Creativity – A way of operating

BY Sihan Shi

All businesses and industries must be creative to succeed, but in advertising, creativity is demanded not only from the art directors and the copywriters, but from everyone who’s a part of the team. No matter what role you play or who you report to, you must enjoy the creative process and strive to produce creative solutions.

I was sent this John Cleese keynote address from 1991 on creativity and after watching/listening to him, I wanted to immediately implement the steps and the approach to creativity he outlined to my own life. Before you scroll to the 5 easy steps to becoming a creative genius, John and I would like to start you off with the following perspectives on creativity:

  • “Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating”
    • This was uplifting to hear, what this meant to me was there’s no reason why I couldn’t be just as creative as this guy.
  • “It’s not an ability that you either have or do not have. It is unrelated to your IQ”
  • We operate in Open and Closed modes. Unfortunately for the majority of the time, we are working in our Closed modes: a little stressed, under pressure, impatient.

So to help allow our natural creativity to surface (because it’s already there), we need to help ourselves enter an Open mode where we can play with ideas, explore strange and unique possibilities and allow for a wider perspective. And here’s what John suggests:

  1. Space (“You can’t become playful, and therefore creative, if you’re under your usual pressures.”)
  2. Time (“It’s not enough to create space; you have to create your space for a specific period of time.”)
  3. Time (“Giving your mind as long as possible to come up with something original,” and learning to tolerate the discomfort of pondering time and indecision.)
  4. Confidence (“Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.”)
  5. Humor (“The main evolutionary significance of humor is that it gets us from the closed mode to the open mode quicker than anything else.”)


I like this list. It’s simple and easy to follow. It also seems chronological to me, after you’ve given yourself and your team the space and time, the confidence and humour will come.

Before you think that the Closed mode is an obstacle to your success, know that once you’ve arrived at a creative solution, you need to switch to the Closed mode to then execute the brilliant idea. That’s when you’re focused, driven and confident in what you’re about to deliver.

Thanks John.


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  • 05/07/12

    Courtney says:

    It is virtually imilbspsoe to measure creativity. There are so many scales and so many degrees and categories of creative genius that it is just not sensible to test it in a systematic way. How to test your creativity? I guess you can start by exploring what talents you already have and building on it. For example, if you're somewhat good at drawing, try to invest some time in drawing something novel and extraordinary and see how it goes. Also, try playing with legos. Try building things using those toy blocks to see how creative you can be. I can also refer you to some sites which claim to test creative intellect so message me if you're interested. It's important to remember that creativity can never truly be tested and the creative geniuses of long ago devoted substantial time to their efforts in order to be considered creative. Finally, I think you're creative already for trying to find the answer to such an unique question in a place like this. Best of luck on your journey