Playfulness

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The second major characteristic of a creative individual could be described as a spirit of playfulness.

“Perhaps the most salient characteristic of creative individuals is a constant curiosity, an ever-renewed interest in whatever happens around them.” Csikszentmihalyi (1999)

This curiosity about the world fuels intrinsic motivation, where we find reward in the activity itself. Once hooked on ‘finding out’, this kind of person is prepared to become totally immersed in the domain. It seems that it’s only by first learning and understanding the existing rules, that you can know enough to break them. At that point, you know enough to choose the right ideas to work on. You also know the key players, the gatekeepers, who will accept or reject your ideas. Usually only those deeply involved in a domain are in a position to challenge and change the status quo. You have to understand what has gone before in order to question it and turn it around.

Such playfulness has a child-like quality: an ability to ask the dumb questions. Often the ‘dumb’ questions elicit the best answers. “So why do we do things this way?” has a way of stopping organisations in their well-worn tracks.

Eudora Welty, a great writer on writing argues that creative people take in the world through the senses as if for the first time,  free of existing ways of understanding, free of perceived constraints.

“Children, like animals use all their senses to discover the world. Then artists come along and discover it the same way… Or now and then we’ll hear from an artist who’s never lost it.”
The buddhist notion of “Start with a beginner’s mind” echoes Ms Welty’s thinking.
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