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“You don’t need to be artistic to be creative…”

event3-mediumIt’s 2:53am and that “Let It Go” song from Disney’s Frozen™ is running around my head, to accompany the sound of my youngest waking up, coughing and crying for the third time tonight. Perhaps the reason for this choice of earworm could be literal – I’m really quite cold now having got out of bed so many times – but more on that later.

Having missed so many of the great talks and workshops recently, I was excited to be attending Unleash Your Creativity, our April networking evening at Lucy Cavendish this week. Our very own Tennie Videler is used to providing training from her Vitae days so she launched in with her usual flair … and even a little ballet hop.

Tennie started off asking the room what we thought being creative was, and pounced on the suggestion that it was all about being artistic, and the counter that it was about thinking outside of the box. No, she said, artistic certainly helps but you don’t need to be artistic to be creative. She also asked us to indicate who had attended (a) because we thought we were creative, or (b) because we thought we weren’t – and then went on to say some people were “adaptive” (climbing ladders) and others were “creative” (haring up rock faces). Creative people take risks but “have a splendid time doing it”.

Ideally we could be both types of people, but the trick is to recognise which is your dominant character, then find others to work with who are the opposite of you.   We went through some exercises based on the ENTRE (ENquire, Transform, REalise) model which seems a great (oddly rigid but effective) way to zoom out/go wide with ideas, then bring you back into focus, go wide-focus, then narrow again. Three times apparently is the recommended cycle.   First we spent some time reframing Tennie’s question “How could AWiSE get more members?” which had our little group going round in circles with whats, whos, wheres, whens, whys and hows. Interestingly, while our final questions were worded differently, we were asking the same thing, eventually.

event1-smallWith the Transform stage of the exercise, we looked at the acronym SCAMPER (substitute, combine, adapt, modify, put to another use, eliminate, reverse) which is another tool to help you expand the net of ideas. We were given random objects to brainstorm ideas about. Group chat covered chihuahuas, Hansel and Gretel, the Lorax, losing our marbles, Hobbits and Tennis Zorbing – of course, amid much laughter and cake which are two of the draws of our networking events.

Tennie mentioned matrix technique for widening the net, and talked about rating all the wild ideas against selection criteria to narrow it down. She went through suggestions such as breaking your normal patterns (as this can encourage creative thinking, like going to work a different way); changing your workplace environment so that’s more stimulating; taking breaks (crystallisation) from thinking; not getting caught out without paper or pencil for when an idea strikes; decoding and analysing effective advertisements; and nurturing creativity by reading widely too.

Where will YOU be using these techniques? Or should I say, how will you be getting creative tomorrow? Or, who will you get onto your team to brainstorm the next stage of design of that residential project? Or indeed, will you paint your husband’s face in a Jackson Pollock style using exploding tennis balls or doing a mural in the hallway to kickstart your me-time again?

So why is Frozen Elsa’s omnipresent and much copied “Let It Go” running round my head on loop in the wee small hours? I think it was my subconscious at work between getting home from Lucy Cavendish, getting to bed and now. Take the meaning from the film if you like – girl power Cambridge AWiSE style, be who you are, recognise and enjoy who you are, grab your sister who is your opposite and nurture your creativity. Or quite literally… Let It Go, Unleash that Creativity within!

Azu Hatch, Cambridge AWiSE Steering Group member

(Additional resources: Vitae booklet mentioned by Tennie; slides from Kevin Byron, author of the booklet, which may be helpful)

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