Einstein’s Exhortation

Not only has Albert Einstein been labeled the greatest mind of the 20th Century, there are those who regard him as the greatest person of the 20th century. It makes sense then to mind some of his mind-advice. “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” he has observed. Think about it: In this Google-drive era, everyone has access to knowledge. But a much smaller number of people are able to take knowledge and transform it into something that didn’t exist before–the basic action behind all creative pursuits.

Traits of Creative People

They tolerate confusion

Can you focus despite distractions? Can you remain stress-free even when you are juggling several task-balls? Creative people are more likely to tolerate confusion than those who claim they don’t have a creative bone in their body. There are many ways to hone your skills in this regard but one of the best involves assembling three other people–family members, friends, co-workers.

One person serves as the listener. The second person whispers non-stop for two minutes in the first person’s ear. (Heighten the challenge by having the whisperer repeat controversial news stories or Hollywood gossip or sports opinions.) The third person delivers a “speech” about a family or workplace issue. The fourth person takes notes on what the speaker had to say.

Then assemble the group and ask the listener to list what she remembered from what the speaker had to say. Compare what the speaker said/what the recorder noted to what the listener was able to recall. The more details, the better, of course. Serve as the listener in future practices and strive to increase your recall each time.

They are willing to explore.

This exercise is bound to expand your creative brain cells. Work with another person and ask him to write five “What if…?” questions. You will do the same. Next, exchange your questions and get to work, aiming for a total of ten responses to the questions in a three-minute period. (You can offer a few ideas to each question or select one question and provide ten possibilities for that question alone.) Then read the responses aloud and see how creative each of you were. (You can also can also include another two-person pair and exchange questions with them.) An example of a “What if…?” question might be “What if women ruled the world?” And, a possible answer could be, “Toilet seats would probably always be down.”

They are receptive to new ideas.

If you hope to make your familial or workplace environment more creative, assemble family or team members and brainstorm a list of 25 ways the culture could be made more creative. Then vote on which action could be implemented most easily.

They see the invisible.

Work alone or with a partner or small group. Create new uses for old things. For example, what can be done with all the leftover flowers (other than making potpourri) that are delivered to the office for Secretaries Week? Then take action on one of the ideas, either individually or collectively. Try to engage in this kind of thinking at least once a month.

They see problems as opportunities.

List the most serious problems you have had to deal with in the past ten years. Then think about the benefits that derived from facing and possibly solving those problems. Next, think about the most serious problem you are currently coping with. View that problem from the perspective of advantages that might be gained from dealing with it.

Angelou’s Advice

One of America’s most beloved authors reminds us that “you can’t use up creativity.” She adds, “The more you use, the more you have.” Make a commitment to developing the traits associated with the most creative among us. In time, you will be able to include yourself in that number.