparks in business writing or any activity. One of the best writers on creativity I have found was Edward DeBono. He expresses what we all feel about this neglected subject. The Six Hats of Thinking, Yellow, Red, Blue, Black, Green, and White, have already caught your interest from the videotape shown in class.
Creativity means more than "being creative." What is being creative? Creativity goes through stages, as indicated by the videotape in class: preparation, incubation, illumination, and translation. Preparation allows your mind to ready its juices to receive ideas. In a mindmap, for example, you stare at a blank screen and create something from nothing. Incubation allows ideas to "jell." You look at the different boxes or whatever symbols and see the ideas starting to come together. The arrows from box to box make a little more sense.
In illumination that "spark of insight" takes over. You see, for example, an analytical report coming together. The ideas have relationships to each other. You may see a word, a noun, for example, that brings all the thinking together. Certain words and ideas carry certain meanings. You have "illuminated" your thinking. In translation you put your ideas not only in a framework, but also you "translate" these ideas to a written document or piece of work. Your preparation, incubation, and illumination now come together. You make that "spark of insight" work for you. You are a creative businessperson.
Still, when you think of creativity we can learn a great deal from artists and people who write about artists. You should not ignore a book like Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards (Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1989). Betty Edwards introduces us to drawing by causing this thinking shift: "When you see in the special way in which experienced artists see, then you can draw." We could relate that idea immediately to writing. You have to visualize those words on the paper and the impact they will make on the audience.
Betty Edwards draws us into her book with the "Nonverbal Language of Art." When I had the opportunity years ago to go to Europe, I had no idea of the surprises in store. We had two European professors with our student tour as well as the professor from the University of Northern Colorado. Our art professor dragged us through so many art galleries that I thought my shoe leather would quit. As I look back on that experience, I gained an appreciation for the first time for art of different varieties. I had always liked going to museums, but the art appreciation never came. Business students and writers should gain an appreciation for art. Such an experience makes you a more rounded human being. Betty Edwards draws us into her appreciation of art. She starts by talking about the use of "line." Every time you write your signature on a business letter or document you have experienced "line."
You already know people exist who say they can read your handwriting and tell about your personality. You write large; you write small. You possess individual characteristics. Betty maintains that your signature "expresses you and your individuality, your creativity." You speak the nonverbal language of art.
On a recent PBS (Public Broadcasting) program called First Person Singular I. M. Pei, the famous Chinese-American architect, offered all kinds of wisdom. He said he worked with Zeckendorf, the famous industrialist, and learned about treating the city as an organism. He also learned land values from the same man. What is our message for business communication? We can learn from each other and from all other professors, even the ones we consider boring.
As I. M. Pei strolled through his many creations in Paris, Cleveland, and Washington, D.C., I was struck by his sincerity. He believes that his hand should be visible in the building at all times as an architect. You can tell that message, because I. M. Pei designs for people. What is our message for business communication? You need to design your messages for people. People have to read your letters, memos, and reports. Keep the reader in mind.
I. M. Pei designs the language of public spaces. If you look at the connection between the West and East Wings of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., you see how the buildings fuse as one because the architect made appropriate walkways. I enjoyed his comment about designing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio: It is a building of energy. What is the message for business communication? You have to connect your paragraphs and your thoughts. You have to achieve a flow in your business writing.
As I. M. Pei was interviewed throughout the program, I listened to his words about contribution: "If you learn and repeat, you have made no contribution at all." That is my message to each of you. Learn to contribute and leave something worthwhile in this world. Contribute through your career or through portions of your work. Don't be satisfied with the status quo. Take I. M. Pei's advice and learn to contribute.
If you want to read an inspirational book that will cause you to rethink your life, you can't do much better than Listening with My Heart, by the former Miss America 1995, Heather Whitestone. She has developed what she calls her STARS (Success Through Action and Realization of your DreamS. She has proposed four crowning principles that need to enrich our lives:
Isn't that inspiring? The principles represent common sense. I particularly like the dream and limitations principles. We all need to find what we are good at and pursue that dream, no matter what the odds.
In the Fortune for June 23, 1997 (a magazine to be read by every well-informed business student) Saul Wurman, author of Information Anxiety, talks about his need to keep learning all of his lifetime. Saul, age 62 at this writing, is pictured in the article studying some book or paper. He has created what he calls TEDs or special seminars where famous and literate people are invited to speak. Such individuals as Bill Gates and other CEOs usually attend these seminars, billed at $2,500 per person. Wurman was originally famous for L.A. Access and other types of guides before he ventured into the seminar and book writing businesses. I was particularly intrigued by how he will take an idea from one unrelated source and relate this idea to something else. That is a gift of creativity.
As you know, I am a believer in The Wall Street Journal. I think this particular newspaper features provocative articles, and an article entitled "Getting Yourself in a Frame of Mind to be Creative (September 16, 1997, p. B1)," by Hal Lancaster proved worthwhile. In the article, Lancaster summarized the qualities creative people share. See how you measure up:
Wasn't that a good list? How did you measure? What traits were your strongest? To paraphrase the article, you have to make creativity a way of life. You should look beyond short-term goals. Think BIG. Do you want a cross pollination of ideas? Find friends who have diverse interests. For example, I listen to my board wargaming friends, because they have different views of the world than immediate friends. You need to be inspired by all types of friends.
I'm not sure I accepted the idea of doing something wild and weird. A manager of a Hallmark Creative Advisory Group wants us to be concerned about our basic needs. Does that sound like Maslow? All wild and wonderful activities should be connected to our basic emotions. Are you ready to become creative?
"Imagination allows us to escape the predictable. . .It has enriched experience and allowed us to feel the thrill of fresh creation. It puts us in touch with what most makes us human."Bill Bradley, The Values of the Game, p. 155
Don't forget to check the home page for further help and additional hints, including inspiration, ethics, and conversation.
Last updated Wednesday, July 22, 2004
copyright(c)G. Jay Christensen, All Rights Reserved