“Relax, it will come” – Start 2013 with some insights into creativity

Posted on 2013/01/04 by


To kick off the new year in a fitting fashion, we watched an old, but never the less great lecture by John Cleese about creativity. As our discussion was quite intense afterwards, we thought we’d share it with you.

by Fabian Klenk

John Cleese was a member of the british comedy troupe Monty Python in the early 70ies and later produced some humoristic scientific lectures. This video being one of them.

Here is the full 36 minute video:

And these were our main take aways:

There are two modes of work, the open and the closed mode. In the open mode we are relaxed, can play, be creative and come up with new ideas easily. In the closed mode on the other hand we are more serious and very much focussed on getting things done and implementing our ideas. Every mode has its own rules and is helpful in different phases of a project.

As we are very much interested in how we can be very creative, we liked the summary of Cleese on how we can bring ourselves into the open mode. He talks about the following basic conditions that enable creative work more easily:

  • An oasis in which one can play and let the mind wander around a topic. It should be defined by space (e.g. a conference room) and time (Cleese suggests about 1 1/2h) where one will not be disturbed. Be aware that it can take up to 30 minutes until you fully reach the open mode especially on a stressful day, so try not to get disturbed.
  • The clear definition of when the decision needs to be taken. Before that point, one can play with different approaches and ideas. After that one should focus on implementing the decision in the closed mode.
  • Work persistently on the problem and be optimistic, that a good solution will come to mind. Never forget, that it takes time to come up with something original. So Cleese suggests, to spend the full time, that you set aside for finding a creative idea, on figuring out the best possible solution. Taking the first idea would be all too easy.
  • And last but not least a good sense of humor because humor will bring you into the open mode faster than anything else.

You will find some more great quotes on brainpickings.org and on Scott Berkuns blog.

If you liked the video then also watch a more recent lecture by Cleese, where he elaborated on a few of these points in more depth.

Happy new year and a creative 2013 to everyone!

Posted in: English