Why you are less creative today, and what to do about it tomorrow.

The Torrance Test is like the IQ test, but for creativity. New research on the Torrance creativity scores by researchers at the University of William and Mary show that U.S. Torrance creativity scores have been dropping steadily since the ‘90s. (The decade not the age.)

One of the main reasons for our decrease in creativity is that we are no longer doing one of the most important things you need to do to think creatively. It is not creating Shrinky Dinks, wearing acid wash jeans, or rocking a mullet.

We no longer simply sit and think.

We don’t allow ourselves to be quiet and un-entertained. Today, we have cured ourselves of boring moments with our arsenal of digital devices, televisions, and computers. As long as you have electrical power you have something to do to fill your empty time.

But the ubiquitous digitization of our planet has a devastating effect on our creativity. It is like the burning of the South American rainforests. Or the melting of the polar ice caps. Except what we are losing isn’t trees or ice. It is our creative thinking and innovation.

So how do we solve this?

We need to be bored.

We need to stop entertaining ourselves at all times.

We need to turn our digitals off regularly.

We need to lie quietly in bed at the start and end of the day.

We need to turn our idea generators on and let them run uninterrupted for long stretches.

We need to reprogram ourselves to use these incredible digital machines as tools for creativity rather than time killers, entertainment crutches, and boredom erasers.

Creativity Tip: While you are waiting you should be creating.

Employers need to adjust expectations too. If you expect your employees to respond to emails, calls, texts and slacks quickly, you are programming them to check their digitals often. And that leads to the type of check-in habit that eliminates room to think. Instead, we should slow down our response expectations. And put a premium on regular stretches of total focus on creation, problem-solving, and strategic thinking.

Key Takeaway

The longer you spend thinking the closer you get to great ideas. Make sure you spend the time you need to get all the way there. Long, uninterrupted stretches of thinking are where the gold is. So go there. Get yours. You’ll find your quiet time pays off in many valuable ways.

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Why it’s good to explore options that sound terrible.

Yesterday I grabbed lunch at a Willy’s Mexicana Grill in Atlanta. After I ordered my go-to lunch, The Frito Burrito, I headed for the beverage area to determine how I was going to liquidate my meal.

The beverage area included a Coca-Cola Freestyle beverage mix-master. There was an iced tea section with several suitably southern options. And there was a lemonade department with both lemon-flavored (go figure) and raspberry-flavored lemonade.

I love such liquidation stations. Not just for the variety. But for the opportunity to play mixologist and create my own signature concoction.

But you know who else loves that kind of liquidation station? Little kids.

As I was prepping to Frankenstein my cup I heard a kid tell his Dad about his fun new drink concoction. His Dad wrinkled his nose and furrowed his brow at the thought of the boy’s non-intuitive flavor collision.

Then the boy said something important.

“It sounds bad. But it tastes great!”

-Experimental Beverage Boy at Willy’s

When I heard the boy’s cheery response I felt immense gratitude for humans like him. I am thankful for curious minds who want to discover new options. People brave enough to try things that sound bad, but that turn out to be amazing. Like Ben & Jerry for putting pretzels in Ice Cream. Like Willy, for putting Fritos in my burritos. And for whoever it was that first decided to try drinking the white liquid that came out of a cow. And the brave soul who thought to eat the egg-shaped thing that popped out of a chicken’s nether regions.

Key Takeaway

It is those willing to experiment that discover the great new ideas. They create new flavors, sounds, styles, designs, and processes. They create new genres and shake up industries. They disrupt categories and reveal new possibilities for growth and expansion. Thank you explorers, creatives, inventors and pioneers. And thank you to the little boy and his beverage experiment that reminded me of all this yesterday at lunch. This week I hope you try something new that sounds bad. May you be well rewarded for your curiosity.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.