Bridled Creativity

(Holly Thomas is a technical editor by occupational hazard who has segued into writing for this blog and for Inside Office Online. At work and at home she tends to lunge for bright shiny ideas. Learn more about her art and writing at .)

"Everyone is a genius at least once a year. A real genius has his original ideas closer together." George C. Lichtenberg

I come from a mixed marriage. My mother taught art. It was a family joke that she could never admire a view without comparing it to a Japanese painting. My father was a minister with great faith in human reason. Where blazing sunsets inspired her, rigorous debates inspired him. So I grew up associating creativity with art, leaving my dad out of the creative equation. It took years for me to realize that narrow definition of creativity was way off.

Dad wrote a new sermon nearly every week for 40 years except during summer vacations and a stint as a professor (when lectures took the sermons' place). Plus, both he and my mother handled the demands of parishioners, school principals, ornery students, extended families, and their own persnickety offspring. To do so, they relied on their capacity for insight and imagination and produced, produced, produced. They were both adept at coming up with new ideas under pressure.

The point being, if you've ever figured out how to get something done, you're creative. If you routinely solve problems or come up with new ideas, you may be very creative indeed. Creativity isn't about art. It's about imagination. And without it, all the otherwise sound business (and life) practices in the world add up to noise.

But being creative doesn't always require originality. Carl Sagan said "If you want to create an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe." Nobody has that kind of time (or talent), so we have to build on the work done before us. And that (and I bet you saw this coming) is where Office comes in. For instance, and this is a mere snapshot:

  • OneNote is how I organize manuscript projects and research at work and at home.
  • The Excel template I used to jumpstart my household budget saved me hours.
  • The tips in Doug Thomas' Office Casual videos free more of my time for writing the Inside Office Online blog.
  • When I was learning Office 2007 like everyone else, this Get Started info made quick work of it.
  • SharePoint sites bring my team's ideas and results together.
  • ClipArt—No way I have time to design my own decorative touches for docs and presentation.
  • And Outlook is the program I love to hate yet totally depend on. I don't use Outlook as a creative tool, but it does help me get more efficient with my time. That frees time to hatch good ideas, which translates into genuine innovation, which in turn helps the bottom line, which..….I'm sure you see where this is going.

We're all more creative than we tend to acknowledge. The trick is to practice—to cultivate creativity as a skill.

For ideas on how to do that, start with the free creative competency test I describe here.

--Holly L. Thomas