John Cleese on Creativity

I took some notes on the video while I watched it. It isn’t word for word. Enjoy.

YouTube video of John Cleese lecture on creativity

Creativity is not a talent. It isn’t something that you either have or you don’t.
It is unrelated to IQ. Those regarded as “most creative” were not different in IQ from less creative.

Those who were creative tended to put themselves I to a particular state, mood, a way of operating. An ability to play.
Being childlike. Play for play sake.

The are two modes that families were found to operate. Closed and open.
We need to be in the open mode when we are working on a problem. Once we determine a solution we need to switch over to the closed mode to Marshall energy and get things done. Switch into open mode to review the plan.

We get stuck in one mode, especially the closed mode.

It is easier to do trivial things that are urgent than it is to do important things that are not urgent. And it is also easier to do little things we know we can do than to start on big things that we’re not sure of.

There are certain conditions that help get into the open mode.

1. Space
2. Time
3. Time
4. Confidence
5. A 22-inch waist. Or humor.

Space. Sealing yourself off. Undisturbed.

Time. A specific amount of time to start and end. This allows you to really close yourself off in your space. Create an oasis of quiet. Monkey mind happens. It takes some time for the busy mind to quiet down. Suggest an hour and a half. After an hour and a half you need a break.

Time. How to use the oasis you’ve created. The most creative people are prepared to tolerate the discomfort of a problem longer. Instead of just getting ridnp of it to make themselves feel better, they sit with a problem longer. They do not try to have an image of decisiveness and acting quickly. Give your mind as long as possible to come up with something original.

Confidence. Nothing limits as much as fear of making a mistake. The essence of playfulness is that whatever happens is okay. You’re either free to play or you’re not. You cannot be spontaneous within reason.

Humor. Gets us from closed to open mode faster than amything else. There is a difference in the meanings of serious and solemn. What is the point of solemnity? Serves pomposity.

The only other requirement is to keep the mind around the idea.

If there is one person around you who makes you feel defensive, you cannot enter into play.

Creativity is like humor. In a joke, the laughter comes when you connect two different frames of reference in a new way. These connections are significant only of they generate new meaning. You’ll then use intuition to determine if any of the connections you’ve made are any good. Many of them will be absurd (good for you!). Edward de Bono (lateral thinking) said You can loosen up your assumptions by playing with deliberately crazy connections, called “intermediate impossibles”. They are contrary to logical thinking which insists that you have to be right at each stage. It doesnt have to be right, but can be a stepping stone to a good idea.

How to keep your subordinates from being creative.
1. Allow no humor. Treat humor as subversive.
2. Keep yourself feeling irreplaceable by cutting others down to size. Only criticize.
3. Demand that people always be doing things. Accuse them of laziness. Demand urgency at all times. Use war analogies and keep up the stress.

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