There are 48 ways to transform creativity. Here’s the 7th. Go outside.

Going outside is a transition, a transformation.  And readily available when anyone is stuck for ideas. Going outside can be the start of a new adventure.

There are, of course, more than one way to go outside: you can go through a door, step outside of your social or work bubble, dive into the natural world, exit your comfort zone, experience a liminal space. 

The exemplary of going through a doorway in many UK childhoods is when Dr Who steps outside the Tardis and a new adventure begins accompanied of course by the  Vwoorp Vwoorp sound of the Dr Who Tardis landing.  The sound triggers excitement of knowing that a new adventure is beginning each time the Doctor steps outside the Tardis.  (Always a bit disappointing if they just ended up in modern day Britain, even if the daleks were attacking. Such a letdown and inexplicable until you understand the production budget had run out.)

Going through a doorway can signify the start of a new way of looking at things for us all.  Inside is control and organisation.  Outside there may be chaos, randomness.  Inside is known, outside is unknown.

In the workplace we all need to step outside the office bubble.  All great advertising strategists are curious about other people’s lives.  The ad agency bubble cliché where creatives are accused of producing work for other people like themselves, for an audience of Soho House members, exists for a reason.  Often a list of awards will showcase work that pleases peers more than it excites the public.  But great work transcends this to speak to the consumers’ lives and understand what they genuinely care about.

You can’t plan for that in a capital city bubble.  You have to dive into the lives of the prospective audience, get outside of the office, and go where they hang out, where they live, and immerse yourself in what they care about.  A rundown highstreet will tell you more about buyers of many products than going to an office everyday.  The “Back to the office” evangelists need to take note that time spent in a café in a suburb might be more insightful and inspirational than filling in post it notes with Sharpies.  Yes, teams need to cluster, but not necessarily in WC1 or EC2.  Go outside of your normal office space.

Get outside into some nature. Research studies have proved the impact of green spaces on mental health.  If you can take your challenges or problems that need solving with creativity outside and sit with them there then you should find the outside helps your thinking to flow.

Go outside your comfort zone.  This doesn’t have to be extreme, it doesn’t have to be stressful.  It is necessary for growth.  Psychologists have a term for healthy development and growth.   Vygotsky’s concept of the “Zone of Proximal Development” posits that human potential is theoretically limitless; but the practical limits of human potential depend upon quality social interactions and residential environment. This ZPD is “the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance (for children) or in collaboration with more capable peers”. In other words, its not about being brave, you don’t need to sky dive.  But do reach out to colleagues and mentors for help in stretching into the mildly uncomfortable zone.  Go beyond your immediate capabilities.  The rewards are immense.

My recent experience in entering (and winning) a worldwide creative competition is one example of this.  You will know your own boundaries, for some, its challenging their conservatism, for others its changing jobs, partners or learning a new skill, hobby or making new friends.   

Go outside the space you are in.  The very act of going through a doorway or a portal, being in a liminal space, is renowned in story telling as magical.  It’s a transitional moment, the gateway from one state to another.  Richard Rohr, an American Franciscan monk and writer describes this space as “where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown.  There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence.  There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence.  That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin.”

Liminal spaces can be uncomfortable.  But many people believe that you cannot begin afresh until you have separated from the old, in jobs, in relationships and in self care.  In the nothingness of liminal space you can recreate a new version of yourself.  Surely one of the greatest acts of creativity of all.

Comments are closed.