Where does creativity come from?*

“Where does creativity come from? We don’t know but we are certain that it doesn’t come from our laptops” –John Cleese

Thank you, Sir Cleese. I have enjoyed your movies, your quips, your oeuvre, and even the way you say “oeuvre.” And now, you give talks on creativity.

In my readings, I must agree, working on computers, on laptops is simple, is portable, allows us to store our thoughts in the CLOUD to avoid getting our papers lost in some stack. And yet, the non-verbal result of our tapping away at our computers, our laptops, our tablets, our phones, is an implied communication that we are in our own bubble.

Furthermore, using keyboards seems to reduce the ability for our brains to engage in encoding incoming information, with research showing that students learn better when they take notes ON PAPER as opposed to using an electronic device, maybe because SLOW handwriting forces a brain to choose the important words rather than take down words verbatim, and maybe because having an open laptop (often open to SOME other interesting website) distracts us AND OTHERS SITTING BEHIND US to losing focus and not really listening.

Finally, numerous books on creativity talk about how computers may be terrific at creating beautiful documents and flyers, but are generally terrible at restricting the free flow of ideas that is only possible with pencil, colored markers, sticky notes, lots of paper and scissors. Some advocate for having TWO desks in your office: one for creative work that has NO electronics, only paper manipulatives, and one for the computer, when the creative work is done, to put the completed work into a pretty format for printing or electronic storage and transmission.

I’ve taken to this model and try to do creative work away from my computer now. I also take notes in a small black book, not on my phone, and I’ve found this (although not searchable) a great way to better encode and remember discussions.

CMIO’s take? Keep in mind where creativity comes from
and where it doesn’t come from.

Author: CT Lin

CMIO, UCHealth (Colorado); Professor, University of Colorado School of Medicine

One thought on “Where does creativity come from?*”

  1. Love this discussion. Creativity is such a challenging concept. I’d just add one layer to this discussion. A laptop may or may not be great for creativity, but I’ve found that there’s one essential ingredient to creativity. That’s learning. I see learning as gathering as many raw materials as possible. Once you’ve loaded your brain with all of these raw materials, then you’re able to pull from those raw materials to find a creative solution. In fact, many times the most creative ideas come from our unconscious mind sorting through all these raw materials to come to a creative conclusion. Turns out that laptops are a great place for learning. You can create something much nicer if you have better raw materials. So, it’s a fun balance.

    Like

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