Archive | Try Something New

The Goldfinches’ Guide to Creativity


Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 244

Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 246

A few years ago, my sister (Hi, Casey!) gave me a very cool birthday present: A bag of cotton wool in a cotton net bag, designed to hang next to the bird feeder. Why? So goldfinches (my favorite bird) could use the cotton wool in their nest building.

It worked great, too! The goldfinches loved it, and I had a blast watching them pull out tufts nearly as large as themselves and fly away with it.

The following year I went to my neighborhood bird-feeding supply store, but I couldn’t find anything similar. Hmm. I went to the local Big Box pet supply store and trolled the Wild Bird Supplies aisle. Nothing.

“Hmm,” I thought, “now what do I do?” I picked up the cat food and cat litter that were also on the list (yes, they enjoy watching the birds, too), and on the way past the Domesticated Rodent aisle, I had an idea.

“What if I could re-purpose something made for different animals?”

I went to the Domesticated Rodent (hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, etc.) bedding section, and Aha! Tucked in between the bags of cedar shavings was… cotton wool! I picked up a bag of mixed cotton wool and grasses, feeling quite smug.

Until I realized it didn’t come with a mesh bag for hanging it next to the bird feeder, since it wasn’t intended for the birds. Hmm.

Suddenly my mind flashed on the suet feeder I had recently retired for the summer. It was made of coated wire mesh with openings the perfect size for little bird beaks. Aha! What if I re-purposed something that was intended for something else?

I went home and pulled out the suet feeder (which had been washed thoroughly before going into storage), filled it loosely with grass and cotton wool, and hung it next to the feeder. Success! The goldfinches loved it!

Well, they half-loved it. They used the cotton wool but not the grass. Oh well, that’s ok.

The following Spring, however, when I put out the grass/cotton mixture again, I had a pleasant surprise: The grasses were very popular with the titmice that came to the feeder, and a family of phoebes moved in and took advantage of it, too!

So my willingness to try something new, to re-purpose something, not only solved my problem for the goldfinches, it also solved another problem I didn’t even know I had: How to provide nesting materials for other birds as well.

*    *    *    *    *

How often in business, and in life, are you faced with a challenge that requires some creative problem-solving? Pretty often, I’ll wager. But I’ll bet you don’t think of that as being creative.

It is.

If you are willing to apply your curiosity to something and ask a positive “What if…” the answer is probably going to be a creative solution.

Creativity isn’t necessarily about painting or composing music. And it certainly isn’t about coloring inside the lines.

Yes, you are creative, too. Or you can be. Ask, “What would happen if (fill in the blank)?” Try something new.

Sometimes “the right tool for the right job” isn’t available. But you can create new possibilities.

The goldfinches – and the titmice and the phoebes – are glad I did.

Please leave a comment below!

Sign up to receive more fun, thought-provoking posts and occasional announcements in your inbox! Click Here.

Photo by: Qiang Wu, Dreamstime.com

Testing Ground


Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 244

Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 246

In Nova’s “Car of the Future,” which I watched recently on PBS, one of the technologies profiled was hydrogen fuel cell vehicles that are being tested in Iceland.

Iceland prides itself on helping to improve this technology by testing it every day. Says Jon Björn Skúlason of Icelandic New Energy, Ltd., “You go to a small society like Iceland, where a lot of things are simpler than in a big society like the US or Europe, you can actually test things out here. That’s actually how we think we can help the world (emphasis mine).”

Hmm. That made me wonder: If that’s true of a small society like Iceland, is the same thing true for small organizations? How can small organizations help the world by testing ideas, processes and technologies?

Please tell me what you think!

Creating Space for Wonder


Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 244

Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 246

Last week I wrote about how wonder both requires and creates space. (You can read it here.) I had found myself thinking, as the result of a road-trip, about how external space can trigger the process of creating internal space, but I also ended up with a bunch of questions:

  • How can I create that internal space without going on a big road trip?
  • What about people who can’t get away? Do they have to wait to light the Wonder Fire for something big like that?
  • How can we maintain that sense of wonder once we have come home and the physical and mental walls close in and the distractions begin to fill up our minds?

For me, there is one answer and it is very simple: Notice.

  • Notice the things and people around me.
  • Notice the way the light is highlighting the hills behind me – I never realized there were two layers of ridges before.
  • Notice the little bird with a bum leg.
  • Notice the laugh-lines around the eyes of a local shopkeeper.
  • Notice how the oak tree that was bare of leaves a few days ago is now covered with a haze of new green leaves.
  • Notice the paw prints that some local cat has left all over my car.

Notice.

Simple and easy are not the same

I admit that simple is not the same as easy.

When my mind is busy thinking about all of the other stuff of life, stuff like the conversation I had with my sister, the maintenance I need to do on the car, the bills I need to pay, the projects I am working on, the things I should have said… When I am living in my head with all of that swirling around, all of that distracts me and takes up the space in my head. And it can be difficult to take a step back.

Create space for wonder

But if I can consciously quiet that chatter in my mind, I can create space to notice things. I can create space for wonder.

Mental calluses and protective clothing

In fact, when my mind is cluttered with busy thoughts, it is almost as if all of that stuff moving around in my head creates calluses on my mind – just like using a certain garden spade creates calluses on my hands or wearing certain shoes creates calluses on my feet.

Calluses aren’t necessarily a bad thing – calluses protect us from pain. The calluses on my fingertips keep my fingers from hurting when I play the guitar, and when I’m not distracted by that pain I can focus on the music.

We also create artificial calluses to protect us: I wear garden gloves to protect me from blisters and cuts and bites and from dirt buried deep beneath my fingernails, and I wear shoes to protect my feet from sharp rocks, glass and hot pavement.

Calluses protect me from pain, but they also keep me from noticing the way certain fabrics feel in my hands, or from noticing the feeling of the grass beneath my feet.

Ah-hah!

There are things we can do to remove our calluses and take off our protective clothing so that we can experience what is around us. Sometimes it is as simple as deciding to do it and reminding myself, especially when I notice those busy thoughts flying around my head. (Ah-hah! – I have to notice those thoughts as the first step to quieting them and making space to notice the world around me.)

I can create space for wonder by deciding to do it.

I can create space for wonder by paying attention to the world around me.

I can create space for wonder by taking off my mental shoes and work gloves so that I can feel the grit under my feet that the cats have tracked across the room from the litter box, feel the prickly welcome mat on my front porch, feel the soil as I pat it in around this plant, feel the way this quarter is grimy and a little sticky compared to that one that is shiny and new.

Drive home using a different route.

Say hello to the check-out clerk and really look at his or her face.

Sit in a different seat on the train.

Notice.

It will create space for wonder.

Why?

Why is this important?

Because it is fun.

Because it is wonderful.

Because when I create space for wonder, new ideas show up. (And if I don’t write them down or say them out loud to someone I forget them, so I keep pads of sticky notes all over my house and a notebook in my bag.)

Greater minds than mine have been writing and talking about ideas like this, such as Mindfulness, for hundreds – even thousands – of years. But for each person an idea can be new, and each experience can be new.

Take off your mental shoes. Give yourself permission to be an emotional tenderfoot.

Notice, and create space for wonder. We can go together.

“I sha’n’t be gone long. – You come too.” –Robert Frost, “The Pasture”

*  *  *  *  *

Last Thursday I was thrilled to publish the first guest post in a series on Curiosity. The first was by Claire Tompkins, and there is another one coming this Thursday, by Susan Daffron, so stay tuned!

Meanwhile, you might be interested in visiting the blogs of Jeffrey Davis, who writes about wonder and creativity, and Mark McGuinness, who wrote a marvelous post about curiosity and creativity.

What Matters Now


Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 244

Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 246

In an essay for Seth Godin’s ebook “What Matters Now,” Dan Pink wrote, “After a decade of truly spectacular under achievement, what we need now is less management and more freedom – fewer individual automatons and more autonomous individuals.”

Hmmm. Isn’t it interesting… thanks to a national Unemployment rate of 10%, that’s exactly what we’ve gotten in the last two years, even if we didn’t choose it for ourselves. If you are part of that group, how are you using that new autonomy? Is it your friend or your enemy?

What about the portion of the country that is still employed and trying to figure out whether to hold on more tightly or let go a little bit? Creativity, innovation and problem solving don’t thrive in a white-knuckle environment. Creative solutions depend on at least some autonomy.

To be effective and autonomous requires Conscious Use of Self. How mindful are you of your needs, wants, skills, fears, and beliefs?

Are you more autonomous than you were previously? If so, how are you using that autonomy?

Would you like to be more autonomous? In what way? What do you need to do to make that happen?

How can you help the people around you to be more autonomous?

What frightens you about autonomy? Does it feel like chaos?

The seasons are changing this week. What changes can you make in this area?

Opportunities for Inspiration Are All Around Us


Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 244

Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 246

Opportunities for inspiration are all around us if we are willing to try something new.

A new show started on HGTV earlier this year, “The Antonio Treatment.” The design star is a musician and former set designer, and he looks more like a biker than an interior designer. I love this show, because it is iconoclastic.

In one of the series’ first episodes, he brings in a friend who is a cartoonist, Steven Silber, to meet with the client, who is also a cartoonist. The client makes a comment about not having the courage to distort people’s faces (an important tool of the caricature artist). Silber’s response was great. He said, “Sometimes something that may break your usual mindset is to use your opposite hand than what you’re usually using, and then you’ll do something completely different from what you’re used to doing.”

What a great reminder to just change things up a little bit to get very different results.

What a great reminder that even “creative people” need to spark their inspiration.

What a great reminder that even people who say, “Oh, I’m not creative,” can find inspiration in just doing something differently.

What can you do – or have you done – just a little differently in order to get your creative juices flowing?

Suspend Disbelief


Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 244

Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 246

We must suspend our disbelief in order to allow for the possibility that something new can be created.

I can’t remember where I heard or read it, but somewhere in my past someone said that the reason Theater works is because the audience is willing to suspend disbelief. Willing to forget that the people on the stage or the screen are actors, that it is a contrived situation, and accept the premise, at least for a little while, that what they are observing is somehow real.

I was reminded of this when I was writing a different essay on the importance of doing something in a new way in order to get a different result. In the process, creativity is sparked.

You know the saying, “If you always do what you’ve always done then you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” Well, it occurred to me that in order to try something new, we have to suspend our disbelief in our ability to create something. Suspend our disbelief in the possibility of a better outcome. Suspend our belief in a negative outcome if we take a risk.

Negative outcomes such as a result that looks even worse than our previous effort. Negative outcomes such as people laughing at us. Negative outcomes such as an unknown result. (“The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.”) The unknown is scary. The unknown is outside of our control. The unknown is Chaos.

(If you grew up watching “Get Smart” like I did, then you might remember that the acronym for the Bad Guys’ organization was KAOS and the acronym for the Good Guys’ organization was CONTROL. Hmmm.)

In order to try something new, we have to suspend our disbelief and believe in the possibility of an outcome other than Chaos or, even more revolutionary, believe in the possibility that Chaos is not bad. At least not as a transitional state. Can we suspend our disbelief in the possibility that the outcome of trying something new can be anything other than anarchy, failure, or ridicule?

If you believe that trying something new will not result in something good, if you do not believe that it could result in something positive, can you suspend your disbelief long enough to give it a try?

You do it every time you go to the movies, and the result is that you co-create a different reality, even if only for a short time.

Imagine the possibilities if you were able to apply that in other areas…

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes