Creativity in autopilot: where´s the catch?

autopilotLet´s start with a simple question, what do all these tasks have in common? driving our car; riding a bicycle; baking a cake

All of them are:

  • Relatively complex to perform: multiple subtasks have to be carried out to achieve success.
  • They are activities that vary in time, that is to say, they are never the same (unless we freak out and start to carry out them in an obsessive-compulsive way).
  • And we are able to perform them on autopilot, that is, without giving them too much thought.

What does this mean? It means we are capable of solving problems in our personal and professional lives, many times (not always), without thinking, without being conscious of what we are actually doing. More specifically, in the realm of creativity, it proves that the human brain can actually learn the fairly complex process of being creative.

What is the advantage of autopilot anyway? Shouldn´t we be more free and loose in order to be more creative? Well, should you be free and loose while driving? Yes, but to a certain extent. After all there are rules that are applicable and which actually work. If you want to accelerate the car, you definitely don’t want to step on the clutch and do need the doors to be closed (again, unless some psychological malfunction is on to us).

Creativity works pretty much the same way. There are creativity principles which enable us to come up with new solutions to challenges. But we need to master them well enough in order for us to use them almost automaticallyWhat is the irony behind this affirmation? Ladies and gentlemen, I´ll tell you a secret. We already do use them automatically.  Let me prove it to you.

Remember the day you wanted to give a relative or close friend a present. But you didn´t have enough money to do so. What did you do? (most probably) You thought about buying something for that person which was not expensive, but special. For instance with a touching letter with a more affordable present. When you did that you eventually applied the principle of “counterweight”. You compensated for the lack of money.

That´s creativity folks, that´s all it is.

CC_SA By Ernesto Lluch Moreno. Picture by Elliot P.

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3 Replies to “Creativity in autopilot: where´s the catch?”

  1. Well…I was evicted from my own home due to a process called divorce. I do not want to become a divorcee nor do I desire to keep on trying to go back to my home since the stupid pigs nab me. I do not want to waste my life going to court, counseling, or whatever else society claims is ‘appropriate’. So what else do I do? I catch a greyhound to another state so that I will not be tempted to even try going back into my house. With barely any money and no place to stay, I eventually work my way into a homeless shelter in an accommodating city, follow the rules, and work with the system of the government as best I can to gradually rebuild myself. Material goods that are left behind were very lovely and I’d like them again, however, I figure I’m not a fish and I don’t play the game of ‘catch and release’ in a state that is now frozen over because hell froze over. I realize many people reading this are giggling at the absurdity in my creativity, but it’s actually working. It isn’t exactly a free gravy train with prepared breakfast and supper because I’m limited with possessions as well as comfort, but luckily, I have an online job and when I don’t work it, I make a job of writing a novel, which is composed of memoirs, an autobiography, diary, etc., plus draw, color, and paint. I’m also a poet, so that activity is very enlightening. We are what we practice. I did not mean to be a ‘homeless’ artist and writer, but once I set my sights on some of my other skills and hone them, watch out! Basically I’m an entrepreneur. It’s all in the eye of the beholder and it’s all in one’s own perspective. I may have had my cars repossessed and owe a hell of a lot on my student loans, but when I work my will as best as I possibly can manage, I know I can morph this existence into something more appeasing for everyone involved…WITHOUT EVER GETTING DIVORCED! As I see it, the cars getting repossessed were more of a benefit than a loss anyways as I don’t have to contend with the dreaded payments every month nor insurance expense. And since I am accepting of many religions, I can also say, SO MOTE IT BE! Rather than your traditional AMEN! Hey…I could even say, SO BE IT, or IT WILL BE SO. But really all I mean to say is that I BELIEVE! If I can write this confidently, then I can also make it happen just the same way! And, as Forest Gump would say, ‘That’s all I’ve got to say about that.’

  2. I would like to offer a perspective on the topic of creativity on autopilot. I believe that creativity does not happen on ‘autopilot’ in the sense that we can drive a car on autopilot. Autopilot by it’s very nature means being able to perform a task – even a complex one such as driving – without heavy cognitive load or concentration once we are sufficiently expert at the task. The key is in the level of expertise of the person performing the task. Driving a car requires an intense level of concentration to a learner but not to someone who is an expert. Even incredibly complex tasks such as driving or surgery or chess strategy become routine to someone who has performed them many times. See Anderson’s research on automatisation. But creativity is about the search for novelty and originality. So if a task is being performed on autopilot then in my opinion the performer is not being truly creative for their level of expertise. Please note that I do differentiate this state from being in a state of flow where the creators experience allows them to perform in a way that feels effortless but is an intense state of concentration where expertise is being tapped into almost intuitively. Great question.

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