Creativity comes from space

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Craig Davis: Techniques, tips and processes won't help you if you are constantly distracted by your own commotion

For many years I believed creativity was a process that you could learn. I was an enthusiastic student of creative techniques, tips, tricks, models and processes and would happily teach them in my travels to agency folks and clients alike.

My views and practices around creativity have changed radically since then. It’s not that there are not valuable creative techniques to be learned. It’s more that they are wasted on the unconscious, unaware and unthinking state we are in most of the time.  

How can we marshal our full creative facilities when we are so poor at marshalling our attention in the first place? Dr. Jeremy Hunter wrote recently that training our attention is so necessary when so much is done in the mindless, automated and non-conscious nature of human perceiving, thinking, feeling and acting.

But frankly, our starting point for creativity is often even more compromised than that. We are overruled and overwhelmed by our emotions that we struggle to be authentic and show up to meetings and brainstormings as our true selves.

There’s an old Zen story about a rider on a horse going past an old man standing by the side of the road. The old man asks the rider, "Where are you going?" The rider replies, "I have no idea, ask the horse." We are carried around unconsciously by our emotions all the time.

I was in my 40s when I finally realized that I had not been paying attention and had instead been constantly distracted by my thoughts and feelings.

Just imagine if you could make a little space away from all that commotion. Learning to develop that space through calmness and clarity of mind is the most important creative lesson of all.

Craig Davis is the founder of Brandkarma and the former CCO of Publicis Mojo, Saatchi & Saatchi Asia and JWT Worldwide. He is on the board of Conscious Capitalism and blogs at

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