A discussion about things of the spiritual nature.


Posted on | November 23, 2008 | 1 Comment


People associate this stage with “creativity.” It’s glamorized in every TV show or movie about the advertising business. It’s perceived as the scene of funky 20-somethings and their aging boss (who always seems to look like Donald Sutherland) brainstorming wacky ideas. Usually they are trying to sell a product nobody needs to people who already have more than enough stuff, but not enough happiness. However, creative people in the real world are usually trying to provide real value.

I’ve been one of those 20-somethings, and I’ve been the Donald Sutherland character (without the slicked-back hair). In my experience, great creative ideas start with all the logical and obvious ideas. One must build a foundation for creativity based on the emotion experienced when accepting the problem as one’s own. Also use the knowledge gained to build a deep understanding of the problem, and to focus upon the vision of a successful solution.

“Creative meetings” always start with picking the low-hanging fruit – the easy, logical, solutions than anyone can come up with in ten minutes. This step always feels very un-creative. It’s almost as if the assertive, power-hungry left brain needs to speak it’s piece before the quieter, more caring introspective right brain can get in with some “soft” thinking. Soft thinking is ethereal. Soft thinking is the “creativity” most fundamentally manifesting through inspiration, imagination, intuition, hunches, metaphor, humor, fantasy, paradox, play, ambiguities, and unusual juxtapositions. Soft thinking is the “magic” behind a Super Bowl ad becoming the talk of the nation for a. This type of thinking is about being unusual.
The challenge with right brain, soft thinking is that we’re not trained to respect it. Today’s schools are focused on math, science, and other logical, linear, process-focused thinking skills. Logic skills can be tested. Intuitive skills cannot (at least not fairly or effectively). Imagine the difference between the soft skill of writing a musical piece and the hard skill of technically playing the piece.

A few years ago this difference was illustrated perfectly during a television program with pop star Billy Joel showcased some of his classical piano compositions. He had written the pieces, but to actually play the pieces, he brought a different pianist on stage (one who had the technical skills to actually play the works) because the music he had written was too difficult for him to play. It was still great creative product.

We need both skills.

I’ve worked with graphic designers who were wonderful artists, but no printer could produce their designs, which is definitely not a successful solution. I’ve worked with engineers who couldn’t think out of the box and squandered opportunity. As Dr. Roger von Oech said in his classic book on creativity A WHACK ON THE SIDE OF THE HEAD, “Soft thinking in the practical phase can prevent the execution of an idea; here firmness and directness are preferable to ambiguity and dreams. Conversely, hard thinking in the imaginative phase can limit the creative process.” Dr. von Oech’s book is a great resource for breaking away from preconceived notions and coming up with new ideas. It’s a book I go back to over and over whenever I feel I’m not making headway on a problem. It helps you create multiple possible solutions, get outside the logical conditioning of Western thought, break some rules, be playful and impractical for a minute, forget academic silos of training, embrace ambiguity, act a fool, explore potential mistakes, and start thinking of ourselves as creative. One thing the book, and most other Western books on creativity forget about this stage of the creative process, is to be still. Stillness is a more “Eastern” way to creative solutions. It’s a way of thinking by not thinking.


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  • About Kevin

    Kevin Houchin

    Kevin E. Houchin is an attorney, artist, teacher, author, and principal of Houchin Consulting, PLLC, a copyright, trademark, arts & entertainment, business development, and branding firm located in Scottsdale, Arizona.
    To schedule Kevin for keynote speeches, workshops, or seminars, call 970.231.2426 or email

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