How Are You Creative?

Image by H.Koppdelaney*

Hile Rutledge, a leadership consultant who heads Otto Kroeger Associates, writes in The Washington Post’s On Success blog about the different ways in which different personality types are creative. This is of great interest to me; one of Eric Liu’s and my goals in Imagination First is to get people to maximize their personal imaginative potential, and Rutledge’s theories are thought-provoking in this regard. Some people, he says, are creative by “intuition,” defined as “a process of gathering data that emphasizes imagination, possibilities, and abstraction.” These are people who naturally see things as if they could be otherwise. And when they get together, share ideas, and combine them to form new ones, “external intuition” happens. Intuition also refers to the phenomenon by which notions seem to suddenly come to us out of the blue. On the other hand, Rutledge explains, some other people are creative by “sensing,” defined as “a process of gathering information that emphasizes sensate data, specific facts, and here-and-now details.” Focusing only on what’s tangible and possible, such people solve problems by working with what they have at the moment. Sensing can also mean being able to draw on one’s storehouse of solid knowledge and memory for application in the present. In the end, Rutledge highlights the importance of knowing one one’s own creative nature—a critical step, it seems to me, if one is to try to become more imaginative, more creative. So what kind of personality do you have? What kind of imaginer or creator are you?

*There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image.

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Stop Making Sense

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Image by Dan Nevill*

Adult human beings are chronic sense-makers. Surrounded by dizzying ideas and sensations, we work to make them manageable: we classify things so that when we encounter something new, we can drop it conveniently into a folder in our mental file cabinet. When we’re working on a project, we focus on that exclusively and block out all “distractions.” This narrowing and organizing is necessary, of course; without it, we’d too be confused to ever get anything done. But might such confusion also be an asset?

For years I was an avid spelunker—that is, I liked to explore caves. My experiences visiting them have taught me a valuable lesson about imagination. Let me explain. When you enter a cave, you turn off your everyday sensory expectations; you step into a dark, mysterious world different from the one to which you’re accustomed. But as you spend six, eight, ten hours underground, you adapt to your environment and acquire an alternate way of seeing. When you finally emerge, however, the real shock comes: after hours of blackness, the colorful aboveground world is more vivid than ever. It stimulates your visual receptors. But in that moment you’re too overwhelmed for your usual organizational mechanisms to kick in. Instead of defined objects, you see floating blurs of color and texture. This may be disorienting, but it’s also liberating and, literally, eye-opening! Continue reading