Creativity Corner The Creative Process

The Creative Process – Meet Mark Seabright

November 25, 2013

Hello. It’s Monday and we have a brand new the creative process post!

For new readers: Much has been written about The Creative Process, which in its purest form is simply a way of solving a problem. That sounds simple, doesn’t it? Creativity and its process, contrary to popular belief, is not just reserved for artists and designers. I believe that everyone can benefit from learning and understanding the numerous ways of the creative process. I will invite people to share their own personal creative processes with us and hope this will help you with identifying your own.

Today I’m excited to hand over the platform to Mark Seabright of In the Moment. I met Mark a couple of years ago. His knowledge, encouragement and wisdom are truly outstanding. Mark has an MSc in Organisational Behaviour and 25 years’ experience as a qualified accountant. Basically, don’t mess with him:-) Right, I’m going to shut up now and hand you over to the man himself!

The Creative Process – Mark Seabright

I am not a creative. The word does not appear in my job title or my job description, but I need to be creative to do my job. I have created a structure for thinking – hardly a thing of beauty, but surprisingly effective – but even the most generous critic would consider it to be functionally rather than aesthetically pleasing. Like many of us, I tend to associate creativity with art, music, literature and live performance. If pressed, I would reluctantly concede that certain scientific and technological breakthroughs may also be considered creative, provided they are both significant and inspirational. However, as a psychologist, I have a firm view that creativity is not the exclusive preserve of a select few, but something that we can all aspire to, and more importantly something that all of us can achieve on a regular basis.

The Creative Process - Mark Seabright

Research supports this view. There are over 10,000 peer-reviewed articles on creativity in academic journals, and a new psychometric test developed by Dr Mark Batey at Manchester University helps us to explain and measure individual creativity.

How can a psychometric test hope to measure creativity?

Traditional psychometric tests are based on the (in my view, wrong) assumption that you can measure traits in personality. The new breed of psychometric tests, which include Mark Batey’s Me2, measure behaviours. In other words, looking at what we do instead of who we are. While I am not creative, there are several artists in my family, so I grew up with some understanding of the artistic mindset. Putting that experience together with twenty years of working with creative businesses and the research findings, three behaviours emerge as critical to successful and consistent creativity. There are no real surprises, as you can see below. Far from being disappointing, this should be very reassuring, because these are behaviours we can improve with practice, and this helps to explain why genuine creativity is something we can all do.

The Big Three

1. Curiosity

  The Creative Process - Mark Seabright

Rewards are invariably bestowed upon those who are relentlessly curious. In practice this means being like Einstein and asking the interesting questions; Why do we do it like that? Why doesn’t this exist? How can we make this better? What would something that does this look like? What happens if we change this?

2. Observation

The Creative Process - Mark Seabright

David Hockney recently said that the reason his work looks the way it does is because of the time he spends observing before he starts painting. You have to look at a scene or an object for a very long time before you can see the real colours it contains. This requires patience, as well as both active and passive observation; zooming in to details, and stepping back to absorb the whole frame.

3. Perspective

  The Creative Process - Mark Seabright

It helps with the creative process to be able to see familiar things in an unfamiliar way. One of the most inspirational images I’ve ever seen was an early colour photo of the Earth taken from the moon. It spoke to me simultaneously of the beauty of our planet and of our insignificance in the great scheme of things. I am still moved when I see it now. Perhaps the most critical aspect of shifting perspective is that it helps you to suspend judgement. When you’re trying to come up with new ideas, deferring judgement, in any way, is essential. It allows left field solutions to survive until the appropriate evaluation criteria are known. In other words, good creatives don’t kill good ideas too soon by dismissing them as irrelevant. These behaviours are a far cry from the traditional view of creative ideas arriving, Eureka like, in blinding flashes of inspiration. Creatives know that in the real world Eureka moments very rarely happen out of the blue. As Johnny Marr, quoting Picasso, recently said; ‘Inspiration does exist, but it has to find you working.’ This echoes Brian Eno’s view that his most reliable way to encourage inspiration is to go into his studio and tidy up a bit, looking for happy accidents.  

Know Thyself

The Creative Process - Mark Seabright

The key message from the psychologists is; “It’s not how creative you are, it’s how you are creative.” From a behavioural perspective, understanding your creative profile helps you understand what you’re best at, and when you’re under pressure, what kind of help you may need to get the job done. Profiling teams of people in this way can also help with team selection, efficiency and recruitment. But the thing I find that most appeals to the creatives I coach is that knowing your profile gives you a better understanding of how you work creatively. That, in turn, can allow you to get your creative work done much faster, leaving you free to do the fun bit; being more curious, having more time to observe, and playing with perspective.

Thank you Mark for sharing your wisdom. I firmly believe that everyone is creative and hope that more people come to realise this. Well, this is the last Creative Process post of the year. The next one would have been too close to Christmas. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and we’ll resume it in 2014. Thank you all for the continued support.

Images: 1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5

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  • Reply Igor November 25, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Always intriguing to see how people work creatively or reconsidering what we mean with creative. Because even a task that we might consider dull could be executed creatively. Moreover, I am currently reviewing a book and it makes me think of you and your series, Tina!

    • Reply tina November 25, 2013 at 7:25 pm

      I’m so chuffed that Mark agreed to do this. I think people not in the creative arena find this more challenging.

      Exactly, everyone is creative in so many ways every day… I just wish maybe there was another word for it. ‘Creativity’ is definitely associated with creatives and the creative industries.
      Thanks Igor. Hope the book review is going well:-)

    • Reply Mark November 30, 2013 at 1:11 pm

      Thanks for your comment Igor,
      It can be an interesting and potentially enlightening reflexive task to consider what we mean by the word creativity.

  • Reply caroline @trend-daily November 25, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    That is one of my favourite photography quotes. Another great insight into a fascinating mind Tina. Maybe I could do a weekly round up of all the fascinating people I meet in the playground 😉 (At least I can lead a more exciting life vicariously through you!!) xx

    • Reply tina November 25, 2013 at 10:14 pm

      Yes, mine too actually:-)
      Hahaha. You’re always so funny… you do get around.. clients? Hahaha. Whenever I see pics of your house or holidays I think you’re leading the exciting life.
      Thanks Caroline, glad you enjoyed x

    • Reply Mark November 30, 2013 at 1:14 pm

      Hi Caroline,

      Thank you for your kind words.
      Psychologists call it ‘Baby c’ when they talk about how children employ creativity to learn through play. It’s easy to forget when we’ve grown up that play can be a very helpful way to generate new ideas.

  • Reply Catherine November 26, 2013 at 11:10 am

    I’ve enjoyed each and every one of your “Creative Posts” Tina and am looking forward to more next year. We are all creative and these four points are valuable reminders of how to keep tapping into our creativity every day that I’m going to be more aware of. I also love the photography quote! Thank you Mark and Tina. xx

    • Reply tina November 28, 2013 at 1:46 am

      Thank you Catherine and thank you for supporting this series all year xx

    • Reply Mark November 29, 2013 at 4:10 pm

      Thanks Catherine,
      I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  • Reply Peter Cooper November 26, 2013 at 11:47 am

    Thank you Mark and Tina for sharing this. I have always believed that we are all creative and this just affirms it. This is a subject I’ve always been interested in and even though I only dip in and out of it I always manage to learn something.
    My favourite ‘creative process’ post to date – keep them coming!

    • Reply tina November 28, 2013 at 1:47 am

      Thanks Peter, you CP Express veteran. It’s easier to read them than to have to write them, right???
      I hope you’ll come back in the new year to see what others say!

    • Reply Mark November 29, 2013 at 4:11 pm

      Thanks Peter,
      It’s good to know the key message has got through.

  • Reply Nicola November 26, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    A really interesting post, thank you Mark and Tina.

    I do agree, everybody has the potential to be creative and the best Accountants or Quantity Surveyors or Structural Engineers, or whoever I have worked with or come across, have always been the creative ones. It’s a different, lateral approach – or left field – to a way of working on the same subject and ends with interesting or unique solutions.

    I always tell people who say they can’t draw that they need to start looking, it’s a way of seeing.

    And of course there aren’t really many one-off out of nowhere eureka moments, it’s a culmination of a long route – via a little office tidy up first!

    • Reply tina November 28, 2013 at 1:51 am

      “The best Accountants or Quantity Surveyors or Structural Engineers, or whoever I have worked with or come across, have always been the creative ones.” So interesting you should say this Nicola… and yet creatives often pride themselves of being the only creative ones…

      Isn’t the thinking part creative, rather than the doing part. So and illustrator is creative in drawing but an engineer can be creative in solving a problem in his field!

      Oh yes, I always say I can’d draw. You’re so right, it is a way of seeing and practice makes perfect..

      Hahahaha, ‘via a little office tidy up first’…. LOVE IT!
      Thanks N x

    • Reply Mark November 29, 2013 at 4:15 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it Nicola,
      Not being creative myself, I always try to keep my office just a little bit untidy, to allow me more opportunities for inspiration to strike …

  • Reply Alison Sye November 26, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    Really enjoyed this post, Tina and Mark.
    I don’t think it’s even debatable, everyone being creative. We all are. We are all creative from the minute we are born.
    I have that Picasso quote on the wall right in front of me as I write, and I will never cease to be blown away by that picture of the Earth from space.

    • Reply tina November 28, 2013 at 1:52 am

      “We are all creative from the minute we are born”.. that’s very true.
      Clever Picasso!

      Mark send me that picture but I didn’t include it. Mia Culpa!
      Thank you Alison x

    • Reply Mark November 29, 2013 at 11:09 am

      Thanks Alison,
      I’m glad to hear that someone else is inspired by that photo.

  • Reply Gerard @WalnutGrey November 27, 2013 at 10:43 am

    It always amuses me that ‘creative people’ feel they own the word ‘creative’. It’s such a universal term that can be applied to all of us albeit in varying degrees of context.

    I’m a psychologist, though ‘non-practicing’ so to speak. I have a love-hate relationship with behavioural profiling. It can certainly be enlightening, yet also impeding if taken too seriously. Some of the words used in Mark’s account above run counter in my mind to being creative. For example profiling teams in order to help with ‘efficiency’ or in understanding how you work creatively, you can then get your creative work done much ‘faster’.

    I concur with all of the behaviours outlined in respect to creativity, so curiosity, observation and perspective. Yet for me, they’re all a part of my creative process, not separate from it. I guess I’m confused by the point Mark makes where “knowing your profile gives you a better understanding of how you work creatively [so allowing] you to get your creative work done much faster, leaving you free to do the fun bit: being more curious, having more time to observe, and playing with perspective.” My creative work involves each of these things all of the time.

    Thanks Mark & Tina… still mulling this one over.

    Gerard 🙂

    • Reply tina November 28, 2013 at 2:01 am

      Hmm, probably one for Mark to answer.

      For me, it simply means that when you understand what you’re good at, it comes natural and therefore seems like child’s play. There’s no fitting into a role, it simply is an
      extension of who you are. Then, as you said, you’re liberated to get on with the things you really want.

      I don’t believe that everyone is curious, observes and understands perspective (as meant here) so these points here will be helpful to them. I suppose as a psychologist and creative these factors are by now imbedded in you?! and so you can get on with your creative work or be creative in your work:-) they are equally now embedded in me….

      I once did another psychometric test called: Roger Hamilton’s Wealth Dynamics Profile.. it was very interesting.

      Hope Mark can shed more light here. Thanks G xx

    • Reply Mark November 29, 2013 at 11:07 am

      Thanks for your comment Gerard,
      This is potentially a longer conversation.
      I agree with you that curiosity, observation and perspective are essential parts of the creative process. The point I was trying to make was that recognising the creative process as a set of distinct behaviours allows you then to understand which of them come to you most naturally.
      If things are going well you won’t have any need to assess your performance so understanding your profile is largely irrelevant. But your profile can be helpful if things are going slowly or if you get stuck, because your own self-knowledge can then point you in the direction(s) where help may be of most use.
      As far as teams are concerned, if they are heavily biased towards curiosity for example, they may struggle to meet deadlines because they spend a relatively long time on the front end of the process.
      My own experience of creatives is that they employ curiosity, observation and perspective in both focused (ie task specific) ways as well as in more general ways, ie being curious for the sake of it, not trying to solve a particular problem, but just topping up their bank of ideas and approaches – ‘the fun bit’.
      Do let me know if that helps. If not, I’m happy to have a longer conversation about it.

  • Reply Holly November 27, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    “I have a firm view that creativity is not the exclusive preserve of a select few, but something that we can all aspire to, and more importantly something that all of us can achieve on a regular basis.” Love this! And totally agree. I think you can make vacuum cleaning your flat a creative task if you put your mind to it.

    Mark’s perspective is a perfect way to end the year of Creative Process posts. A beautiful conclusion from a unique perspective, if you ask me.

    And it is reassuring to think that creativity is something we can consciously practice and that comes from work. Thank you Mark for your insight on this!

    Thanks Tina, for yet another fab CP 🙂


    • Reply tina November 28, 2013 at 2:03 am

      “I think you can make vacuum cleaning your flat a creative task if you put your mind to it.” Brilliant and very true!!

      Glad you enjoyed this and thank you for your comment xx

    • Reply Mark November 29, 2013 at 10:37 am

      Thank you Holly,

      You’re very welcome. The idea of conscious mindful practice is, in my view, core to successful creativity. Curiosity, observation and perspective all encourage that conscious effort, and hopefully the more you practice the easier it gets.
      I enjoy what you say about vacuuming; my personal favourite is ironing. I find it strangely therapeutic and almost hypnotic. I wonder if we all have a household chore which has this effect on us?

  • Reply tina November 28, 2013 at 2:07 am

    I want to give Mark a special thanks. It’s not the easiest subject matter and I guess coming from a non-creative background can make this here even more daunting.

    Thank you Mark for your wisdom and sharing here with us.
    I was very interested in learning about Mark Batey’s Me2…

    Personally I am a huge fan of the Enneagram personality system.. I am a number 4, if that means anything to you and study it quite regularly.

    It was great having you here on Colourliving. See you soon!

  • Reply noreen November 28, 2013 at 2:11 am

    tina and mark, that was lovely! 1. curiosity, 2. observation, and 3 perspective . these traits that encourage creativity also help with teaching children. and the quote about inspiration having to find you working – exactly. the trick is to teach children that working is a beautiful thing. joy to you both, n

    • Reply tina November 28, 2013 at 2:17 am

      Hi Noreen, I was just thanking everyone. Thank you so much for all your support during this series. I’ve enjoyed knowing that you find similarities and relevance for your own teaching and loved that you started a creativity section on your own blog. Thank you!

    • Reply Mark November 29, 2013 at 10:30 am

      You’re welcome Noreen,
      I’m delighted to hear that children are picking up these skills at a very young age. They are growing up in an increasingly complex and fast-moving world. Their ability to observe and assess their situation from multiple perspectives will be of enormous value to them.
      Keep up the good work!

  • Reply tina November 28, 2013 at 2:11 am

    I want to thank each one of you and others who have so generously supported this series. It’s not the easiest of subject matters and sometimes requires more reading than the usual visual content you’ll find here.

    You’ve made my guests feel welcome and appreciated and for that I wholeheartedly am greatful!

    I believe it’s a worthwhile subject so look forward to bringing you more pearls of wisdom in 2014.

    The Creative Process will be back at the end of January. x

  • Reply Doris November 30, 2013 at 10:46 am

    What a great post! Thank you Mark for stepping up and providing your wisdom on this subject. Coming from a traditionally non-creative profession and moving into a very creative one I am faced with these questions on a regular basis. I think that everyone has it in them and there are many different versions of “creativity”. And like any skill, it can be found with practise and perseverance. Thank you Mark and Tina. I eagerly look forward to more creative process next year. xD

    • Reply tina December 1, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      It’s always so encouraging to know that people change careers. It’s also interesting that most times it’s from a non-creative to a creative one.

      Having said that, ALL professions are creative, if we can only understand that part. Well, Mark so eloquently explains it here. x

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