The creative ability to remember

The creative ability to remember

Creativity is the ability to perceive relationships. That’s not simply relationships between people but relationships between things, events, anything we see, hear, feel or taste. Those familiar with my work know that I have used this definition of creativity for many years – in fact since it was first coined by Francis Harmar-Brown in 1966. It is a sound definition.

Of all the skills today’s leaders need, creativity is the most valuable. In a world of solutions from Google, Wikipedia and many other sources related to the internet we get lazy in our deductive processes. It does not involve us stopping thinking but it changes our thinking from relevant to formulaic. In some cases that doesn’t matter. A formula solution sometimes works adequately if not perfectly so why should we bother to seek our own solutions?

The answer is ‘because our brain behaviour changes if we don’t think things through’. We know that practice keeps the body and mind agile and working well only if what we practice are the right things. That’s why, for example, every child should spend time inventing something new – even if it has already been invented. Building sand castles is a vital stage of creativity. The same applies in adult life and especially when managing other people.

Perception is the secret to a successful life, whether commercial or personal. We all see what is in front of us. Fewer people ‘perceive’ it because perception means looking below the surface, interpreting the signals and concluding what is going on. Watch a good detective perceiving the truthfulness of what s/he is being told. Their attention is so focused that you could stick a needle into them and they wouldn’t notice. They are perceiving.

Now and then they will look away from the person they are questioning. They have not lost perception, it is tucked away in their memory. They are now seeking the relationships that will lead them to detect the solution to the problem. They are performing an act of creativity.

Recent work on memory has revealed that creativity is also a big factor in improving our memory. I am sure you are familiar with memory hooks. They are the way to remember lists of things to do, or sequences in a process. Their simple concept has helped many young people to improve their exam scores and older people to stave off dementia.

Memory hooks are much more effective if they are linked to creative thoughts. Take the simple issue of giving a talk. You’ve probably seen TED talks and marvelled at the way that most speakers don’t use notes or prompts of any kind. They have just set up their memory hooks with exaggeratedly creative links. It is as simple as that. Of course, the process of perceiving the creative links and, indeed, the memory hook process itself, take a little practice to start with. We find that people can be much more creative than they thought.

Those wanting to improve their memory can learn to use their instinctive creativity to do so. It changes your mental behaviour from a dull, ponderous plod to a skip through the mind.

And that changes your view of the world – whatever your circumstances.