When I conduct brainstormings (and even when I’m looking for ideas) I find that one of the biggest enemies is the internal censor that each of us has. I’m sure you’ve succumbed to that voice.
You come up with an idea and before you’ve even spent time examining it, you’ve jettisoned the thought:
“That’ll never work!”
“How could I have thought that?”
“That thought came out of me? No one can ever know I thought THAT!”
One of the amazing gifts that Robin Williams had was his ability to turn off the censor. He trusted himself, and even when riffing with others, he allowed himself to follow the promptings of lesser ideas knowing that greater ideas were coming. The results were nothing short of astounding and amazingly hilarious. While Williams’ verbal stream didn’t seem to even afford him time to breathe, his audience couldn’t breathe because they were laughing so hard.
In the world of comedy, following the stream of consciousness is considered acceptable because, well, it’s comedy. However, in the corporate world, such thinking is considered out of place, too bold, not politically correct – perhaps even offensive.
Unfortunately, when the censor kicks in, creativity, and perhaps the next seed of a groundbreaking innovation, gets kicked out.
People have a tendency to think that those ideas judged as ‘bad’ or ‘improper’ should just be jettisoned and forgotten. Yes, not all ideas are ready for prime time; however these ideas are essential to the creative process – a process that builds upon that which came before. Ignore what comes before and there’s nothing to build upon.
Robin Williams lived this brilliantly. Not everything that Robin said was earth-shatteringly funny, but just around the corner, rest assured, mirth was imminent.
Creative thought in the corporate world follows the same process. Not every idea is worthy of patent or should be invested in. But, if the ideas are built upon, eventually, things will come together in a wonderful way.
So, how do we train ourselves to be creative in this way?
Listen to all ideas as they bubble up! Things pop up for a reason!! Write everything down. Sketch! Play with the ideas!
The idea that seems totally unusable may provide the seed that enables you, or someone else, to make a connection to an even better idea! In my own experience, some great ideas have surfaced after someone had the courage to share a half-baked idea. This simple and profound act of sharing provided the building blocks for others. If the internal censor would’ve won out, these breakthrough ideas would never have been born.
Remember this next time you’re coming up with ideas, alone or with others. Better yet, even if you’re not coming up with ideas, examine your thoughts as they are percolating to the surface. Learn to get comfortable with the flow; the more at ease you feel with the stream’s current, the less likely you’ll be to throw out ideas as they bubble up.
I love the following Robin Williams interview with Craig Ferguson. The two of them highlight the above process – they both just grab an idea, follow it to the next, and continue the process with wonderfully entertaining results. Notice how certain ideas become seeds for the next. This is improvisation at its finest.
In closing, I’d just like to thank you, Robin Williams, for creating so many wonderful, bubbling streams of consciousness, and for being a part of the Stream of which we all swim. Tragic circumstances helped push you into different waters. May you find the New Waters fine. While ours are impoverished by your passing, they are also forever enriched!