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Are you facing a seemingly impossible challenge? Need answers to a question that’s been stumping everyone in your organization? Painted yourself into a corner and desperate to find the way out? You don’t have an information problem. Your solution lies in a jolt of creativity.

Companies turn around, teams succeed, schools achieve, families heal, and neighborhoods change when creativity is unleashed in them. Our society has long been defaulting to left-brain logic to broker change. It’s time to overthrow the tyranny of the left and also begin to engage the wonders of right-brain creative approaches. But how? How do we introduce creativity to a previously sterile void? By thinking counterintuitively.

1. Ramp-up Restrictions. I know the culture’s company line is, “We need more freedom to spur creativity.” It sounds good, but it’s just not true. Creativity ignites in narrow spaces, in confinement, through struggle against one’s environment. In sports it’s a response to pressure and hostility, and the need to get out of a tight squeeze, a jam, an impossible trap. Skilled players in football, offensive players in basketball exhibit creativity when the defense closes in on them and shuts down the lanes to the end zone or basket. Pressure spawns creativity, and pressure is just another term for building, growing restrictions. The human fetus is birthed through the painful contractions of a narrow passageway. Restriction is necessary for creation to happen. This is why many artists have to starve before they ‘make it.’ To spike creative solutions in your organization, whether it be a company, team, school, family, or neighborhood, artificially pump up the pressure by ramping up environmental restrictions for a season.

2. Cultivate Conflict. Most of us think conflict is bad and try to stamp it out as soon as it rears its head. But the earth was created in the midst of conflict, rising out of chaos to become organized. And continued conflict in the atmosphere produces the rain that maintains it. Big Bang theorists posit that creation is the explosion that takes place when two opposing, powerful forces collide. Inside the petri dish of creativity what’s really going on is a lot of chaos and conflict. Collisions, explosions, and life spurting everywhere. When God wants to birth something out of you He has to put chaos inside of you to activate it, then He has to put you in chaos to draw it out of you. The creative process is often loud and ugly and messy and sometimes bloody, but what it produces is undeniably unique, and beautiful, and transformative. Confine the strongest polar opposites you have in your organization in the same space for structured seasons and enjoy the fireworks. The clean up afterwards will be significant, but so will be the overflow of useful ideas.

3. Prioritize Pain. The US healthcare systems pumps billions of dollars annually into pain management. The entertainment industry is itself a multibillion dollar behemoth that feeds off the country’s growing need for pain avoidance and management through distraction. Human beings would much rather avoid pain that confront it, process it, and benefit from it. But pain is a pre-requisite for creativity and a co-requisite for birthing. Creating and birthing anything is painful because the passageway out of us is always much narrower than the size of the created thing inside of us. If we’re going to be creative we’re going to need pain and pressure, conflict and chaos in our lives. Creation can’t happen without them. Introduce a new perspective on pain in your organization. Reward those who show a capacity for enduring it, and help others to embrace it, even for short seasons at a time. Teach those experiencing the birth pangs of creative ideas to scream if they have to, and help them to surrender to the fact that they can’t control the delivery. The baby, the ideas, will come when they come and all one can do is recognize and endure the process. Weeping will endure for the night but joy does and will come in the morning.

4. Deliver Drama. Creation is a drama. The most creative people seem to be the most chaotic and carry with them a load of drama. It’s almost as if they provoke drama because they are most comfortable in the midst of chaos and conflict. That is the right-brainer’s plight. This is the reason why artists are always chosen by their art, they never choose it. Who in their right mind would choose a life of chaos and conflict and dramatic tension? But these are precisely the people you need in your company, team, school, family, or neighborhood to break the creative spigot and let the ideas that bring solutions gush out.

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