How Shall We Explore?

If I could tell you what it meant, there would be no point in dancing it - Isadora Duncan

Problems cannot be solved until they are first explored. How shall we explore?

Recounting the lessons he's learned from "healthy" design processes - "process, not product," "open v. closed," wait to make decisions until you have to - designer Jared Sinclair expands on each using an illustration.

He uses a video of a John Cleese lecture to describe what he means by "open v. closed."

Creativity is a way of operating, a habit of the mind — not a talent. When you grasp this fact, it becomes painfully clear that the way we organize our time and our interactions with colleagues often undermines the very creativity we’re supposedly chasing after.

Creative sessions should be kept formally separate from the hurried mundanity of getting things done. When we need to solve a problem that requires creativity, we should deliberately shut out all of that noise and stress. For a clearly-defined interval of time — Cleese suggests an hour and a half — we enter a state of humorous, open-ended play. Within this cocoon of play, we strive to think of as many ways to view a problem as we can muster.

The point is not to solve the problem (though that will eventually happen), but merely to explore it. The urge to find a decision and pass judgement will destroy the fragile creative process. Instead, postpone judgement until the allotted time for creative work has lapsed. Only then should you return to a 'closed' mode, in which you are judging and implementing the plans that your creativity has inspired. Repeat the cycle of open and closed modes with regularity.

I appreciated the oh-so current reference to getting things done, the last unexamined virtue of contemporary life. As an introvert - an INTP to be precise - who needs time and space to process what can often feel like overwhelming external stimulation, I've always wondered how anything creative ever happens between the blitz of phone calls, meetings and "quick" emails that consume so much of our days. Cleese's clearly articulated call for regular periods of play - or reading - or daydreaming - or a walk in the woods - is one I can relate to, as is the thought that creativity is not a talent, just room to breathe.

Insights aren't merely the accumulation of facts, but connecting the facts in novel ways. The process, aside from requiring time, isn't one of finding solutions, but of patience and of living in the question. On this, Cleese is emphatic. "We don't know where we get our ideas come from. What we do know," drawing in the next breath, "is that do not get them from our laptops."

How shall we explore?

Tonight, the skies will be clear. I think I'll take in Orion and find where comet Lovejoy's icy bouquet has gotten to.

Stay curious.


Wikipedia: Flow psychology