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?