Creativity Is A Way Of Operating
It was one of those moments I knew I would not forget.
When I got off the plane in Cairo in summer 2011, the Arab Uprising was in full swing. I had taken an assignment to support Egypt's transition to democracy (yes, I know). The streets and the temperature were heating up, and an incredible demonstration of people's power was unfolding in front of my eyes.
Well, not quite in front of my eyes. Truth be told, I spent most of my time in an air-conditioned office, staring at a computer screen featuring an overflowing inbox. I had tried to ignore many urgent requests from headquarters, but now the change in tone seemed to suggest that we were about to become much less friendly with each other. They needed me to fill in an outcome matrix on gender equality, and it really couldn't wait.
And then, in a mindless click-on-anything-on-the-web-that-sounds-more-interesting moment, I came across this article. In it, John Cleese suggests that creativity is a way of operating, not a talent. According to him, there are five factors you need if you want to live a creative life: space, time, time, confidence, and humor.
Clearly, I didn't have any of those.
I was unable to escape the irony of my situation. Here I was, in Cairo, in the midst of the most creative upheaval I had ever experienced in my entire life. And I was a world apart from anything that even remotely resembled a creative way of operating. To add insult to injury, Mr Cleese seemed to suggest that my misery was of my own making. I had chosen the wrong way of operating.
On that memorable summer day in Cairo in 2011, I decided to ask myself the same question every morning.
What am I capable of, if I live with the creative confidence of an artist, just for today?
As it turns out, this is not a question that leads to an easy life (I had expected so much).
What sounded like a powerful promise at the time meant getting used to a life with lots of uncertainty and doubt. Over the years, I had to learn an entirely new way of operating (alas, it is not always creative, but it gives me satisfaction to know that at least it is chosen with intent). I had to figure out how to start my own thing from scratch - and make a living with it. It quickly dawned on me that no certificate would ever qualify me for the tasks ahead. There was no boss to oppose, and no government policy to work myself up against. There were no user guides and no templates, either. It turns out that I had embarked on the process of no excuses, working with nothing but an idea in an empty space - and it also turned out to be the most enriching journey of my professional life.
So, what am I capable of, if I live with the creative confidence of an artist, just for today?
Well, not today but on Monday I will open my Coworking Space in Bern. At THE LOOP, we work on our professional projects with the creative confidence of artists. Our raw materials are our ideas and our ambition to make them real. We are not artists and we don't necessarily see ourselves as creative talents. We just cultivate habits that foster original thought and unconventional action. We maximize space, time, time, confidence and humor.
To inaugurate THE LOOP, I invited a group of students from the KaosPilot school in Bern. For 21 days, from 8 to 28 of January, I take them on a guided tour of some of the most difficult questions they will wrestle with when they decide to start their own thing from scratch. Some of the questions I will cover are:
- How to use frustration as a force of innovation
- How to work from nothing
- How to develop personal habits that foster creativity and innovation
- Where original ideas come from and how you might get more of them
- What to do when you are stuck and procrastinate on the way
- What to do when fear strikes and how to navigate times of trouble
- How to take meaningful steps with purpose and integrity
- How to design effective change strategies in chaotic settings
- How to work with societal impact in mind - all the way through.
We are going to learn in real time, and I will be posting regular updates on my blog.
By the way, the opening day at THE LOOP is Saturday, 24 February 2018 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Please save the date!