Much has been written of late about 'flow' and creativity. The consensus seems to be that the less we focus on being the boring adults we are and the more we bring out our inner child, crayons and all, the better off we'll be. Personally, I don't think children are all that creative: they didn't invent the computer, the light bulb or the car, and for the most part their crayon drawings are awful.
But Chris Barez-Brown, head of training at the innovation company ?What If!, is convinced that with a bit of open-mindedness and silliness, plus some personal development exercises and wild graphics, we can all unleash the creativity within. How to Have Kick-Ass Ideas - Get curious, get adventurous, get creative is the product of Barez-Brown's personal soul-searching.
Frustrated by the ad rat-race, he threw in the towel at 27 and went on a trip spanning several continents and many personal developmental workshops.
'As we all know,' he writes, 'the beauty of being alive is that we cannot predict the future. I learnt that by all means I should make a plan, but then I must let go of it, detach and see what happens. I soon discovered that when the bus didn't show, the heavens opened and there was no room at the inn, I would often have a much more fulfilling and adventurous day than when it went like clockwork.'
Getting the kick-ass idea begins with 'Freedom' and ends with 'Impact'.
Its first ingredient is energy - and energy comes from interesting and varied stimuli, says the author. 'Creativity is a leap of faith, so jump,' he writes. For the author, this meant eventually joining ?What If!, a firm that cites 'love' and 'passion' among its values.
Creativity comes with playfulness and openness. But the first step, Freedom, is making choices and taking opportunities as they come. Part of being an adult, he reckons, is thinking tangentially - a useful skill for a lawyer, say, but of no use to someone trying to design a new toy. Creativity starts with insight, insight turns into ideas, ideas into impact and finally we have the inspiring opportunity (illustrated with a series of islands and arrows).
A lesson called Brain Basics (more graphics) explains the meaning of the subconscious and the power of intuition. Our state (happy, nervous, mad, tearful etc) will largely determine our output and outlook, so the trick is to change our state for the better.
We all need to kick-start our 'inner mojo', too - keeping light and accepting that our first attempts will probably bomb. Adding playfulness to our life, says Barez-Brown, should include building a den, painting our face like a tiger and making mud pies.
Breakthroughs can come when we change our routine - by, say, sleeping upside-down or forgoing the beloved cappuccino. A hot bath or a bout of furniture-moving can kick-start the creative process. Such exercises lead to the moment when the big idea (impact) is ready to be put to the test (failing is OK, of course). Psychological exercises to help clear the mind include asking yourself big questions such as: What if I couldn't fail? What if I only had one day to live? What if I had all the money in the world? Daydreaming is a vital part of getting there, best done on an open-top bus with a notebook to hand.
How to Have Kick-Ass Ideas is an attempt to make boring exercises one might encounter on a creativity workshop fun and to use humour and illustration to motivate. But it tries almost too hard. Most breakthroughs come when we're not trying and usually at the most inappropriate times.
The core message to take home from this book is: lighten up, make a plan, make a different plan and then lighten up again. Take out the crayons and join the kids in the playroom. You could end up with some great art on the refrigerator.
How to Have Kick-Ass Ideas
MT price £10.99
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