The Case for Creativity

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Steve Jobs didn’t just produce another cell phone; he made the iPhone. And before that, he didn’t just give consumers another product to load their CDs onto; he gave us the iPod and iTunes. This was all after he gave us a personal computer that we could actually use, not some complicated devise. Steve Jobs had to think of these ideas before he could manufacture them. He was a creative.

Creativity allows you to brainstorm ideas. Ideas that could become a new product at your company, or a new way of selling your product. It’s what gives many entrepreneurs the vision that most of us don’t have to find a gap in the market and fill it. Anyone can be an effective employee, but it takes a creative to truly benefit a company in the long run.

A manager who cultivates her own creativity can use that to lead her employees through rough waters. A creative employee can come up with new ways of performing task X that saves time and money yet increases productivity. Creativity in the marketing department will spawn new, different ways of selling the product or service and cultivating a completely unique brand image.

But wait, don’t they teach creativity in college? Any business undergraduate will have at least one term project that involves starting a hypothetical company and developing a business plan around it. And an MBA student will have more of those types of project than he cares to remember. Aren’t those more than enough creative exercises?

Yes, we learn creativity in college that can be applied to organizations, but just like how athletes continue to train every day, so do we need to continue to train our creative brains.

Having a Creative Outlet

Everyone who has a creative outlet can rightly be called a creative. Whether it’s thinking of jokes to tell your coworkers the next day or displaying your paintings at a local art gallery; playing guitar for your kids or singing for your Instagram channel. Creative outlets are any and every deliberate task that inspires and encourages creativity.

These creative outlets are fun. They are a great way to decompress at the end of a long day of staring at spreadsheets. Switching your concentration from work to a creative task can be a very healthy ritual to add to the end of your day, as it helps you to leave your work at work and focus on your personal life. That’s why so many will go do stand-up comedy or even sing at karaoke after hours.

Not only does it help your brain, having a creative outlet with a social element will introduce you to new people that share your interests. I was surprised when I first stepped into the comedy scene in Boston to find that everyone knows each other! These comedians frequent the same handful of open mics during the weekdays and vie for the same spots on comedy shows for the weekends. Over time I began to see familiar faces getting up at open mics, telling different jokes that may or may not bomb, and improving their set for next time. I became familiar with these faces and they became familiar to me.

But having a creative outlet goes beyond making friends and giving you an extracurricular activity! Creating something—whether it be physical or not—gives you a sense of pride that is hard to achieve elsewhere. Making time in your schedule to focus on your creative endeavor will allow you to have at least that little bit of time outside of an otherwise busy schedule to yourself. Not only that but building creativity into your schedule will ensure that you’ll stick with it and follow through.

By engaging in creative activities, you will also develop a habit of mindfulness; being present in the moment and focused on the task at hand is a key element to creativity and can even help reduce stress. Just like how focusing on your breathing in meditation helps lowers stress and puts you into a state of relaxation, so too does focusing on a creative task. In addition to relieving stress, engaging in an activity you enjoy and seeing the fruits of your labor causes your brain to release the feel-good chemical dopamine, heightening the pleasure of creativity.

Most of all, creativity boosts your self-esteem. Completing a creative project that has tested your abilities as an artist rewards you with a very unique boost of self-esteem. It’s an indescribable feeling to look back at a completed project and say, “I can’t believe I did that.” It’s an affirmation that you are an artist and are capable of producing such great results. It becomes easier and easier to practice your art and push yourself past any self-doubt.

I was 17 when I co-produced my first public magic show. Finding a venue, booking the acts, promoting the show, performing in it myself; it was an enormous undertaking that had me filled with anxiety right up until the final curtain. But after the show was over, I was overcome with a wave of pride for accomplishing such a task that it gave me the boost of confidence I didn’t know I needed. Since then, I’ve produced many more shows, and each one gives me a sense of pride and confidence.

The confidence and self-esteem don’t just stay within your creative sphere; it extends to every part of your life. Otherwise difficult tasks become a little bit easier; you walk with more confidence in your step; you have less anxiety and an outlet to get out whatever anxiety you do have. This causes you to become a better employee, spouse, child, sibling, and friend. You feel meaningful that you are giving back to the world a little bit of your own creativity, whether it’s on a stage at the local open mic or on your Facebook or Instagram accounts.

There is absolutely no reason why each and every one of us shouldn’t be a creative!

Ryan Lally