Be childlike, be creative – The rules of feeling free

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. 
 Pablo Picasso

How many of you have ever experienced that wondrous moment of clarity and excitement at something that you know is so brilliant it simply HAS to happen? All of you? And how many of you, for whatever reasons, have failed to get it done? All of you? Yep, thought so.

No matter what the reason, it’s human nature to become critical of the idea, the circumstances or the need. That little pessimistic voice whispering in your ear that slowly removes the energy, the joy and the excitement – we all have it, but some of us can just carry on regardless.

Release your inner child

What do they have that I don’t? It’s a direct access to the ‘inner child’. Again, we all have one in us somewhere – after all, we were all one once – and so all have the distant memory of the things that we got up to. Forget Corinthians – DON’T put away childish things!

The frustration is that we finally recognise what it truly means to be a child, and recognise the value of behaving without constraint, when we become adults! If only we knew it at the time we could consciously hold onto those things as productive behaviours.

Of course, the dichotomy is that if we had that level of self-awareness as a child, then the youthful innocence that leads to pure creativity wouldn’t even make it through puberty! Exploding away in a puff of Sherbet Dib Dab!

How do I think like a child again?

So, how do we encourage behaviours that allow our inner childlike sensibilities to take over? How do we pull together fresh ideas without fear of failure? When should we choose to seek out new paths without being too focused on how they’ll be mapped out?

Ash Thorp (genius graphic artist and art/creative director) has an amazing podcast, The Collective Podcast. For anyone that’s in a creative rut (or maybe too wrapped up in the day-to-day), listen to this great episode featuring AKQA Creative Director, Ian Wharton. He touches on ‘unpoliced thought’ (surrendering all rationality and experience in favour of an imagination) and the Six Principles of Youthful Thinking:

  1. Embrace the ridiculous
  2. Creativity is transferable
  3. Beware invisibility
  4. Curiousity and purpose
  5. Learn forever and play 
  6. Dare to fail

You can read more about these in his book, Spark for the Fire.

Thinking like a small person if you want to take big steps

Creativity is an Outlook core value. We try to bring this mindset into our brainstorm sessions, and approach them with total openness and a ‘no wrong answer’ approach. This encourages honest input and raises the likeliness of achieving wonderful abstract thought.

There are three more ideas that I’d add to Ian Wharton’s list. They can be difficult to remember and apply as you become larger (and more business-minded) as an organisation. Nonetheless, it’s important to recognise how to adopt them when needed:

  1. Be spontaneous
  2. Enjoy the process
  3. Don’t take it so seriously!

The best work comes from motivated, collaborative individuals having fun, unconstrained by the socially and politically governed adult world.

After a day particularly full of whinging from her, I found myself telling my six-year-old daughter to ‘Just grow up!’

When I see her tonight, I’m going to tell her the complete opposite!