Creativity does not start with a solution. It starts with a problem. Creativity is not a search for something someone else thought of - it's not a guessing game. Do all these brain-teasers we come across really have something to do with creativity?
I have a confession: I hate brain-teasers that claim to challenge my creativity. I hate these riddles that ask me to step out of the box and be creative to solve them. I never liked them. In fact, I can't remember a single one I managed to solve. What I do remember is the feeling I always have when someone grins as if they knows a secret I don't and challenges me to put my "out of the box" thinking to the test. And guess what, it's not a good feeling. It's not a good feeling to be challenged like that out of the blue, and it feels even worse to fail the challenge. And did I mention already I always do?
So, maybe the following is just an excuse, or just me trying to justify to myself why I never manage to get the right answer to these brain-teasers.
Then again, maybe it's not...
Give Me a Solution, and I'll Come Up With a Problem
There are many types and flavors of brain teasers. Most of them have one important thing in common: they were created from the solution. You start with a trick (the solution) and build a story (the problem) around it. The best riddles are designed to throw you off track either by adding many irrelevant details or by another kind of diversion, so the connection between the solution and the problem will be as loose as possible.
Fair enough. I'm not complaining. But the point is that while this might sound like the essence of riddles by definition, it has nothing to do with the essence of creativity.
Creativity does not start with a solution. It starts with a problem. Creativity is not a search for something someone else thought of - it's not a guessing game. Creativity is a search that does not have a predefined result. In most cases, creativity is expecting the unexpected.
So, the question is: how can we tease our brain to practice and improve our creativity? Well, if close-ended riddles that were created from a solution are not the answer, we might as well look at open-ended triggers for creativity.
The Power of Open Ended Triggers
Real-Life Creative Process
In real life, none of the areas you have to (or want to) be creative in has a predefined solution. If it had, you would just google it. And that is the beauty of it, as well as what makes it challenging.
Within this insight lies the first strength of open-ended triggers: they are closer in nature to the way we aim to apply creativity in real life.
Real-life creative challenges start with a problem with no predefined solution. They require us to look around us, to look within us, to collect information, and to come up with our own unique ideas. They require us to use our imagination. And imagination does not work in finding-the-right-answer mode.
Consider this Seed from seempli:
If you've read my previous articles you already know that the Seeds in seempli don't aim for "the right answer." There is no such thing. When you are playing with seempli, anything goes. You look around you, you observe and imagine until you find an Insight inspired by the Seed. But although this is the essence of the game, I keep finding myself amazed by the Insights people capture. And that's an incredible feeling. It's an inspiring celebration of creativity.
Insight by Tom Harris
Inspiring Ongoing Creativity
What happens when you see the answer to a close-ended challenge? Well, if you've got the right answer you probably feel satisfied. If you haven't, you might feel frustrated. But in any case, you don't have any motivation to retry it. Why should you? You already know the answer! And if you saw the answer to such a challenge before you even tried to solve it, well, that's the end of it.
Open-ended triggers have the opposite effect. The more "solutions" you see, the more motivated you are to come up with a new original one. It doesn't matter if you have done the challenge personally, or if you just saw what others came up with. You will enjoy redoing it because every time you face the challenge, you take a different path or a different angle and come up with new and surprising insights.
Collaborative, Not Competitive
Which brings us to the next advantage of opened-ended games for developing creativity: they are not competitive in nature.
When you face a close-ended question, with a definitive solution, you are by definition in a competitive mode. If someone else gets the answer first, you lose. If it takes you too long, you are not the best. Collaboration is out of the question (unless you are encouraged to win as a team, of course).
Open-ended triggers, on the other hand, are not about being the first or earning a better score. It's fun to see what creative results others come up with, and it doesn't take anything from your achievement. This, in turn, promotes discussion, exchanging ideas, and collaboration.
Take for example the Team Chain Reaction Prism. Its essence is to help teams practice collaborative creativity by taking each Insight and turning it to the Seed for the next link in the chain. It's anything but competitive, and it can be practiced for one hour or one month, and with each link in the chain, the results are getting more surprising.
Open Your Mind
If we would like to be more creative, imaginative, and innovative, we need to practice. Just like you can't get in shape just by talking about it. You need to do something about it - actively.
We all know the phrase "open your mind." Well, I believe opening our mind calls for open-ended games. Close-ended riddles are just not the right tool for practicing creativity in its deepest and broadest meaning.
The beauty in open-ended challenges is that they can be repeated, they simulate real-life creativity, and they are perfect for collaborative creativity. They promote discussion and joint insights as opposed to competition.
But above all, when you open your mind you should know: anything can happen. And some of it will!
Lidor’s visual artworks, which are focused on the things hundreds and thousands of people pass by in the street every day, led him to create seempli to inspire people to practice creative observation on a daily basis.
Using seempli Lidor works with people, teams, and organizations seeking to develop and enhance their creativity.