Your BREAK THROUGH, Vol. 1, Post 42 (reprise, originally written in Fall 2014)

On Saturday, I spent a really cool morning with local high school students and their teachers at the ArtHaus (an awesome space in the RiNo which opened their doors to these student leaders).  Our focus was on creative leadership, design, and our impact as community members. In the midst of their collective process I shared some thoughts about collaboration and critical thinking.  We were on track with “c” words for the day, so I built my talk around the following six concepts and ingredients:

play: All creativity starts with laughter, smiles, and that freedom which playfulness and fun offers our brain, our energy, and our emotional state.  Collaboration and innovation starts and ends with the same spirit of excitement and enthusiasm that can be found with kids swimming through a ball pit, speeding down a slide, or doing something they love.

be curious: Let’s stay in the childhood frame-of-mind for as long as possible.  I love watching my daughter explore her toys and the world everyday.  She looks at absolutely everything with profound wonder and intrigue, always asking the question, with big, curious eyes, “what the heck is this?” We should all be asking that question constantly as well.

connect: We often develop a bad habit of compartmentalizing our lives: this is work, this is free time, this is the artisan coffee industry, that’s a commercial I just watched, these are smart business practices. Steve Jobs said it best, “creativity is simply about connecting things.” There’s really nothing else to say beyond that. Okay, one more thing … there’s great magic in connecting free time, delicious coffee, and business.

contemplate: We have misused the light bulb as our image for the creative spark for far too long.  Yes, often times incredible ideas suddenly flip on, seemingly out of the darkness. But that’s not the time to act.  Take the time to think through the idea.  When you make connections, ask that question I’ve been making a habit of asking lately: what else?  What else is possible? What else does this idea tell me?  How else can I connect these disparate ideas?

converse: An incredible way to contemplate is to converse with others. Putting more than one mind on brainstorming solutions to a challenge or talking through a problem with another person, are an incredible ways to find the innovative answer you need.  Just sharing the problem out loud can lead to magnificent insight, helpful feedback, and even the response that we are most afraid of, ‘that just won’t work.’

carefully listen and observe: There might be some redundancy here to contemplating, conversing, curiosity and connecting, but that redundancy serves to emphasize how important observation is to our creative fire.  Awareness is everything.  Watching the world around us, truly hearing what others are saying and doing, and asking questions to further our observations, are the foundational, necessary actions needed for deep collaboration. It starts and ends not with pronouncing our ideas, but with listening to the ideas of others.