You've felt it before - that spark of an idea giving way to doubt, delays, and endless obstacles.
For all the talk you hear and read about ‘flow state’, the reality is that creative energy gets blocked far more often than not. The place to begin looking for obstacles is not 'out there' but 'in here.'
Humans have evolved to have the largest prefrontal cortex of any mammal on earth While this is beneficial for thinking, pattern recognition, language, and more, this need for logic often locks up our natural imagination.
Try This Experiment
If you want to try a fun experiment with flow, play the “opposite game” by giving someone a word and asking for the opposite. This will trigger the prefrontal cortex immediately to find the logical trained pattern and answer.
There’s only one problem: not every word has an opposite. In fact, you could argue that since we invented the word “opposite,” there isn’t even such thing as the opposite to anything.
Your conversation might go something like this:
What is the opposite of up? Down.
What is the opposite of black? White.
What is the opposite of red?
Most people will say green because red and green are so closely associated with each other at Christmas and are primary and complementary on the color wheel. They might also say blue because of “RGB” color association.
However, there is no true opposite of red. We took a visible light spectrum and named that range of light red. Nature has infrared that we can’t see but other insects and animals can see it. They say the opposite of red is another version of red.
Our ability to get into a flow state is limited by the pattern recognition (“I know the right answer”) part of our brain in our prefrontal cortex. We are not comfortable getting into a flow state until the “how-to” part of our brain is satisfied or silenced.
Knowing this, how do artists get past creative roadblocks and back into a state of flow?
I asked my wife, a creative director, how she handles this. She blurted out, “Deadlines!”
As I think about my own experience, templates, guides, and other constraining tools can spark ideas great ideas the first few times they are used, but soon the template that brought you inspiration will hold back new forms of creativity.
I love the feeling when I’m truly in a state of flow in a customer meeting. It’s remarkable. The trust, confidence, and credibility that shows through on both sides is not only exhilarating.
It always leads to a better and longer-term relationship with the customer. Often there is time for small personal detours that don’t derail but rather add to the cross-connection we have established.
It’s Time to Rise
If there’s one word that describes how most people feel right now, it’s unsettled. We’re at the beginning of a contentious political cycle, the economy has had its share of ups and downs the last few years, and there seems to be a general feeling of anxiety of unrest across the U.S. and most of the world.
In times like these, we seek emotional refuge where we can. This means we don’t take as many risks and we keep things as predictable as possible.
I’d argue, however, that right now is the exact time we should be taking risks. It probably sounds counterintuitive, but in times of change and upheaval, we need innovation and creative thinking more than ever.
This is why we need a business culture that doesn’t run from innovation. I get it. Everyone wants to protect their assets.
But where are the bold leaders who will stand up and be champions for raising the standard of innovation?
Where are the Business Artists who won’t back down from a challenge and are ready to use the current upheaval in culture to create new solutions to old problems?
It won’t happen by accident. It will only happen when we let our creative thinking flow unblocked. Ready to rise to the occasion?