So, how many psychologists do you think it takes to light a bulb?

Answer. One. But the light bulb should really want to light up.

No, this piece isn’t some psychology lesson but something you experience in your daily lives, something you struggle with and beat yourself up. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  It’s about being ‘Creative’ almost always.

Also, please ignore the joke we started off with, it was just to get your attention. Because unfortunately that’s how human psychology works.

But I do have some serious questions for you :

Are you someone who’s able to keep your work days super structured? Are you the one with amazing turnaround time for any problems thrown at you? Are you the one who takes complex decisions faster without getting hung-up like the rest of them? Do you sometimes feel you’re a super human?  

If your answer to any of the questions above is a Yes, then this one’s for you - You need a break. Slow down. Take 3 deep breaths. And now take another 3…

Let’s start with a story because that’s how I’ll be able to get your attention back again.  And I promise to keep it short. It’s about Alexander Fleming who “discovered” Penicillin :

A day before the discovery of Penicillin, Alexander arranged for a number of dishes to see if the culture (bacteria, a biological experiment…Okay, Never mind) could grow upon them. The next day he discovered that ONLY on one of the dishes no culture had appeared or grown.

Now take a step back and realise the objective of his experiment here for a second. Objective was “to see if the culture grows on the dishes”.  And any sane mind would definitely ignore a dish which doesn’t have a culture growing on it (basically it would have been something out of the objective of the problem, something USELESS), right? Right.

BUT, Alexander was curious enough to take hold of this dish and play around with his observation which eventually led to the discovery of Penicillin. I don’t have to emphasise on the importance of the discovery here, REALLY.

Now let me bring you back to the present. Let’s focus on US. Mere mortals. Let me tell you about this revolutionary concept of A new Operating System - the new way of working. Later, you’re welcome to go back to the above story and join the dots backward. Because that’s how it works - someone really important said once.

Here’s something about creativity. Creativity doesn’t come to those who are constantly trying to get more things done quickly. In an environment like that you’re usually impatient, anxious, objective driven and stressed out. Nothing great comes out from that headspace. Creativity demands openness, time, space, time, humour, playfulness and confidence of making a mistake and being okay with it. Because when you’re in your best creative self, there’s no such thing as ”mistake”. Yes, we’ll come back to the dual usage of the word “time”. It’s not a mistake. I’m being creative here, really.

Let’s define the above two kinds of Headspace for better clarity :

  1. The one where you have a tunnel vision : Where the uncultured dish is considered irrelevant because you’re in a pursuit of completing your “defined” objective.
  2. The one where you are in a state of flow : Where you give yourself a good amount of time to stick with the problem long enough to be able to discover or create something original.

If you think tunnel vision is not important, you’re wrong. We’ll come back to it. Let’s understand how we could possibly get into a state of flow first. Because that’s where the creativity comes from. You will need the following to apply this framework :

  1. Space :  You will have to seal yourself off from any kind of daily distraction. Shut yourself out from constant phone calls, social media, emails, etc. Trust me all of it can wait until your job is done. These are just trivial day to day tasks that you like finishing off BECAUSE they are easy to do. Sit in a productive environment. Now your mind is going to start racing again but give it another few minutes to calm down. Eventually your mind will quieten down. Your space is set and ready.
  2. Time : You have to be very specific about when your session ends and your normal life starts. Restrict yourself within a block of time to start playing with your ideas and thoughts. Allow yourself enough time to settle down, play and be restrictive of the session limits.
  3. Time : It’s recommended to allocate 1 hour 30 mins per session. Please split multiple of these sessions across days/weeks. You need to build a discipline of sticking with the problem for longer, tolerate that slight discomfort when you haven’t solved the problem yet. Even beyond the sessions give your mind as long as possible to come up with something original. Ask yourself how much time do you exactly have to come back with a solution and if you just keep your mind focussed over a problem for long enough over a period of time (being cognisant of the deadlines you need to stick to), your subconscious mind will help you with a solution.
  4. Confidence : Fear of making a mistake restricts you from being playful. But you have to be playful and curious with your problem to look at it from all perspectives. Please bear this in mind - while you’re being creative nothing you’re doing is wrong. You’re experimenting or romanticising with your problem. This is where you need to show utmost Confidence in the process and you will stumble upon something original. This is also where playing with other team members creates magic where the ideas consistently go forward and backward. You end up building upon each other's ideas.
  5. Humour : This is what helps you ease into the state of flow. Humour is what makes the problem fun to help you stick around it.

But now what do we do after we have successfully come out of state of flow with a creative solution? Yes, this is where a tunnel vision helps you propel the idea forward into “execution”. It helps you to be completely focussed on reaching your set goals following the solution you came up with.

I urge you to try out this way of working once and see yourself be creative again while enjoying the process. You could take 2 days out of your week and possibly work remotely without being answerable to anyone. Every single hour of these 48hrs will be yours without any pressure of assigned deadlines. Just allow yourself to play with the problem and see the magic happen!

Hope I was able to light that bulb. ;)