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Bristol case studies on creativity

Watch entrepreneurs from the University of Bristol past and present discuss how they feel they are 'creative' or what creativity means to them.
I studied engineering which people think about as very, kind of, technical and mathematical but in my view engineering is problem-solving and you can’t solve a problem unless you’re being creative so I’ve always considered myself as, yes I am quite creative, not maybe in the ways in terms of being able to stick a pencil down and draw out a design for something but coming up with ideas and solutions, I think I am quite a creative person, hopefully! In terms of creativity I never really saw myself as as that creative in terms of at school I was always pretty rubbish at art and drawing and design and things I always saw as being what creativity was about.
Since starting Balloon and actually what’s interesting is we try and teach people creativity, what I’ve learned much more is that, that’s just a part of it and a lot more of it, something that’s probably more relevant for us is coming up with ideas. So I found myself more creative in terms of ability to have ideas, I think the main thing we try and practice here is just to have lots of ideas, you know not to take ideas too seriously. You know if you want to have one good idea come up with loads.
So in terms of enhancing creativity, I think in our organisation we are incredibly open and flexible and we kind of foster people coming up with their own ideas and running with it. And for me I think I take a lot of time to listen to what other people are saying, because I’m very talkative, I often kind of have to train myself to stop and listen to what they’re saying.
In terms of of actual facilitating that, we have a strategy day every three months where the whole team gets together and it’s kind of a totally open day in terms of what would we like to do, where would we like to be, what random projects that someone’s thought is related to this and that’s how we kind of keep it going as a team. I don’t particularly have any tools really but for me it’s all about bouncing ideas off of other people and initially it was just me in the organisation for the first 18 months really.
I had the odd volunteer here and there and I found it really hard and it really kind of stifled my creativity and until I got other people involved, as soon as they started coming up with other ideas my ideas all came back and we bounced things around. So, yeah, surrounding yourself with other people I think is my only tip. I think that the the best solutions to engineering problems and technical problems are they usually involve a lot of creativity. So the fastest way to solve any problem is to get people from different backgrounds and different ways of thinking together, in front of a whiteboard. It’s usually my favourite way to do it.
I think with what we do and staying creative, it’s really important to get out of the same physical space. I found that we couldn’t come up with that many editorial ideas when we were actually in our office and sometimes it’d be better to leave that space and go somewhere new. So once a week on a Friday we go to a coffee shop that we like nearby, or we might try out a new local place and we’ll go and we’ll have a brainstorm there and just getting out of the office and finding somewhere different, we find that we feel more creative and we can take a step back.
I always find I have a lot more ideas when I’ve gone to Kenya or Uganda or Ghana, to one of our programs and I think a lot of that is about talking to people, understanding problems and thinking about how you can solve them. So I find the biggest inspiration that we have for creativity is finding more problems.
Some of the biggest and best things you can do with creativity is make sure you have some time out and make sure you switch off and make sure you give yourself space, because it’s only those times where you free yourself up to, kind of, refresh, recharge and almost like reset your thinking and it’s really critical to do that, because if you don’t you’ll burn out and you’ll lose the creativity. So it’s not so much kind of any tools per-se, but I think self management is really important.

In this video, we once again hear from the innovators and entrepreneurs you first met in Step 1.6.

Listen to their stories and think about the following question:

  • What creative habits or techniques do they use to maintain or enhance their creativity?

Once you have watched the video, come back to the comments on this page and discuss your thoughts and ideas.

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