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  • Doug Belshaw 7:30 pm on February 28, 2020 Permalink
    Tags: creativity, novelty,   


    Sometimes when I wake up my mind is alert and active. I just want to get on with the day and get through everything on my to-do list. Other days, my mind is easily distracted. For example, yesterday morning, I spent what felt about ten minutes looking at the ripples projected on the ceiling from the light of our fish tank.

    It’s on days like these that I feel like sacking everything off and going for a long walk. In fact, that’s exactly what I did last month and, as a result, discovered a dismantled railway less than five miles away from our house. The real problem, it would seem, is that that anything that looks or feels repetitive is absolute anathema to me. I also can’t stand to be constrained, either by other people’s requirements, or by the straightjacket of self-imposed routines.

    Novelty is what I seem to be programmed to be on the lookout for. It’s certainly something I cherish. I’m not sure that I’m so different to everyone else in that regard, although I do sometimes wonder how people manage to stay in the same job for five years, or even a decade, at a time.

    The thing I seem to be good at is actually a side product of this magpie-like search for novelty. It’s an increased tolerance for ambiguity; an ability to swim around in ideas and concepts not fully formed, sometimes with others, sometimes by myself. I suppose I just don’t like jumping to conclusions.

    So on days like yesterday, when my mind seems to be particularly fond of pausing, looking around, and wondering, I’ve learned to just let it. Depending on how far down any particular rabbithole I’ve gone by breakfast time tells me whether it’s worth doing any productive work.

    As it happened, my routines carried me through yesterday. Do this, and then that, in this order. “Ninety percent of success”, someone once told me, “is showing up”. And therein lies the rub for people who don’t see themselves as cogs in a machine.

  • Doug Belshaw 8:34 am on July 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: creativity, sport, swimming   

    On creativity-rich endeavours 

    Like most people, I’ve experienced both huge success and abject failure in life. It’s part of the human condition.

    The biggest success I’ve experienced in my life from a purely subjective point of view came as an eleven year-old. My success as a swimmer, and in particular at butterfly, made me feel superhuman.

    If you’ll let me boast a little about something I did fully twenty-six years ago, I was unbeaten for over a season, won every trophy available to me, and felt like some sort of swimming god. Every time I went up to compete I knew I was going to win. That feeling is incredible.

    But, in a move that will be understandable to those familiar with the work of Carol Dweck, swimming is not the kind of sport that lends itself to a growth mindset. So when I was twelve, I quit. Going to six training sessions per week, having blood taken from my ear(!) to work out my ‘threshold levels’ and moving up to compete against physically much stronger fourteen year-olds was too much.

    Today, I’m at a swimming gala with my son. He trains three to four times per week, in amongst a whole host of other activities. So I’m not interested in comparing my success with his. Instead, I want to reflect on the kind of thing that swimming is.

    Despite what a coach might say, swimming is mostly an individual pursuit. With the exception of relay events, you’re focusing on beating your best time and the people you’re up against. That’s it. There’s no style, creativity, or flair to it.

    You can, of course, bring your personality into anything. So, it’s great watching Usain Bolt doing the 100m and looking like he’s jogging. But that’s only because he wins. Nobody cares if you’ve got an outsize ego when you lose.

    Other sports aren’t like that. Take football, for example. England were knocked out of the World Cup at the semi-final stage yet have inspired many column inches with journalists waxing lyrical about their style of play. That’s important, I think. Football isn’t a game where all that matter is winning.

    So why does any of this matter? Well, I want my children to realise that life is only about competing and winning when you want it to be. Most of the time, it’s about self-expression, teamwork, and trying your best. My favourite pursuits are those where I don’t have to conform to someone else’s idea of success, but instead get to choose my own goalposts, so to speak.

    We set up these elaborate rituals to pit human beings against one another to see who comes out victorious. That’s great, and there’s certainly a place for that. But let’s not try and reduce everything to narrowly-defined, ultra-competitive pursuits. Let’s enjoy the stories, the creativity, and self-actualisation that comes from deciding what’s important to you and achieving that.

  • Doug Belshaw 2:57 pm on August 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: creativity, , ,   

    Knowledge work is creative work we do in interaction.

    Esko Kilpi
  • Doug Belshaw 2:51 pm on August 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: creativity, , , ,   

    Creative individuals need both independence and interdependence to do their best work. A creative organization thrives on the tension that arises from widely different but complementary abilities and views working with one another in enriching interaction.

    Esko Kilpi
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