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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

More Ways than One

We’ve probably all heard the term “more ways than one to skin a cat.”  Now, as a cat lover, I’m not too thrilled with the entomology of this phrase (or the visual this evokes), but from a practical, efficient project management standpoint, I whole-heartedly embrace this concept.

I’m not sure when or where the disabling idea occurred and was embraced that says there is only one right answer.  Okay, perhaps there are disciplines where there actually is only one right answer.  But even in math, for example, I am sure that the further into it you explore, the more creative the answers can get—just look at the wildly creative signs and symbols used to express higher mathematical concepts. 

And even if there is only one right answer, there are multitudes of paths to get to the right answer. 

As an artist/writer and creative person, I have to seek many creative solutions and choose the one that feels best for the circumstance and project.  If one solution doesn’t work out, then it is time for me to try out the second right answer.  And if that still doesn’t lead to the result I want (and it may very well lead to an entirely different expression than I ever expected—one that may provide an entirely new creation or art form)…then I have to explore the third right answer.

With creativity, it is not always the right answer that is the important aspect.  Sometimes, it is the creative process and how the end result is achieved that is far more important.  When I’m doing brain storming for a project or working with a class on brain storming, I constantly ask, “what else would work?”  and “what else could I try?”  These open ended questions can open up the proverbial can of worms.  Some of the ideas might seem crazy.  Some of them might not work at all.  A tangent may not be the answer, but it can lead to a new path that leads to the answer. 

Freeing up creativity requires a willingness to explore. The first answer isn’t always the best answer.  Sometimes it may seem to be the easiest answer, but the easiest answer doesn’t always provide the richness of a satisfying end result.

Surprise yourself.  Try the second or third answer or the thousandth.  If Thomas Edison had accepted the first answer he got for electricity—“it doesn’t work” we’d all still be in the dark.