John Cleese on creativity

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Who could ignore John Cleese’s genius?

A Fish Called Wanda. Fawlty Towers. The Ministry of Silly Walks.

But what makes the man tick – and how did he arrive at such lunacy?

Firstly, he has rules – particularly if you’re in a group – when coming up with ideas. Here are a few:

In order to create the right environment for creativity you must avoid people conflict and personality conflict. Personality clashes stand in the way of ideas generation. (Get rid of the nay-sayers.)

Avoid those that hijack the creative process through either a passion for their own ideas or due to people conflict within the group. (Just because they’re loudest doesn’t mean their idea is strongest.)

Stimulating physical surroundings will add to creativity and a boring environment will do the opposite. (Get out of the goddamn office! Quit staring at the walls. Go for walk. Some of the best ideas arrive in the shower, though I realise that’s not always considered a group activity.)

You need at least an hour to generate an idea. It takes 20 mins to slow your mind down from feeling time pressured and task orientated. (I read that Cleese and Palin used to escape to a log cabin in the woods to write. For the first hour they spoke complete rubbish: how’s your family; still got tennis elbow; oh, look, a dead cockroach. Only after this ‘download’ were they ready to think, construct and write.)

You’ll get better ideas from people who are relaxed and ready to think about ideas. Allow new thoughts in.

It’s important that creative people are given real deadlines not fake deadlines. Creative people need pressure off to generate ideas.

Most ideal number for a productive creative group is no more than 8.

(Good luck in the shower. Don’t forget the notepad.)

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