Being “Accidentally” Creative

by | Process

Over the years, we’ve had more than a few questions about the name  Accidental Creative. Usually the responses go one of two ways: “What do you mean accidental? I’m very purposeful about what I do. I’m insulted and I shun anything else you have to say”…or “Hmm. Accidental, huh? That seems right. Please tell me more.”

So what does it mean to be an accidental creative?

Accidental Creative [ak-si-den-tl · kree-ey-tiv] –noun,
1. Person who structures their life so as to experience frequent creative insights (see also creative accidents), 2. A company that helps creatives do brilliant work.

The name The Accidental Creative actually has a dual meaning. First, many people who work with their minds every day didn’t set out to be a creative, yet they are required to create, invent, innovate, strategize and come up with solutions to problems on a daily basis. Whether or not they intended to be a creative, they are one. You might even say they are an accidental one.

But there is another meaning for the phrase that is the true reason behind the name of our company. That is this: creative insights are typically the culmination of lots of work and activity that result in a breakthrough – or a-ha – moment. We call these moments creative accidents, because it often feels like we are stumbling upon flashes of brilliance as we go about our work. In reality, however, these flashes of brilliance – or creative accidents – can be experienced more frequently if we are willing to structure our lives more purposefully by implementing practices that support the creative process.

In other words, if you want to have a brilliant idea, you need to begin far upstream from the moment you need that idea. You can’t just stumble through your work haphazardly, you must be purposeful and intentional about how you engage and the kinds of activity you build into your life so that you are increasing the likelihood of having breakthrough insights.

So you must be purposeful if you want to be accidental.

This notion of building structure and practice into the creative process is one that often raises eyebrows. Many people seem to believe that creativity is either something you have or something you don’t, and while we all subscribe to some extent to the idea that we’re all creative, we often don’t see the activities we engage in each day as creative activities.

When the word creative is introduced it usually elicits images of one of two things: either the lone artist slaving away in their loft torturously refining their latest work, or a SoHo ad exec flitting about in $500 designer jeans.

I believe that we’re due for a new definition of creativity. Creativity is the process of resolving dissonance in our environment, or bringing things into alignment. In other words, creativity is problem solving. A designer might solve a problem visually, and a manager might solve a problem by developing a new system or method for doing the work. Each of them are exercising their creative prowess to solve a problem, or to bring resolution to an area of dissonance.

They are looking for creative insight – a creative accident – to fill that gap. But the more problems they have to solve each day, the more it taxes their mind and the less poised they will be to tackle the next problem that comes along. This is the reason for establishing practices – they keep us fresh, poised and ready. Practices are the rhythm that undergirds all of our activity, no matter how frantic our work and personal life get.

So this is the meaning behind AC: We help people who have to be creative every day – even if they didn’t intend to be a creative – to do brilliant work by setting themselves up to experience more creative accidents.

Todd Henry

Todd Henry

Positioning himself as an “arms dealer for the creative revolution”, Todd Henry teaches leaders and organizations how to establish practices that lead to everyday brilliance. He is the author of five books (The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, Louder Than Words, Herding Tigers, The Motivation Code) which have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and he speaks and consults across dozens of industries on creativity, leadership, and passion for work.

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