The secret of creativity


In front of me sits Neil Maiden, Professor of Systems Engineering at City University London. The enthusiastic Englishman has a way with words and is in the Dutch capital for the second time in his life. He is in the Waag because of the European research project Collage. The goal is to develop a creative application that helps learning, gaining ideas and inspiration in a working environment. "There's no excuse for not being creative", Neil Maiden opens the brainstorm session. But how does the professor thinks about creativity himself.

Creativity as a strong export product

"Creativity is comprehensive, I see it as a cognitive activity. Therefore I would say that creativity could be learned. You have to optimize creative talent by often doing it and by applying the correct theory. Creativity is a strong European export product, because we excel in our creative thinking processes. We can make a difference in the international market over the next few years and this could help us overcome the crisis. Schools should pay more attention to creativity, but now the focus seems to lie on other things."

Creativity in short sessions

"Many creative methods are focussing on a problem for too long, but that doesn’t always provide a solution. I prefer to turn things around; short sharp creative sessions where we generate ideas within 45 minutes. The participants in the sessions don’t get the clue immediately, but the process begins once they’re at home. By focusing intensely on something for a short period, then letting it go and thinking it over, we give our brain the time to get going. It is a continuous process that repeats itself."

Creativity within the project Collage

"The method I usually work with has a step-by-step approach. This means that the progress isn’t visible immediately. Compare it with a hike in the mountains; at the summit you realize how high you have actually climbed. Only by looking down, you will be able to see the distance you have travelled. With the Collage project we are going through a similar process. We are facing a huge challenge. It is almost unthinkable to combine the needs of all parties in one tool. Therefore I expect a collection of different tools as the end result of our collaboration."

What this set looks like, Maiden does not know yet. He hopes that the tool involves more than just software. "Optimizing creative process goes further than just a computer, it comes down to the whole setting."

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