Theory of Creativity

The Rut (And Other Enemies)

The actual production may seem anticlimactic after a rowdy, Tyco-break-filled, banging-ideas-off-each-other brainstorming session. "The most exciting part [of product development] is that brainstorming session," says Raia. "Because after you come up with your concepts of what this thing should do, then you have to actually become practical, put it down on paper and make it work."

What inevitably follows, says Raia, is "a long, long process--the development of the piece and then figuring out the engineering end of it. We work on how this thing will actually go together, and then how to make it better for less money. It's the struggle that's involved with thinking of the practical."

"And sometimes you hit a dead end," admits Moya.

So many of us are confounded when we have nowhere else to go mentally, which is odd considering when we hit a dead end literally, we know exactly what to do. We just turn around and take another route. It works the same way with creativity. "You may be looking at something the wrong way," says Raia. "You need to take a step back, go around it and hit it from a different angle."

"There's not one way to solve a problem," says Moya. "There are many different approaches you can take. So just going back and reexamining does help when you're in a rut. Maybe there's a call for going back to brainstorming. Brainstorming is not just a onetime thing--it occurs constantly throughout the process. It's a constant reexamination of ideas."

Sometimes the solution lies down another avenue. "When you think you've proved the point or solved the problem, you may then look and see merit in other designs. So you pick and choose from other concepts you've done, and it pushes you in another direction," says Raia. "You may think you're in a rut, but you may already have [figured] the way out. It could just be hidden."

Other times, the right way is to work with what you already have in a fresh way. Consider this the "stand on your head" method to creativity. "Maybe you just need to take your drawing and turn it upside down," says Raia. "Just looking at something in a different light helps. One little thing is [sometimes] all it takes to spark [your creativity again]. It could be as simple as a coffee stain on your drawing."

"And that may be the next graphic vision," adds Moya. "You never know."

The major enemies of creativity? "Just doing the obvious," says Raia.

"Being closed-minded," agrees Moya. "If you're stuck in a rut, sometimes it's because you're just doing the same thing over and over."

So what do the Joes do in those extreme moments, when they're completely drained, dried up, not another thought in their heads?

"Nerf hoop," says Raia.

"Yeah, Nerf hoop," agrees Moya. "Seriously, it does help."

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This article was originally published in the October 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Theory of Creativity.

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