John Cleese on harnessing the creative mind (Part 2)


After thinking about what I heard from John Cleese last week at the Yorkshire International Business Convention, I've decided to summarize three more of his concepts for creative thinking:

First, schedule your creative solution/creativity time and wall out any distractions.  He explained that creativity requires intense focus, and you likely need to schedule a few hours to harness one good creative sixty minute streak.  Each interruption, be it an email or a phone call, will cost you dearly.  In the beginning of a session, your mind will likely clutter with random thoughts.  Let them pass, and if some urgent to-do pops up, write it on a sticky note and tell your mind to relax and focus on the problem.

Second, slow down your thinking process.  Here’s an exercise he offered:  Close your eyes for sixty seconds and just contemplate your thoughts.  Go ahead, put down this magazine and do it.   Cleese points out that you likely had a variety of thoughts, but if one of them was, “let’s get on with it, I don’t have time to waste,” you are going to have a hard time being creative.  He advocates leveraging what author Guy Claxton calls “the tortoise mind.”  This is the deliberate, plodding mind that takes time to assimilate data and make associations.  Spend time creating, and don’t focus on saving time and being efficient.  

Third, delay making creative decisions.  Play around with the problem with the patience of a child trying to solve a word puzzle.  Have fun with the problem and don’t rush the creative process.  Don’t speed to a final decision and you’ll get extra data and an expanded perspective as a result.  He revealed a study in the United States of architects that found that the most creative ones all had one thing in common:  They were playful about work, and deferred on final design decisions as long as possible.  

When he came off stage after his keynote, event organizer Mike Firth told him, "Well done, John!".  

Cleese grinned at him and quipped, "Yes, I am remarkable!  I nearly fainted in the shower this morning when I realized how incredibly smart I am!"  

Reviews of John Cleese's remarks at YIBC: 

The York Press 

The Business Desk