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The Creativity Killer

By John Bittleston, founder of Terrific Mentors

Did you see the Tiger roaming about in your main street the other day? No? I wonder why not.

There are two possible reasons: [a] there wasn’t one [b] you weren’t looking. The first reason is the most likely but today the second is quite possible. Safety, protection, order, well-policed streets have all made alertness less important than it used to be to stay alive. You still need to be alert, however, because the tiger has been replaced by the car; it can attack you just as fiercely.

Being alert is important for more than survival. Most opportunities, paradoxically, come from what we see on the periphery not what is directly in front of us. Losing our peripheral or side vision is one of the biggest causes of a lack of creativity because


and you can’t do that if you are not seeing or perceiving.

Why is creativity so important?

A society that lacks material assets such as diamonds, coal, food must depend for its future on inventions. Call them discoveries, developments, innovations – the name doesn’t matter. It’s the quality of the invention that counts.

Creativity is also important for personal development of mind, career, body, relationships. My life has been saved twice by the fact that highly creative people were present when I suffered life-threatening accidents. We may call it quick thinking but it is creativity applied to a dangerous situation.

Life is a battle between order, good behavior, system, method and procedure on the one hand and chaos, erratic behavior and dysfunction on the other. The first group of these is the foundation of an ongoing, successful society which cannot function without them. The second is how that society develops.

In the early stages of the human race creativity was confined to learning the basics of survival – making fire, joining wheels, moulding tools, fashioning rudimentary clothes, building primitive shelters. Each of these stages required a lot of imagination on the part of a creature that was without education.

Much later, man’s discoveries became more sophisticated. Hygiene was realized as a necessity if we wanted to live longer and more healthily, so the water closet was invented – that was an excellent example of the ability to perceive relationships.

The perception here was that water could largely eliminate smell; pop the smell quickly into water and you don’t have to suffer it; dispose of the water quickly and you won’t be bothered by it again – that’s why they had already invented the drain.

Power was seen to be the way one man could do more than his unaided body allowed him to do, so the steam engine was invented, then electricity was harnessed, then hydraulics.

As man became more creative so his ability to think beyond the obvious grew. So did other things. The calculator came along and removed the need to do mental math, so people’s brains stopped working on instant approximate calculations that told them the score; instead they relied on the – sometimes dysfunctional – calculator. Ability to calculate quickly in the mind is now rare.

So the body started to deteriorate because of the lack of heavy lifting, the mind because of the lack of the need for mental math, the powers of observation because there were so few threats. Protection from pretty well everything is now regarded as a human right in the West, which is why so much of it has become degenerate.

The essential rules for creativity are:

Great stimulus – a lively challenger, quick thinking, outrageous

Positivity, even in failure; every failure must be hailed as a lesson and a spur to greater thought

Risk of offending, of being wrong, of looking absurd; those who try, get – but not always immediately

Chaos to allow thoughts to wander; creativity is the antithesis of logical analysis. It steps beyond the immediately reasonable.

Laughter, teasing, fun. Creativity is killed by boredom.

Language. Words are the primary vehicle for creativity. Double meanings, sound-alikes, play on words is at the heart of great creativity.

Here is a good example:

Back in the 1980s there was an explosion of sex education – something that had been kept quiet until then. One of the promoted lessons was that a man’s sexual organ was OK whatever the size. Size, we were told, didn’t matter. A diamond jewelers designed a series of ads predictably featuring beautiful girls looking at (you guessed it) diamonds. What should the strap line be?

They got it right: SIZE MATTERS.

Great creative thought.

John Bittleston is a mentor, author, Business CEO and founder of Terrific Mentors, a group of skilled mentors and coaches with considerable management experience who share a passion for reviving human spirits and balance sheets. Most famous for his fortnightly columns in TODAY and ‘Business Nanny’ television program on Singapore’s ChannelNews Asia, the British businessman and Singapore permanent resident has served as business mentor and career coach to almost 4,000 mentees.


This is an article contributed to Young Upstarts and published or republished here with permission. All rights of this work belong to the authors named in the article above.

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