Unlocking Creativity: An Inherent Gift or Cultivated Skill?

As I was sitting and watching this year’s eee Boosted I was astonished at all the various teams competing with their brilliant startup ideas. Mesmerized by the creativity of those students, a subtle sense of unease or perhaps frustration crept over me. As I left the event, I couldn’t help but reflect “Why can’t I…

Veronika Ringblom Avatar

As I was sitting and watching this year’s eee Boosted I was astonished at all the various teams competing with their brilliant startup ideas. Mesmerized by the creativity of those students, a subtle sense of unease or perhaps frustration crept over me. As I left the event, I couldn’t help but reflect “Why can’t I be as creative?” So here I was disappointed in myself due to my perceived lack of creativity. In the midst of the frustration and amazement of the creativity of others, I started thinking how come it feels like some are more creative than others. The gut feeling told me creativity can’t be something innate, or at least that’s what I hoped. And hey good news! It turns out creativity is something we train to attain. Not an innate gift. 

Anthony Burrill is an internationally renowned graphic artist, print-maker and designer. In his book “Make it Now!” Burrill breaks down how to unleash your creativity. While Burrill’s expertise lies in art, his insights certainly have the potential to ignite creativity among business students like us.

1.     Change your daily routine and look at the world through fresh eyes

Burrill says “seeing new things helps to spark off new ideas”. In order to tackle or create exciting projects, you need to let your mind and body wander in the world. Through viewing and experiencing your daily routines and tasks through new perspectives, you may get new outlooks on your surroundings. A walk in a new neighborhood or change of study environment, might just be it.

2.     Document things, take photographs, collect things 

When Burrill was young, he used to collect keepsakes from his family travels. Over time he built up a collection of memories that continue to inspire his work. Burrill believes that “soaking up new influences is an important part of forming your creative DNA”.

3.     Be resourceful

Burill says that “it’s about being clever with what you have and seeing the benefits in the restrictions you have.” It may seem counterintuitive, but limiting yourself may give your creativity more room to flourish. When Burrill was young he could not afford a computer, consequently he had to explore innovative methods to create.

4.     Keep your phone at arm’s length

While social media is a great way to show off your work and likewise find inspiration, it also causes great distraction. By limiting time spent on the phone, you avoid your online activity from ruling your day while keeping concentration. This seems easier said than done, but how refreshing to be able to actively set the phone aside and have time for other valuable things?

5.     Give yourself deadlines

Deadlines may sound scary and certainly for us students they never seem to end. Yet they won’t stop as we proceed into our careers either. But as Burrill describes, deadlines are a valuable incentive to get to work and activate your creative impulses. As a deadline is approaching it concentrates your mind and you become focused on getting everything finished.

6.     Don’t linger on the past too much

You may already have created some great work in the past, which you certainly should be proud of! Those past achievements may serve as a good base to further develop those projects, however Burrill highlights the importance to face forward and keep innovating. Getting stuck in older ideas and achievements may trap you in a repetitive loop. Burrill believes that “you really need to have a process of creative renewal so that you’re not endlessly remaking the same”.

7.     Say ‘yes’ more than ‘no’

After leaving art school, Burrill’s mantra till this day is: “sometimes opportunities come along disguised as something else, you need to learn to look beyond the obvious”. With a positive mindset and openness to new things, you may discover and learn things you hadn’t before, allowing you to explore your creative mind.

8.     Build your network

“Building your creative network starts with your contemporaries, your fellow practitioners of the future. These people will form the core of your creative community, from which a rich ecosystem of creativity will develop.” Working alone can be both difficult and dull. Burrill values his creative network as a source of inspiration, as people around him and fellow artists teach him new things and push him to take risks. Being a student at LUSEM, surrounded by many other bright minds, is a wonderful place to learn from and become inspired by each other!

9.     Conformity is the enemy of creativity

Burrill describes how “unconventional people are ingenious and inventive”. As important as it is to be familiar with what’s going on around you, it is also essential to maintain your individuality. Burrill works hard at maintaining a balance, while always having in mind that “as soon as you start doing as you are told and following the rules you stop being truly creative.” We often hear “be yourself” and despite the cliché nature of the expression, it fundamentally captures a core concept on how to enhance your creativity.

10.     Optimism makes everything happen

The impact of a positive approach to a project is severely underrated. If there is passion and optimism at the core of a project, it is bound to succeed. Burrill describes that if you have the energy to make it now, and make it new, you are already on the road to being more creative. 

This brings us back to the point that creativity isn’t inherent, you have to hone it. Perhaps one must leave behind the pessimistic side of oneself and embrace, and trust one’s fantastic and occasionally odd ideas. Perhaps most importantly, to repeatedly challenge yourself. For any other fellow students, who have experienced similar frustration or feel uneasy because they can’t seem to figure out how to unleash their inner creativity, I hope some of Burrill’s insights serve as inspiration. Least to say I feel less frustrated and daunted by doubts about my creativity. As Burrill emphasizes, optimism makes everything happen.  

About Nådiga Lundtan

Founded in 1948 and has since been an important part of student life in the economics program at Lund University. Nådiga Lundtan covers a wide range of topics related to economics, society, and politics, as well as careers, entrepreneurship, and innovation. It is a platform for students to share their ideas and opinions on economics and related fields.

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