Some wise words from Richard Oliver:

Creativity is often described as a problem-solving activity. The problem with problem-solving is that it focuses on what is rather than what could be. If we want to do things differently rather than better we have to learn to search for the capabilities in any situation. Instead of identifying problems we will have to open ourselves to potentials. Instead of a world of fixed unchanging categories we will have to learn to see the world as more fluid, more open to change, and ultimately, more mysterious.

Richard also links to this post by Ian Worley, which contains this thought, among others:

at the end of the day…creativity is about our relationship with the world…and we engage the world through a the reciprocal process of making (or asserting things into the world) and seeing how the world responds (assessing) and then thinking about a way to improve or tune the response to what we want as a result. This is the essential feedback loop between thinking and making…and it is the basis for all thought and creativity…and ultimately the underpinning of craft (or quality). Without making there can be no thinking…and without thinking there can be no making.

And yet, people often stop themselves from engaging in this most essential process because they are afraid of the uncertainty of it…they do not know what to make or think about. But a painting is not thought through before it is painted…a painting is thought through AS it is painted. And it begins with a mark…any mark. The same is true with writing or music or any other type of creative activity. One cannot wait to begin only when one knows what one is doing. One has to simply start…somewhere…and respond. Each action leads to the next…and as the work progresses…it begins to define what it needs to be as much as what it is because you come to know more about what you are trying to achieve by doing it. This is not to say that you cannot begin with an idea…but rather to say that the idea of a starting point should not be confused with the ending. Begin at the beginning…but let the end unfold through the feedback of making and thinking.

4 thoughts on “Mystery

  1. Matt Moore

    I’ve taken to avoiding the phrase “problem” (for precisely the reasons you mention) and replacing it with the “challenge” (“offer” would probably be better but many people wouldn’t get it – “what is it you want to buy exactly?”).

  2. Robert Poynton

    Getting going is more important than getting it “right”. Get some flow, then you can direct it, shape it. Try to get it “right” (which is the way we normally talk and think) and you just become paralysed.

  3. Stuart Reid

    I saw an example of what Robert is referring to in a workshop I facilitated today. I asked the participants each to take one of six different post-it notes from a flip chart – rather than get up and do it (which would have taken 10 seconds), they spent some minutes discussing different strategies for making choices, in order not to make a ‘bad’ choice. When I reflected this back to them it was as if we were talking different languages – it being such a natural or normal way for them to behave, they found it hard to see they had a different choice available to them.


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