Think back to your birthday morning as a child…
That rush of anticipation as you leap out of bed and run towards the living room, your brain cycling through all the possibilities of what your Mom and Dad may have brought you. And as you turn the corner and catch your first glimpse of the presents in all their glory, what’s the first thing you do?
You take inventory: how big are the boxes and which ones should I open first?
As far as children are concerned, the bigger the box, the better the gift inside!
Later that morning, in the middle of a wrapping paper tornado, you finally get to see what’s in the box. Maybe it’s that shiny red bike you had been hoping for. Your little brain can barely contain itself as you pull the bike out of the box and examine it in all its glory. You beg your parents to let you go for a ride and for the rest of the day, you cruise around your neighbourhood feeling like the king of the world.
But what happens the next day? Why, you spend the day playing with the giant new box! Though it’s just cardboard and glue, you cannot resist! But why? Why the box? Because the box can be anything we want it to be. A castle, a rocket ship, a fort, a kitchen.
The box is a blank canvas, and our imagination is the brush. And this imagination is not just reserved for the “creative” kids – we’re all born with it. In fact, we’re born with not one but four innovative traits that for most have been lying dormant since childhood.
But now more than ever, it’s time to bring these traits out of the cupboard. Because these are the traits that will be most valuable as we enter one of the most disruptive times in history.
We’re All Born Creative
It’s probably been at least a few decades since you last turned a box into a castle. What happened? When did a box become just a box?
For most, it was probably around the age of six. That’s when kids enter the school system, and where it’s only a matter of time before a teacher tells you that your box is not a castle…it’s just a box. No different than any other box.
We’re all born creative. We all saw the castle and the spaceship in the box. But once we begin the regimented journey towards adulthood – school to college to career – a trend emerges. People in positions of authority time and time again tell us that we’re “not creative”. That we need to “leave those ideas to the Creative Team”. And sure enough, over time we end up believing them. We end up thinking we’re not creative. That the “creative” humans work in the “creative” departments and teams.
Our ability as children to turn a box into anything we like is what’s known as Expansive thinking. As children, there were no road blocks or stop signs in our minds. Ideas flowed freely. But as we morph into adults, we’re conditioned to start thinking Reductively, as most every adult does. A box is just a box. Each question has but one right answer. Unless you’re hired as a Designer, you’re not creative.
But here’s the thing, creativity is more than the ability to draw or paint or play music. It’s the ability to think creatively and solve problems. A skill that – within the disruption of the next decade – will become one of the most highly sought in the world. And a skill that has been buried within all of us since childhood, just waiting to be woken up again.
We’re All Born with an Imagination
Have you had any crazy dreams recently? You know, the ones where David Beckham and Beyoncé show up, and you all end up on some sort of crazy adventure saving a futuristic world.
Of course you have. We all do…even if we don’t want to admit it!
Like creativity, many would like to believe that imaginations are reserved for the minds of children. But the fact is imagination is something we’re all born with, and something that stays with us for life.
How else can you explain your dreams? Your brain possesses the power to literally build a science fiction movie over the course of a few hours of sleep, each night with a new cast of characters, new locations, new plot, and new challenges. Don’t you believe this requires just a little bit of imagination?
Think about what you could do, the problems you could solve, and the ideas you could create if you put your nighttime imagination to work during the day. You’d be an unstoppable force of innovation, just by accessing a skill you’ve possessed all along!
We’re All Born Curious
What’s a child’s favourite question?
Kids love asking why. It’s because we’re all born curious. And this curiosity is what makes children so good at uncovering consumer truths. But as we progress into adulthood, we’re conditioned to take every answer at face value, even if there is much more lying underneath.
And if you learn to uncover the curiosity you were born with, you’ll be able to uncover incredible truths in this world.
Let me give you a real example from my days as Head of Innovation and Creativity at Disney Parks – one which saved us hundreds of millions of dollars! Tasked with driving increased traffic to Disneyland Paris for its 25th Anniversary, I conducted a series of interviews with park guests. During one interview, I brought out my inner curiosity to dig below the surface and get to the real consumer truth:
Why do you like coming to Disneyland?
I come for the rides.
What’s your favourite ride?
Oh, I like “It’s a Small World”
Really, why do you like that one so much?
Because of the song, of course!
What about the song do you enjoy?
I remember singing it with my mom when we visited the park when I was a kid.
Why is that memory so special to you?
Well, because now I get to share the same special experience with my own children.
Do you see where curiosity led me? If I had accepted her first answer about the rides at face value, my plan to drive park traffic likely would have involved a major new capital investment plan that cost hundreds of millions of dollars. But by leveraging my curiosity – curiosity that’s been with me since I was a little boy – I was able to ask why, why, and why again, ultimately learning that the real reason this mom enjoyed the park so much was that it allowed her to create special memories with her family, like her mom had done for her.
This interview prompted no new rides…just a small PR campaign focused on family. A campaign that drove double-digit visitor growth, and was the most profitable campaign the park had run in over 5 years! All because I was curious and asked “why?”
We’re All Born with Intuition
Have you ever been caught staring at someone?
You know, that situation where you’re gazing across the room at someone you find attractive, only to have them immediately turn around and look right back at you. How did they know? It’s like an alarm goes off telling them they’re being watched.
Well, we all have an alarm of sorts. One forged over many, many years of evolution.
Intuition is another inherent trait that we’re all born with. It’s a survival mechanism; a means of telling us something isn’t quite right, before we’re fully aware of the situation and our surroundings. For our ancestors, intuition helped them know a predator was lurking, even if they couldn’t see it. And for us, intuition guides what we call “gut” decisions.
Think about the decisions you make every day. The dress you choose to wear, the place you choose to go on holiday, the house you choose to buy. These are not entirely rational decisions. They are not reasoned in our “outer brain,” the part of the mind that’s newest (from an evolutionary standpoint), and responsible for our ability to think reasonably and logically. No, we still make many of our daily decisions using our “inner brain,” the part that’s as old as humans themselves, and that is responsible for primitive instincts and involuntary behaviour.
And this inner brain is where our intuition lives. While our rational outer brain allows us to think strategically through thoughtful review of logic and facts, our inner, intuitive brain allows us to take these facts and turn them into action. And it’s this ability we’re born with to both think and act that make humans uniquely skilled to survive and thrive in nearly every situation the planet throws at them.
Why Our 4 Core Traits Are Needed Now More Than Ever
Now that you understand that we’re all born with creativity, imagination, curiosity, and intuition, it’s vital that you understand why these four core traits are so important.
The world is changing faster than we’ve ever seen before. Even before recent global events shook the world to its core, disruption was progressing at lightning-fast speeds. Having recently shared the stage with several A.I. experts, it’s clear that artificial intelligence is no longer a gimmick or a toy. It’s a tool that will change everything we know about the way we live and work. And for many industries, it could make finding a job more difficult than ever before.
And for this reason, it’s vital that you rediscover your four core traits. Because for now, the one thing that scientists and engineers are struggling to do is make A.I. more human. Sure, it can walk and talk and think and act, but A.I.-powered robots and technology still struggle with the four core traits that make us uniquely human: creativity, imagination, curiosity, and intuition.
During these disruptive times, leaning into these inherit traits is the best way to survive. And the good news is that you don’t have to learn anything new. These traits have been with you all along, just waiting to resurface.
All you have to do is think back to the time when a box was never just a box.
Interested in more resources to improve your creativity? Check out the blogs below!
Check out my most recent Ted Talks: Here!