Creativity: lines or circles? | NTT DATA

Fri, 21 April 2023

Creativity: lines or circles?

‘Draw an infinite circle.’ This was the first sentence Maite uttered (my technical drawing teacher) when I walked into her classroom for the first time.

I remember how frightened María and Jon looked, who were sitting next to me at the back of the class. They stared in synchronicity at my paper. I didn’t mind that they copied from me since, although they didn’t know it, I started by copying out every one of Francisco Ibañez’s comic strips (Mort & Phil, Pepe Gotera y Otilio, 13 Rue del Percebe…). When I got to class with my comics and story collages, they got the impression that I knew how to draw.

After a few seconds, Maite grabbed a piece a chalk and drew a line running from left to right across the whole chalkboard (I yearn for that sound of chalk) and said: ‘Done. Here it is.’ Beñat, one of our more ‘active’ classmates immediately expressed his annoyance: ‘That’s a trick! That’s not a circle!’ while displaying his own circle, which took up most of the page and a large part of the table. Then Maite answered him: ‘Beñat, look out the windows at the horizon. Don’t you see a line? … A circle with an infinite radius is a line. The Earth is not infinite, but it has a radius of 6371 km and we are looking at such a small piece of it that it looks like a line.’

Right then, my future-Telematic-Engineer brain went ‘Booom!’, like when Mort and Phil step on a mine. For many days, even months, I couldn’t stop noticing lines, imagining that the bus, the classroom door or the San Mamés goalposts were actually infinite circles (no surprise that we didn’t win all the matches…).

Developing creativity is essential and we can do it in oh so many different ways. Thanks to Maite and her drawing, I started to question and ponder the why of things, practice mindfulness and keep hugging my inner child by creating comics. And that is when I created the most important character in my comic, the ‘Artistic Engineer’.

The importance of creativity

World Creativity Day is celebrated on 21 April, a fundamental skill for both personal and professional development. Whether you are brainstorming new solutions for a project, fitting the pieces together to find work-life balance, or maybe exploring a new hobby, creativity is an extremely powerful lever to face and deal with challenges with optimism and the best solutions possible.

But, what happens if I am not creative?

You may think that creativity is something that only certain people have (or that is exclusively associated with artistic expression) and that you are not one of them. However, science states that all of us, every person, can be creative.

There is a reference study [1] on individual creative capacity, which studied the characteristics that made people creative. As explained in the study, personal characteristics like intellectual ability, prior training and artistic skills barely had any impact on creativity. However, there is one characteristic that creative people have in common that involves a qualitative leap from the others: following a process when generating ideas.

Who would have thought?! To have new ideas, what is most important is being disciplined while following a process.

Being creative involves following a process

Although this process may have different stages depending on the methodology, all of them have two things in common:

  • On the one hand, the existence of two different territories in which to delve. The first is the territory of the problem, in which we seek to understand the challenges and to explore the opportunities. And the second territory is that of the solution, for which we seek alternatives that could solve the challenges and opportunities detected.

We often associate creativity with outlining new solutions to a problem and we forget the part related to looking for new questions, associated with the territory of the problem.

  • On the other, we want to activate two types of thinking during each stage. Thinking can be divided into what we call divergent, in which we flow, explore and deepen our search for different perspectives; and convergent thinking, in which we analyse all the information created to define problems or solutions and make decisions to then move into action.

By practicing divergent thinking, we can find new ideas, but without convergent thinking, it would be tough to reach a solution and execute it.

I would like to celebrate World Creativity Day by encouraging all of you to become aware of your creative process and to practice these two types of thinking, not only at work but also in your daily lives. Every day is full of challenges. Take advantage of your full creativity to resolve them!

With time and practice, you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve. And you? Do you see lines or circles?