Persistence: The Key to Creativity and Innovation

A persistent attitude is one of the 27 characteristics found in the greatest innovators (Kim, 2016). It is defined as continuously striving and committing to goals regardless of immediate rewards. It is one of the most critical creative attitudes.

Innovators are passionate about and committed to their goals, which compels them to persist physically and mentally. They never quit, continuing even when they experience challenges, setbacks, or failures.

This is the biggest difference between innovators and non-innovators.

Instead of quitting, innovators switch from a focused, persistent attitude into an unfocused, spontaneous attitude. For example, when they are unable to solve a problem after working on it for a long time, they take a break by daydreaming. This enables flexibility in their conscious mind. Daydreaming gives their subconscious mind time to to see the bigger picture and view the problem from diverse perspectives to find a better idea.

Because of the amount of time they spend on the problem and their overwhelming persistence, their subconscious mind continuously works the problem even while their conscious mind is taking a break and relaxing. Moreover, persistence continues even after their creation is complete.  They constantly think about improvements to their creation leading to other creations. Therefore, they produce numerous creations thus increasing the chance one of their creations is recognized by society as an innovation. Some of these creations may not be of high quality, but their persistence drives them to constantly create.  The greatest innovators in history produced more creations than non-innovators while their persistent attitude enables them overcome bad luck, lack of resources, and all possible excuses, regardless of age.

Nurturing a persistent attitude?

First, developing expertise and transforming your interest into a passion through:

  • Exploring your curiosities, preferences, and interests (CPIs) with fun activities
  • Finding your CPIs by assessing your skills; talents; strengths and weaknesses; likes and dislikes; beliefs, and expectations; what’s important, causes joy and excites you; and people you look up to. Cataloguing your biases, fears, and prejudices; and exploring the pathways within your CPIs
  • Sharing and showing your interest to others
  • Injecting fun into the work you are interested in
  • Rewarding your small achievements by doing something you like (e.g. listening to music; watching a movie, a play, or comedy show; or taking a warm bath)
  • Rewarding your effort and the process, not the outcome, regardless of success or failure
  • Showcasing your work, regardless of limitations or deficits, instead of waiting for the perfect time
  • Seeking and applying brutally honest feedback from diverse points of view
  • Breaking tasks into smaller pieces so they are easier to manage
  • Specifying your goals and creating a weekly or daily schedule for obtaining them
  • Making a list of potential obstacles to reaching your goal
  • Putting a visual reminder of your goal somewhere easily seen (e.g. a cellphone reminder or a picture, sign, or note above your computer screen)
  • Using a journal or a calendar to track progress
  • Not allowing yourself to be inactive, lazy, procrastinate, or quit

Second, when an idea or a solution doesn’t come easily or fails:

  • Explore related information to better understand the topic
  • Examine the causes of failure and try new or different methods the next time
  • Physically move to a new location
  • Switch between two projects or ideas, but avoid multitasking
  • Strategize by solving a piece of the problem instead of attempting to solve the whole thing
  • See the problem as a forest rather than an individual tree, then find patterns of similarity and difference between the trees (elements of the problem)
  • Think about the problem away from:
    • “Yourself” — as if it happened to or was solved by others who are totally different from you (those who are away from your family, friend, or social circle)
    • “Here” — as if it happened or was solved 5,000 miles away from you rather than in your community
    • “Now” — as if it happened or was solved five years in the future rather than today
    • “Reality” — as if it happened or was solved in an imaginative world, or it was solved by a thing or an animal, not by people
  • Imagine you are a superhero who must overcome a challenge
  • Write “I will overcome” where you will easily and regularly see it
  • Write each barrier or creative block on a piece of paper and put it on a wall; then one by one remove each barrier and replace it with a possible solution
  • Take a break, and let your subconscious mind work on the problem
  • Move to a less-demanding task, and step away from the problem for a while

Finally, challenge yourself by:

  • Squelching instant-gratification in today’s fast-paced world (e.g. reducing fast food, eschewing transitory things, and slowing yourself  down while doing things such as cooking, repairing, and reusing things)
  • Expecting excellence and your best performance by setting the bar right above what you have just accomplished
  • Completing a task in a certain amount of time
  • Generating a certain number of ideas for a solution
  • Placing yourself in difficult situations where you are likely to fail or get frustrated, and working your way through it
  • Working on open-ended problems that have infinite solutions or no solutions

Find more research findings about how to innovate in The Creativity Challenge: How We Can Recapture American Innovation, and follow Dr. KH Kim @Kreativity_Kim on Tweeter.

Did you know that scientific evidence shows your creativity decreases over time

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Dr. KH Kim is Professor of Creativity & Innovation at the College of William & Mary. After being an English teacher in Korea for ten years and upon getting her PhD from the University of Georgia, she taught there and then at Eastern Michigan University. She has dedicated her career to researching creativity and innovators. Her research study titled "The Creativity Crisis" was the subject of a 2010 Newsweek cover story that captured the world’s attention. Frequently sought after by the media, she has shared her expertise with numerous outlets including New York Times, Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report, and others. She is the author of The Creativity Challenge: How We Can Recapture American Innovation and has won the Early Scholar Award and the Hollingworth Award from the National Association for Gifted Children, the Berlyne Award from the American Psychology Association, as well as the Torrance Award from the American Creativity Association.
By | 2017-05-26T12:58:07+00:00 May 26th, 2017|Creativity|0 Comments

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