Live, Work, Create is the motto we live by here at BKI. Live and work are not too difficult to manage for most of us. Create, however – no so much. The widely accepted notion is the myth of the artist as genius which is usually just some construct we create to excuse ourselves from pursuing creativity in our lives. Author Johah Lehrer argues that for many of the great artists and innovators we know, it’s more about the right habits, determination, frame of mind, and sometimes, geography. And in a few cases, it’s about the right pharmaceutical.
In Imagine, Lehrer examines how some companies like Pixar, 3M, and Google create and innovate at far greater clips than others. For 3M, it’s all about the 15% Rule, where 15% of designers and engineers workdays are spent in pursuit of new ideas. While most companies insist that employees need to be managed, 3M not only gives their employees incredible time freedom, but encourage their designers to spend at least 15% of the day doing whatever – ping pong, long walks through the forest, whatever. When our minds are at ease and unstressed, we’re more likely to direct the spotlight of attention inwards towards the stream of remote associations that emanate from the right hemisphere. It’s usually when we disassociate from the problem at hand that other possible alternatives to the problem present themselves. It’s no surprise Archimedes had his revelation in a bathtub – hot showers are when people most often have creative breakthroughs because they are relaxed. Lehrer also describes daydreaming (that thing we all do anyway) as a healthy way to distract ourselves from the problem at hand. Or, it can be as easy as putting the only bathroom in the building in the common area, as Pixar did, to encourage encounters between employees that often results in the sharing of ideas.
Lehrer also describes how the young tend to be more creative because they are often naive to rigid conventions, and usually tend to take more risks. That doesn’t necessarily mean that older people can’t be less creative – they just need to act younger by breaking out of routine, losing their inhibitions, challenging themselves by moving across different fields, and risking embarrassment.
And if all this doesn’t work – travel. Leaving everything behind and immersing yourself in unfamiliar environments tend to heighten the level of disassociation needed to distance yourself from a creative block. Bob Dylan left for the woods after one particularly stifling moment, and immediately wrote Like a Rolling Stone. On a budget? Do as David Byrne did, and ride your bike through New York City. That’s how he discovered the latin rhythms and the Afrobeat of Fela Kuti in various ethnic neighborhoods that he incorporated into his punk stylings. Live, Work, Create… sometimes just a bike ride away.