Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Setting Yourself Up For Creativity - Pt.2

Hope this beautiful Tuesday morning finds you well and full of anticipation for the next segment of John Cleese's talk that I have a transcription (in part) for you today.  He speaks for over 30 minutes so I will have installments of this until a week from today.  It is worth the read, or if you are more into watching the video you can find it here.  Enjoy!


Now, about this mood.
I'm working at the moment with Dr. Robin Skynner on a successor to our psychiatry book, Families and How To Survive Them, and we're comparing the ways in which psychologically healthy families function; the ways in which such families function (compared) with the ways in which the most successful corporations and organizations function.
We've become fascinated by the fact that we can usefully describe the way in which people function at work in terms of two modes: Open and Closed.
So what I can just add now is that creativity is not possible in the Closed Mode....
....ok, so
How many American network TV executives does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Answer: Does it have to be a lightbulb?
How many doorkeepers....
Closed Mode
...let me explain a little.
By the Closed Mode I mean - the mode that we are in most of the time when at work.
We have inside us a feeling that there's lots to be done and we have to get on with it if we're going to get through it all.
It's an active, probably slightly anxious mode - although the anxiety can be exiting and pleasurable.
It's a mode which we're probably a little impatient, if only with ourselves.  It has a little tension in it...not much humor.
It's a mode in which we're very purposeful, and it's a mode in which we can get very stressed and even a bit manic.  But not creative.
Open Mode...by contrast, the Open Mode, is relaxed… expansive… a less purposeful… in which we're probably more contemplative, more inclined to humor - which always accompanies a wider perspective - and consequently, more playful.
It's a mood in which curiosity for its own sake can operate because we're not under pressure to get a specific thing done quickly. We can play, and that is what allows our natural creativity to surface.
And now, let me give you an example of what I mean:
When Alexander Fleming had the thought that led to the discovery of penicillin, he must have been in the Open Mode. 
The previous day he'd arranged a number of dishes so that culture would grow upon them. On the day in question he glanced at the dishes, and he discovered that on one of them - no culture had appeared. 
Now, if he'd been in the Closed Mode he would have been so focused upon his need for "dishes with cultures grown upon them" that when he saw that one dish was of no use to him for that purpose - he would quite simply have thrown it away.
But thank goodness, he was in the Open Mode...so he became curious about why the culture had not grown on this particular dish. And that curiosity, as the world knows, led him to the light bulb!
I'm sorry.
To...to... penicillin...
Now in the Closed Mode an uncultured dish is an irrelevance.
In the Open Mode, it's a clue. 
Now, one more example.  
One of Alfred Hitchcock's regular co-writers has described working with him on screenplays - he says, "When we came up against a block and our discussions became very heated and intense, Hitchcock would suddenly stop and tell a story that had nothing to do with the work at hand.
At first, I was almost outraged, and then I discovered that he did this intentionally. He mistrusted working under pressure. He would say "We're pressing, we're pressing.  We're working too hard. Relax.  It will come." "
And, says the writer, "Of course it finally always did."
But let me make one thing quite clear.  We need to be in the Open Mode when we're pondering a problem.  BUT - once we come up with a solution, we must then switch to the Closed Mode to implement it.
Because once we've made a decision, we are efficient only if we go through with it decisively - undistracted by doubts about its correctness. 
For example, if you decide to leap a ravine the moment just before take-off is a bad time to start reviewing alternative strategies.
When you're attacking a machine-gun post you should not make a particular effort to see the funny side of what you're doing.
Humor is a natural concomitant in the Open Mode, but it's a luxury in the Closed one.
Now, once we've taken a decision - we should narrow our focus while we're implementing it.  And then after it's been carried out, we should once again switch back to the Open Mode to review the feedback rising from our action - in order to decide whether the course that we have taken is successful.
Or whether we should continue with the next stage of our plan:  whether we should create an alternative plan to correct any error we perceive (in Open Mode).  And then - back into the Closed Mode to implement that next stage, and so on.
In other words, to be at our most efficient - we need to be able to switch backwards and forwards between the two modes.
But. Here's the problem - we too often get stuck in the Closed Mode.
Under the pressures which are all too familiar to us - we tend to maintain tunnel vision at times when we really need to step back and contemplate the wider view.
This is particularly true, for example of politicians.
The main complaint about them from their non-political colleagues is that they become so addicted to the adrenaline that they get from reacting to events on an hour-by-hour basis, that they almost completely lose the desire - or the ability - to ponder problems in the Open Mode.
So, as I say.   Creativity is NOT possible in the Closed Mode.

That is all for today.  Tomorrow I will have the part of John Cleese's talk where he explains in five steps HOW to get yourself into the Open Mode.  I will give you a hint for one (or two) of the steps:  I have been given the gift of time today to get into the Open Mode and create. 
I hope you will give yourself that gift today as well.

'Til tomorrow!