By Mark Davison
The Science of Creative Arts
On Friday we had an all-day master class from the charismatic, and to be honest (sorry Mark) a little bit kooky, Maverick Mark Palmer. That he managed to keep us all engaged for six hours is a herculean feat in itself, but the techniques and ideas in his lecture were also both fascinating and enlightening. Bravo Mark!
What Mark said, the much-shortened version at least, is something that makes a lot of sense from my experiences doing creative work prior to joining SCA. Creativity is not some mystical essence that we pull out of nowhere after staring at a blank page for 6 hours. It is a way of thinking, of doing, and of experimenting. In other words, creativity is a science. And like any science there are ways or practising it, and techniques that we can use to ask the right questions. So here are my top five techniques from Mark’s master class to get your creative juices flowing.
- Always write the problem as a question.
Questions have answers, and our brains are pre-disposed to thinking in the right way to find those answers. How do I clean the second-storey window without a ladder? How do I re-heat my left over pizza without making the bottom soggy? These are much easier to answer.
- Broaden the brief, and work out what the real question is.
If I want to improve the food on airplanes, should I focus on airplane food, or could I broaden the question to focus on feeding passengers before they are on the airplane, where my options of how I prepare the food are greater?
- Look for the SUN not for the RAIN.
When working on generating ideas try to suspend judgment, understand an idea, and nurture what is good about it, rather than reacting straight away, assuming that it isn’t possible, and insisting you are right.
- Remember what your personality preferences are, and try to look at things from a different angle.
We are all pre-disposed to see things in a certain way. Try to understand what your way at looking at things is, and come at them from another direction.
- Use the four Rs.
If in doubt, try to re-express the problem, revolve it, find other worlds that relate to it, or use random stimulus to help you generate new ideas.
These techniques don’t remove the skill from creativity. You still need to know when you have a good idea, and be willing to keep going again to look for a better one. Creativity requires patience, persistence, and a willingness to be flexible but by using some of these techniques, we can all start coming up with some wonderful and wacky ideas soon. And while we are working on those, hopefully we can do our best to help protect the orange dinosaurs and the weird sheep.