Creativity is undeniably crucial to any generative entrepreneur endeavor. It is beyond what the traditional IQ measurement can provide in terms of assessing our cognitive capacities through data. After all, that whimsical, imaginative, and attractive talent that we intangibly witness somehow enlivens our existences with a shot of interest, meaning, and worth.
As a creative entrepreneur, I am often posed with questions and cogitations on the elusive and mystical quality of creativity. What is it that comprises creativity? If you want to know how creative work comes to life, such as how new music is composed, new books are written, or scientific theories are formulated, following that asocial, introverted, somewhat socially amoral, questioning, and self-contained peer of yours with an “artistic temperament” may not be enough. Without playing an instrument or picking up a paint brush, how can we recognize creativity in entrepreneurial business ideas and less artistically-inclined fields?
Let’s consider an actual instance of the creative process first, such as the development of a drawing. The progression would evolve from starting bare through an artist’s blank canvas, to experiencing false starts, radical changes along with minor edits, epiphanies, setbacks, downtimes, and developments that arise either suddenly or from a culmination of continued consideration.
During this process, a single or multiple “aha” moments occur, which captures the magic from a spontaneous outbreak of ideas after much brewing and materialization of thought. It is this that carries the seed of creativity. This is the moment when, after a prolonged period of feeling stuck, in order to break out of that mental barrier and push oneself to transcend past the threshold, one must “problem-find”.
The area of the brain responsible for this “problem-finding” mechanism is the Dorso-Lateral Pre-Frontal Cortex. This is the region that is very active when improvising on the piano, as well as when playing poker. In other words, this appears to be the neurological region where decisions are made when one has insufficient information to reach a rational conclusion.
Creative individuals differ from less creative people not through their ability to solve problems, but in utilizing their innate ability for seeing new problems, and expressing these new problems in a way that could then lead to a solution. It is akin to being a detective who must first commit the crime that needs to be solved.
I wonder whether we ever exercised this part of the brain in our schooling system. Instead, it occurs to me that we have been conditioned to solve problems presented to us through learned algorithms, and by memorizing dates and names. In these instances, the solution is already identified, and our assumed role as the problem-solver requires us to adopt the appropriate procedures and arrive at the solution.
On the other hand, discovering problems involves situations where the problem has not yet been formed but must be identified, and the nature of a satisfactory solution is unknown at the time. We can re-train ourselves to produce a recipe for a problem-finding process, rather than resorting to the default problem-solving responsive methodology.
This is the essence of distinguishing “creative” work from that which is not. We often underestimate that the formulation of a problem is more essential than executing the correct method for reaching its solution. To reconsider old situations and seek problems from a new perspective requires creative imagination and marks true advances in our ideas and projects. We must pose new questions and possibilities on the status quo through this process of discovering problems (before solving them), in order to produce truly creative work.
It is critical that we distinguish between problems that are either discovered by us, or presented to us. As entrepreneurs, we cannot wait for a problem to fall into our lap that we need to routinely solve. We must be out snooping for problems, sniffing out the latest problem-idea before it rises to the surface. We must be inclined to experiment with finding problem-solutions.