Dispatches from the Field

What’s the Secret to Creativity?

What’s the Secret to Creativity?

I’ll let you in on a little secret… There really is no secret.

Scientists have known for years.

You may ask, “How exactly does creativity happen?” That’s the wrong question.

The right question is “Where does creativity happen?”

And the answer is…

Creativity happens at the boundaries between order and chaos.

Another way to think about it is to say that creativity happens at the fuzzy edges between the known and unknown.

We experience a world divided into three domains:

The Known (Order)
Those areas of experience and activity we are familiar and comfortable with. Those actions and thoughts we experience every day.

The Unknown (Chaos)
Those areas of experience and activity we have not tried or experienced. Those areas that elicit uncertainty and seem risky. But, they are knowable. They can be mastered.

The Unknowable
Those areas that cannot be known. These are areas that are beyond our ability to sense, measure or understand. For example, it is scientifically impossible to know what the temperature will be in your neighborhood one year from today. There are too many variables.

What is creativity?

One definition of creativity that scientists have agreed upon is the ability to create something that’s both novel as compared to what came before, and has value1.

Another common way of phrasing it is thinking outside of the box.

But what’s the box anyway?

The box is the everyday routine of your life or business. You set your alarm clock for the same time every workday, get out of bed and go to work. You sit at your desk and perform the same, or similar tasks every day according to a fixed set of procedures.

But what happens when something happens that doesn’t fit into the box?

The system breaks down. Or, at the very least, it performs poorly, resulting in unhappy customers and bosses. You’ve got chaos on your hands.

What do you do? Hide behind your set procedures and policies or, do you dip your toe into the chaos and dare to find a novel solution to the problem?

It’s risky business for sure. But it’s also an opportunity!

It’s safer to say, “Sorry I can’t help you. That goes against our policy to (fill in the blank).”

You’re not doing anything wrong, but you’re not helping the customer either.

You could, however, dare to explore the opportunities for a novel solution to the problem and potentially make a positive impact in the eyes of the customer, your boss, and by word of mouth, the world.

In other words, you could be creative!

If we want to experience a more rewarding life, both personally and financially, we can to be willing to take the risk of being creative. Willing to be the ONE who people turn to when things go off the rails. We can dare to be indispensable, or to use Seth Godin’s term, dare be the linchpin. That which holds everything together when the system is under stress.

I mentioned earlier that searching for and finding a novel solution to a problem is an opportunity.

What is the nature of that opportunity?
It is the opportunity to escape from this fact:
If I can write down everything you do in your job, I can find someone cheaper.

What is the nature of a problem?

  • It is a situation that wasn’t written down.
  • It is a situation that wasn’t planned for.
  • It is a situation that has no procedure in place to deal with it.

So, driving home the point…
If you are the ONE who can find novel and valuable solutions to difficult problems.

  • You are no longer easily replaceable.
  • You are no longer simply a cog in a machine.
  • You are no longer a commodity.
  • You are the ONE who people turn to, count on and need!

It’s important to note that creativity is not necessarily a special gift. It’s simply being willing to dare to try novel solutions to problems for which there is no solution written down.

If your business has a problem that seems to have no clear solution, get in touch and perhaps we can come up with a truly creative solution together.

And you can take all the credit! 🙂


1On the Edge of Chaos: Where Creativity Flourishes


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