Over the past five years, I have been increasingly hearing the word ‘innovation’ in the development sector, but I don’t think I have ever heard ‘creativity’. It seems something left to the arts sector, to the fiction writers, painters and poets.
But is creativity only for art?What do you think about when you hear the word ‘creativity’? If only painting and fine arts come to mind, that´s not particularly strange. But creativity is so much broader than that. Tom and David Kelley (of IDEO and d.school) define creativity as:
“… using your imagination to create something new in the world. Creativity comes into play whenever you have the opportunity to generate new ideas, solutions, or approaches.”
It makes sense for us to make time for creativity. It is an essential component of innovation and looking for better, more efficient, more effective ways to improve the lives of communities around the world.
The reality is that our work is hectic, demanding and intensive. It is not uncommon to spend 10+ hours a day strapped to the computer or on long trips to the field. It is difficult to keep up with all of the work we have, let alone engage with the new thinking in our sector or take time to brainstorm better ways of doing things.
But if we don´t make time to just think and float ideas about how things could be, how can we expect to be innovative in our work?
We need to prioritise time to connect with our influencers and inspirations. Connect with colleagues, with philosophers, lecturers and thought leaders. We need to consider the big questions: Where are we heading? What are we doing? Why? How can we make it better?
There’s another benefit too, when it comes to making time for creativity: it also counts as looking after ourselves. Ingesting good, challenging, new ideas helps to keep us connected to our purpose and our drive. This is essential to our well-being in this demanding work that often forces us to question ourselves and what we’re doing.
Tapping into your creativity doesn’t have to mean taking a whole afternoon off work. Just start somewhere. Read one article in the morning when you arrive at work. Listen to an interesting podcast on your commute or while you’re exercising. The bottom line is that it should not feel like work. It should be interesting and stoke your curiosity. Ask for some recommendations from a peer you trust. Google some topics that interest you. Search on Youtube. Just start somewhere because every little bit will help fuel the fires of your best work for a better world.
* The original version of this blog was submitted to the UNICEF Staff Newsletter