CREATIVE THINKING (CT). I hesitated to take this module for 3 years and decided to bid for it in my last semester. This is because I was apprehensive about it being tough and time-consuming, and I doubted if I had enough creative abilities to compete with the 50 students in class.
I was unsure if I was creative. To me, painters are very creative people. They can create such astounding artworks that make people exclaim in wonder.
But, what about artists who replicate other famous works such as the Mona Lisa or Van Gogh’s Starry Night? Are they simply imitators? Or do they possess the talent of being able to replicate such legendary paintings? Such replications may not receive credits for creativity. However, all artists at some point in their life tend to create unique artworks that define them. Such original paintings are usually lauded for their creativity. It could originate from their imagination or external inspirations, but the end result belongs solely to them.
On the other hand, I can never comprehend the value of modern art. What is defined as modern art? According to me, it’s usually a splash of bright and contrasting colours on a canvas.
But the same painting could receive critical acclaim and be sold for millions if it were from a famous artist! In that case, is creativity identified and appreciated from the artwork itself or based on the creator who has obtained a certain level of fame? These questions, which existed for the past 21 years (perhaps 11 years, from when I actually started to think), were all answered clear during my first creative thinking lesson!
Three criteria that qualifies an idea as creative are:
1. Originality – The idea must have a low probability and often should be unique.
Example, Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity certainly satisfied this criterion. No other scientist came up with the idea
2. Usefulness – The idea should work or be valuable. A solution suggested must solve the problem.
Example, in the case of Einstein’s theory, his relativity principle provided in itself was able to communicate its applicability in the science field.
3. Surprise – The idea should be least non-obvious and cannot be a straightforward derivation from acquired expertise (even if original).
Example, Einstein’s relativity theory was not a step-by-step deduction from classical physics but rather the theory was built upon a new foundation that challenged the very basis of traditional physics.
It can be observed that although I picked up some of the points above from my CT class, I did engage in further research to obtain a solid definition of creativity. The above mentioned three criteria are used by the US Patent Office to screen inventions before providing patent protection.
For example, consider this Buzzfeed style of learning journal.
1. It is obviously an original idea!
2. It is useful as it adds onto the creative element of how I express my learnings obtained from CT lessons. Additionally, it is as easily accessible as any other form with just one click to the website.
3. And finally a surprise to my professor how firstly, a student was able to ‘think out of the box’ by not just restricting to his suggestions of word, powerpoint or videos. Secondly, how a reflective assignment could also be done in a fun way such as a Buzzfeed post with funny memes.
Isn’t it cool how I applied my first learning point right-away in my first learning journal of CT lesson?
This brings me into the second point of confidence. What made me create this post is the confidence I had, both in myself and my professor, that he would appreciate the effort I put in for thinking creatively.
Ever since I joined SMU, class participation was often a tough part for me to score. It was neither because I couldn’t pay attention in class nor that I couldn’t think. Often times my peers expressed the exact same answers or opinions as I had had in my mind. Then I realised it was my fear of being wrong, judged and embarrassed that stopped me from vocalizing my thoughts.
I learned from my CT class that one must not only be capable of original ideas but also must be confident enough to express them out loud to the public. Creativity is not genetic. Everyone has different thinking and perspectives, but are often curbed by the system they live in – defined by societal norms and rules.
As a result, we usually tend to rely on a safe path and refuse to come out of our comfort zone by thinking out of the box. Thinking of a new idea is like exploring a new planet. We challenge the existing environment that leads to unpopularity among peers. But when the time comes, the same unpopular creativity suddenly becomes a startling trend around the globe.
Two outstanding traits I observed in creative people are:
# They are not mindful of what others think about them
# They are consistently confident through their body language and tone.
Dick Fosbury is my inspiration. By coming up with a reverse version of jumping, he created and defined an absolutely new technique in high jump. Today, everyone follows his method naming it the Fosbury Flop. I learnt that by continuing to possess the above two traits, none of the rejections and insults he faced mattered to him. So why fear about the existing rules if we can even create one that people would someday follow?
High confidence and self-esteem are characteristics that are significant and applicable at almost any time in our lives. I am happy to realise that such essential life skills are being reinforced in my mind through CT lessons. However, I will also ensure that these skills are not simply applied to be an explorer of ideas. Beyond brainstorming ideas, I believe it is important to judge the best idea and drive our focus towards championing it. As a result, out of the four roles stated by Roger Van Oech, I want to mould my capabilities and confidence towards being more of a Judge and a Warrior.
The rise of Google and social media have made information easily accessible and knowledge has become a ‘must have feature’ as defined by the Kano analysis. This is something my dad has constantly mentioned to me. In his time, information had to be obtained by travelling to places and reading pages and pages of books. I realised, why in the current era, writing an excellent report with all the relevant information may not be enough to gain good grades. It is how we present and organise our ideas that make us stand out.
Hence, my third significant lesson is the importance of creative thinking in today’s world. Today, everyone has a degree under their belt, but what makes an individual unique and attractive to the market is his/her creativity. Beyond just purely providing data, I need to be innovative and use information in a way that would add value to the company. This is where I intend to apply my roles as a Judge and a Warrior: selecting the relevant idea and implementing it with my maximum potential to add value to the company.
My favourite recall from CT lesson is my professor’s classic example of his lunch talk with the CEO of 35 years’ experience in the Oil & Gas industry and how he tackled the million-dollar question of what value he will be able to add with his limited experience in a different field. This simple example showed me the power of asking insightful questioning and challenging assumptions.
So the next time I step into an interview or chat with high-ranked officials, I will know how to tackle difficult questions.
My fourth and final lesson is that creativity is not just about creating something different, but also about our attitude in life: how we perceive and respond to different things and people. As a result, after attending three CT lessons, I decided to challenge myself and unearth my creative potential by the end of the course. It takes a personality to be creative: confident, with an ability to accept and overcome failure, rejection, insult and embarrassment. My aim is to groom myself into one.