This morning when I woke up, I was looking around my office. I realized I’m surrounded by straight lines everywhere.  The bookshelves, the tables, the walls, the windows, everything is straight lines. Occasionally there are a few controlled curves, but it’s like, ‘Woah… don’t be too ambitious, too adventurous’. Then I started looking at a close-up picture of a flower. The big difference between the two is, one is man-made and the second is nature made.

I realized for man-made, we follow a very simple rule. When we all got our first taste of geometry, we were taught the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. This lesson got edged, tattooed, embedded, carved in our minds. Mankind never forgot that one lesson. Give us two points, and we are great at drawing a straight line. But that day when the class was going on, there was a seat that was empty. The person who missed that class was nature. Somehow, nature never learned that the shortest distance between any two points is a straight line. Hence, goofy nature, takes every petal, every leaf, every cloud, anything nature does, finds different ways to connect two dots. And that is the core of creativity.

Big Aha #1: Creativity is about controlling the urge to connect dots with straight lines.

Creativity starts when we unchoose all past learning and past rules.
Creativity opens when we break the barrier of what we should do, could do, and must do.
Creativity is opening up to possibilities and asking ‘Why can’t I do this? What do I want to do?’.

Think what would happen, if you woke up and said “Today, I don’t want to wear the same-colored socks on both feet?” or when going to a restaurant saying “Hey, could I start with the dessert menu?”. There is nothing wrong with that. Who said we have to start with an appetizer or an entrée? In both cases you are opening up new possibilities in your life that will add excitement and a smile.

When I was talking to one of the top golf players, I realized that in the game of golf, creativity is very important in shot selection. Most people start from the tee box and hit a driver. He said “Arjun, I start backwards. I go back to the green and tell myself this is the part of the green I want my ball to land. Then I look back and ask where the ball will come from to end up to here. Then I look further back and ask to get there, where do I hit from?”. That’s the way he chooses his first shot, they totally flipped it, totally different. Similarly, in the world of business, why do we have to start the meeting with what the next key steps are? Why can’t we pause by saying, “Hey, where do we have to be? Let’s just all feel good about painting the picture of the destination. Who will sit where, as we hold the trophy to take the big picture?” Let’s be comfortable about the picture. Let’s pause, breathe, lock it in our minds, and then start backwards.

Big Aha #2: Creativity is more about collecting dots than just connecting them.

As I reflected on this a little more, I realized in the business world we give ourselves a lot of credit for the amazing skill of connecting the dots. The person who can connect the dots is so cool. But I would request you to pause for a second. Connecting the dots means you are limiting yourself to the dots that already exist. Why can’t we free ourselves? Why can’t we pause and before we connect the dots, let us binge in collecting as many dots as we can.

Here is an example – Normally when you are travelling to work, you have an automated routine planned. Say it takes 32 minutes. You get in the car, turn on the GPS and it navigates through traffic, and you arrive in 30 minutes, 2 minutes early, at your destination. What would happen if you ask a smart GPS “Today I’m throwing a dare at you. Instead of 32 minutes I have 62 minutes. I still need to get to my destination on time, but can you create a plan where I can stop at a local coffee shop for a cup of coffee. And then could you find a beautiful scenic place where I could sit and enjoy the cup of coffee. And then find me a flower shop where I can buy some flowers for a few members of my team to thank them for an incredible job that they do. All yours buddy, take me there.”.

What you did in this scenario, is you started collecting more dots for the GPS. The GPS has this incredible skill of connecting the dots as you go through. The path to creativity starts with a mindset to give yourselves permission to travel on a path less or never travelled. The path always existed, but getting out of the comfort zone of following the path that you take every day because you know it gets you there and going beyond opens the mind to what else you can find in the journey today. There’s a little bit of discomfort, a little bit of unease. But the moment you feel the discomfort and unease you know you’re on the path to creating something new.

So, my challenge to you is to unchoose one thing that you do every day. And if you want to be very adventurous, go to a restaurant and ask for the dessert menu first and see how much fun you have and how everyone around you freaks out. Life is about fun. Creativity is the path. But it starts with unchoose.

Creativity Secrets That Most Miss:
  1. Creativity is about controlling the urge to connect dots with straight lines.
  2. Creativity is more about collecting dots than just connecting them.


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