Graham Birkenhead, December 13 2022

Why is a Stuffed Turkey like a Garden Gnome?

Come with me on a creative ramble and  let's explore ....

One of the topics within my Strategic Thinking workshops is The Box.  Yes, the very box that everyone advises everyone else to think outside of - without explaining exactly what that means or how to go about it.

We explore the idea that the box is actually your survival map of the world as you have come to understand it - it keeps you safe.  It's also partially defined by your expertise; very clever people have BIG boxes - and they are still boxes - and you use that expertise to recognise situations or problems and come up with solutions.  This box also represents the place where a lot of your mental processes are either fully automatic or verging on that and as such uses a lot less mental energy (measured in Calories) than say deep critical thinking.   All in all, it is a comfortable place where you are good at what you do, you get rewarded for it, you feel good about what you do, and you have a certain amount of certainty about the world.  Why on earth would you want to get out of your box?

One of the things that keeps us in our box is part of that survival map thing - and the perceived need to conform, or at least not step too far from the norm.  Part of stepping beyond the box is the willingness to take a risk, rebel even if just a little, and challenge the world around you even if it’s only your own view that you are challenging. And that includes experiencing new things, or being open to new ideas. If it feels slightly mentally uncomfortable, take comfort in the thought you are stepping beyond your box.

One of the things that is often considered a sign of stepping beyond the box is creativity.   Now there's another word that seems to be a bit misunderstood.   But firstly, creativity does not equal art.   Creativity is a natural human process, and not only that, it is the raw ingredient of human progress.  And anyone, everyone can be creative.  This human ability that people like Einstein made great use of is available to us all.   Many of the ideas that Einstein built into his work were already in existence, what he was able to do, was take those various ideas, join the dots, see the patterns, and add something else.    He was also insatiably curious, always asking questions and searching for new information - once his brain had a load of information, it began patterning, seeing patterns giving him the opportunity to try adding a new ingredient - and hey presto, the theory of special relativity.

While there is no doubt that Einstein was particularly brilliant, he possessed a standard human brain.  We are all able to be creative - all we need is to give our brains new information or experience, it will automatically join the dots and connect with prior experiences, and then you just need to add a new ingredient to spice it up a little.

Try this creativity challenge over the Holidays (or at work):

Over many years, several people created a creative behemoth: someone invented bread, then someone sliced it, then someone discovered toasting it, then added butter, and finally the 'piece de resistance', a thin layer of marmite - a heavenly creation many years in the making - what could you possibly add to that? (that is a challenge)

I would really love to know what creative ideas you come up with - write and let me know in the New Year - there may be a prize in it (not a ceramic gnome - I promise).

Happy Holidays :-)


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Written by

Graham Birkenhead


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