I had the great honor to interview for Thrive Global Mr. Giulio Ceppi regarding his relationship with creativity. Mr. Ceppi is the founder and CEO of Total Tool, an Italian design, communication and architecture firm with branches worldwide. As architect and designer, he explains the meaning of creativity and gives advice to master creative thinking.

Q: According to your own experience, what do you mean by being creative?

A: Well, it means being curious about the world and always look for new points of view, different from the existing ones.

In other words, it means embracing a problem setting approach rather than the wide spread problem solving one. It is a process where one should constantly come up with new and original questions that will require new as well as original solutions to be solved.

Q: Were you born creative or will you become one?

A: Creativity is an endless research for something new; it is a path, a perennial evolution in which one will never be completely satisfied. Like a loop, one will always think of ways to take his/her limits a step further.

Q: What should be avoided when creativity skills are needed to develop a project?

A: I would say, an egotism vision. Believing in yourself is great but being extremely confident might lead to become blind; being too confident about its own creative vision could lead to replicate something that already exists or creates stereotypes instead of original ideas. Nevertheless, today’s society, especially the one based on the show business, asks for stereotypes as much as current architecture, design trends and the culinary as well as music world.

As I wrote in one of my book – Epigenesi del design – I define “epigenetics” that kind of creativity that is constantly evolving and looking for something new without altering its inner part.

Q: Do negative emotions – sadness, stress etc. – influence the creativity level of an individual?

A: I believe that everyone has his/her own ways to be more creative; the feelings that generate and address the level of creativity are very different among people. Being happy and cheerful is not the only way to nurture creativity: Leopardi and Van Gogh can be taken as examples. Creativity is a phenomenon in which one should consistently find the right balance between his/her inner self and the reality.

Q: Do you think that sleeping less could negatively influence the creativity level of an individual?

A: I think that there are not conventional rules: I personally know some people that develop great ideas at nights so they sleep in the morning and those who need about 4 hours of sleep per day to be active and dynamic. I personally need to sleep several hours before coming up with good ideas. Indeed, sometimes it happens that my mind unconsciously elaborates problems that I cannot solve when I am awake. Sleep is not for sure a passive moment, but a different way to organize thoughts; Freud and Jung knew it well. Of course, one should practice this technic to see the benefits.

Q: Even if there are not magic formulas, can you give us three advice to increase the level of creativity?

A: The only magic formulas that I know are perseverance and dedication. I do not believe that the creativity is a talent or a priori gift given when we were born; creativity means to be consistently prone to explore our surroundings. As many other activities, it needs to be nurtured day-by-day. Moreover, being humble, careful listener and observer about what is happening around us are key characteristics for being more creative. Of course, these attitudes should be mixed with a good dose of ambition and genuineness to encourage us to think about tomorrow and leave behind what happened today.

Q: Among several ideas, how do you know which one is the most original and the best at the moment?

A: Waiting for the right moment can be helpful sometimes because creativity requires time and practice. I believe in the eureka moment and in the brilliant idea but then one will never be sure whether it is the right moment to share the idea or not. I personally have projects that last few days, whereas others will maybe last decades. Like some wines, ideas need their own time before being good.

Q: As CEO of Total Tool, do you consider that being a creative person is a competitive advantage while you manage the company?

A: Sometimes being creative could set up boundaries, because your point of view might not be accepted by the team. Although today is very common to talk about developing inclusive ideas, one should be very patient and generous to allow people to be part of the idea or simply to share it with the rest of the team. I believe that sometimes it is even harder to develop an idea taking into account external opinions and considerations. Nevertheless, as I previously said, I strongly believe in the constant exploration of new and different horizons; I suggest to always rise the bar and never be tied down by stereotypes and conventional rules. Indeed, during projects it is important to work away from known principles to find innovative ideas; developing something novel rather than innovative tend to lead to superficial, temporary, purely aesthetic and communicative results. Sometimes those two different concepts – innovation and novelty – are used interchangeably.

Q: As the founder of the master in Business Design at Domus Academy in Milan, which advice would you like to give students?

A: The master was born to hybridize different fields and simplify the dialogue between the design/project part and the business/management one. Essentially, there are two anthropologic and social patterns that often struggle to communicate and understand each others. In other words, I often suggest students to avoid focusing only on design related-subjects and to explore new horizons and try to figure out unexpected, dynamic and authentic links not only between subjects such as math, poetry, music but also among cultures.