When my mom taught me how to cook spaghetti, she showed me one sure way to know when it was done. You throw a noodle against the wall. If it sticks, it’s ready. If it falls off, the pot needs to boil more. This metaphor has worked its way into business brainstorm meetings for good reason. When you’re searching for a creative new idea, you usually have to throw a bunch of ideas against the wall and see what’s still stuck after the bad ones fall away.
Larry, a Toastmaster friend of mine, asked me how I nourish my creativity. For me it’s a lot like cooking spaghetti and seeing what sticks. Creativity is not so much something you learn… it’s a process of letting go. You force yourself to let go of all the rules, regulations, procedures, processes and guidelines you’ve been indoctrinated with, and then repeatedly ask yourself “Why?”, “Why not?” and What if?”
New ideas will start coming like noodles and you let them fly. You don’t want to test just one or two, you want to splatter your entire kitchen wall with spaghetti curled into all sorts of cursive shapes spelling out new possibilities. Don’t judge each noodle or look at it too long before you throw it. Get it up there on the wall first. Only then can you really start relating the unrelated and testing each new idea for firmness.
Here are 3 practical suggestions for making sure your spaghetti throwing is not prematurely constricted:
- Change your environment. Get out of the office and pick a different place to think, discuss or write. I get some of my best ideas while running, driving or chilling with my iPad in the park.
- Change who you talk to. Consult people who are WAY out of your current company, industry or comfort zone… and mix together thinkers, talkers and doers. This can be done in a conference room, coffee shop or social media discussion thread.
- Change the question. “Why”, “why not” and “what if” are powerful additives to get more ideas on the wall. Buy your devil’s advocate friend a beer and let them tear your plan apart. This has been humbling and immensely helpful for me.
Creativity is not reserved solely for professional artists and performers. If you have ever solved a problem with a fresh perspective, you have demonstrated creativity. Yes… you. The trick is in letting go and letting the spaghetti fly! Think about that for a moment – how can you connect dots without allowing yourself to see all the dots first?
You are wise beyond your years cashew!
This is really excellent as a theory. And I agree, seeing what sticks is what works.
My sister lived in Italy for two years. One thing she learned from all the Italian cooking mamas, was to NOT put oil in the water. Americans think putting oil in the water is a good idea because noodles don’t stick together. But this is wrong, because if you coat the noodle while it’s cooking, it can never fully absorb the sauce it sits in, because the noodle is no longer porous. This is also the main reason why great chefs tell you to salt the water – the noodles are porous while they are in the water, hence you can ‘season’ the noodle and give it some flavor as it is cooking.
If we apply this spaghetti method to real life, this is also true. We shouldn’t manipulate ‘our noodle’ … this is a control issue. We need to lose control to really have ideas flourish into the ultimate dish we can really sink our teeth into.
If we add our seasoning to the ‘idea’ during the cooking process, we actually help develop ideas while they are still coming together. So this is something also to note as it applies to creativity.
One of the reasons why pasta is the ultimate while it is ‘Al Dente’ is because it bounces. In cooking this means not to overcook. In creativity brainstorm mode, this means – don’t let the ideas get overwork to the point they are mushy. If they are mushy, they lose their shape. And this isn’t good.
If we bounce ideas around while they have some springiness to them, we can enjoy them all the more.
In group business situations – the truth is, if there are too many cooks in the kitchen it does indeed spoil the broth. Or in this case, it spoils the marinara. 😉
All I can say David, is that if we apply the right methods, all our ideas can become ultimately delicious!! 🙂
Thank you for the nice post.
Well said, to the point and in your awesome way of writing!
A fan . . . for so many reasons!