Inspiring and Building Creativity

Inspiring and Building Creativity

02.04.2018 | Jonathan Burroughs

At Creative Places we spend a lot of time thinking about how we might help bring creativity to a place. It can be a difficult subject to work with, so here are some of my base thoughts, for sharing.

If we are looking to build creativity we are looking to lift horizons, spark imaginations and spur original ideas in people that will ultimately help create things of value. And whilst at times it may appear difficult to facilitate, particularly in a commercial context, a variety of pro-active steps really can release a lot of energy and ultimately yield results.

The good news is that the desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. It delivers a powerful sense of achievement and well-being; doing it well is one of the most satisfying things you can do. The organisations we typically work for have a desire for it too - universities, hospitals and businesses clamour for it as well as individuals. So the good news is that we should be pushing on an open door!

On an even more positive note, creativity is infinite. The more you use it the more you will have into the future.

Why does being creative sometimes feel so difficult?

Many of us suffer a reduction in our ability to create as we progress from childhood into our adult lives. As we reduce the time we spend on creative thinking and indeed ‘creative doing’ our sense of its value and our belief in the positive contribution it can make to our lives starts to diminish. It happens almost sub-consciously, as we start to find our place in mainstream society as a maturing adolescent, and as a result we are often encouraged to perform in relatively conventional ways against not particularly creative metrics of success. In going through this transition, we inevitably get drawn into attending to a growing burden of more mundane commitments that call out for our attention, rather than dedicating time to what were once naturally occuring creative thoughts and actions.

Switching the ‘Creative’ in us back on

Interestingly, in conversations with others about personal creativity, or lack of it, I find that most of us still yearn to do something purposeful with our lives and importantly would love to involve creativity in that.

My premise is that many of us really do have a latent desire to be more creative, if only we can make the space for it and truly value it again. This is both within ourselves and the organisations we work for. We need to nurture creativity back to having a role in our lives. And, excitingly, if we do it in a way that involves interaction with other people it can be great fun and far more productive.

At Creative Places we like to think that our passion for free thinking, open exploration and creative discussion helps us and our clients think in new ways – ultimately delivering purposeful results as our work around Place Making helps release creativity and enhance productivity in new, exciting places.

Some interesting facts about creativity

Did you know that a study at Stanford in 2014 found that physical activity of walking increased creativity? This is not just walking through a different environment but the effect of walking itself. And it actually runs on when you sit down again afterwards too.

Advancing creativity is often about connecting things. Connecting the experiences we have had and synthesising new things. Connecting with others too. We can do this better the more connections we have had and the more thought we can give to those experiences. We might also connect with thoughts and creations of others.

It is also, of course, worth remembering that to be successful at anything you have to practice discipline at times. You must do something over and over to do it extremely well. Being creative is no exception.

For creative thinking the first space to create is the one inside your head. This starts with a frame of mind that can accept the amount of work it takes to realise greater creativity – whether you are at work, in your personal life, or indeed an artistic life. But space does matter. Whatever space you need, make a commitment to yourself to find it.

Working in glorious isolation is only part of the creative process, however. Sometimes it just takes time to sit with an idea, process it and allow it to flourish. At other times it takes input from elsewhere to crystallise, kick-start or develop something creatively. A creative team is greater that its separate parts, because when everyone brings something unique to the table, the possibilities are greater. Collaboration provides the opportunity to bounce ideas around, utilise the experience, expertise and skills that are around the group – and benefit from cross-fertilisation of ideas.

Getting into creative things and thinking as an individual

Creativity is an expression of yourself and the way in which you choose to live your life. You can express your creativity in all sorts of ways, from the way you dress to what you cook, to the books you read and the music you listen to. When something interests you, you can explore it further by taking a class or joining a group of enthusiasts. If we create places with a good mix of people and activities, we help nudge this agenda along!

Creativity lets you explore what can be difficult to express, our emotions for example, perhaps through art, music or creative writing. Nourishing your creativity can also help you be more creative when handling problems and finding solutions, helping you see the world in more than one way.

As Alexander Isley once said, “Get in over your head as often and as joyfully as possible”.

I like to think that energy we put into something can be there into the future. It can be released by others enjoying our work at a later date. So we should invest energy into those things we are passionate about; and truly appreciate the energy that others have put into creative things. It all makes life so much more worth living.

And finally, for a bit of fun but with a really serious note …

For those of you who might be reading this and aren’t sure we lose our creative ability during our lives if we don’t work at it – and indeed don’t believe that some career paths might drain us of it more than others - check out ‘Build a tower, build a team’ by Tom Wujec on YouTube. You can find it here: