Creativity: Why the Best Ideas come from Improbable Connections

Creativity and Craft

I think I can best be described as a dabbler.  A tinkerer.  A hobbyist.  I’ll try almost anything once.  For example: handcrafts.  I can sew, knit, embroider, crochet, quilt – I even learned how to make bobbin lace.Bobbin Lace Making  And while I love the idea of being creative, my enjoyment of these skills has always required a practical output – I knitted socks for everyone on my immediate family – and then moved on to something else.

Its also fair to say that it is relatively rare for these crafts to be ‘off piste’.  There’s always a pattern to follow, a map to read, an end-point in mind.

Even when I have embarked on truly original craft-related expeditions, I have created a plan in advance (and surprised myself by being cross when I made a ‘mistake’).  This seems to be borderline creativity to me… dabbling in creativity as it were.

Creativity and Hobbies

I love the idea of having a hobby.  One of my dreams is to have a wood-workshop of my own, with beautiful wood working tools carefully arranged on peg boards, and the smell of sawn lumber hanging in the air.  Woodworking ToolsBut again, this is a hobby with an incredibly practical purpose in mind.  And I’m not sure that I’d look to build things without a clear plan in mind first.  I guess this is creativity – but there’d be the same joy in following a pattern, I think.

I learnt to play quite a few musical instruments over the years, and even have a bit of talent, but I seldom strayed far from the sheet music.  I am no jazz pianist!

My pre-schooler is a big lego fan – and so am I, it turns out.  And the greatest satisfaction I get is from accurately (and quickly) building the exact construction that is set out in the plans.  If I had to be a character from “The Lego Movie” I’d be Lord Business – with a bright red tie and a team of micromanagers, swooping in at the end of every day to make sure that the policeman isn’t driving the Lego City train, and the Lego City Tow-truck isn’t parked inside the Fire Station!  Lord Business

I’m also an avid fan of constructing flat-pack furniture… go figure!

Is this creativity?  It seems more like conformity to me.  I’m beginning to feel like a bit of a prude!

Creativity and Concepts

The same personality trait/s (whatever it is) that means that I tinker and dabble, also means that a enjoy dipping my toe in to different academic disciplines as well.  I’ve studied architecture, psychology, management, strategic studies, philosophy, economics, law, english, criminology, religion – even gaining qualifications in a few of these.

And the same skill set that enables me to be very good at following the rules (the pattern, the map, the instructions) also enables me to be very good at seeing potential patterns between entirely different and otherwise unrelated concepts.

Am I creative?  Absolutely!  My brain sees connections between disparate ideas – which enables new metaphors to be generated that enhance understanding, that enable concepts to be communicated in new and engaging ways, and most importantly, unlocking creative new opportunities for research and innovation.

Some of the most fruitful, useful and creative metaphors I have created between disciplines include:

  • Comparing architecture to strategy
  • Comparing a payroll system (software) to an archive
  • Comparing managing employees to teaching children
  • Comparing leadership to gardening – (actually I can’t take credit for this one, that belongs to General Stanley McChrystal)
  • Comparing nations to people (in terms of personality traits)

These metaphors enable us to exploit areas of deep knowledge to explore areas of lesser awareness.  They make the inconceivable navigable.  And they make the insurmountable achievable.

What are some of the most useful trans-disciplinary metaphors or connections that you’ve found?

How has it transformed your practice and understanding?

2 thoughts on “Creativity: Why the Best Ideas come from Improbable Connections”

  1. Rebecca it’s so great to learn about other sides to you I didn’t previously know about. And I’m with you on the flat pack furniture thing–why do so many people fear it?!


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