Monday Musing: The "icks" of creativity

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I had quite the inspirational Monday. I was a guest in the Design-Think-Build class at Kew-Forest School, in Queens, today, thanks to Lower School Head (and friend from elementary school!) Katie Rayer. This is a course for 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders; together, they learn design thinking in the form of John Spencer and A.J. Juliani’s LAUNCH process, then embark on solo or duet build projects. It was invigorating.

I’d just started reading Launch this month, and came across this quote today:

“Creative fluency takes time to master…[it’s] something that can’t be hacked. The creator simply has to persist through the phase - one messy, slow step at a time. It can be frustrating, but it is vital for growth.”

I talk about this often when facilitating a new team or client through design thinking. Often, however, the structure of our projects - one-day, intensive trainings or even longer-term design sprints - don’t provide much space for this experience of persistence through what I call the “icks” of creativity. Even the word “sprint” suggests that this work happens in a straight line, and fast. But those of us who have engaged in the process know that’s a fallacy. Creativity is hard. It’s sometimes ugly. It pushes us well past our comfort zones. And it is a skill that takes time to develop, like any other skill.

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Today, I saw elementary students exude patience with themselves as designers. One student said “You know, you can’t succeed unless you fail first.” Another told me, “I think I’m just going to see what works and go from there. I’m tinkering!” These students were prepared for the frustration of creativity, but it was more than that - they embraced it. They welcomed it. And, as a result, they understood the core tenets of creativity and design far better than many adults I work with.

So, all this leads me to wonder: How might we encourage our clients and partners to embrace the “icks” of creativity? How might we re-imagine the structures we typically provide for creativity to account for the “icks?” How might we celebrate them, even?

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