There is something that separates the really good from the
magnificent. Why did Tchaikovsky become an international classic
while the vast majority of other composers remain undiscovered (yes,
I recently survived my 8th Nutcracker ballet!)? Did the unknowns
lack technical skill? How did Albert Einstein's theories replace
Isaac Newton's as standard thinking? What was Al doing challenging
the master of the planets? What about the West coast offense in
football? Pablo Picasso? Thomas Edison? Perhaps closer to home
court, why do some tennis players with all the talent and training
in the world never break the top 50? The answer may be "creativity!"
It's definitely worth your time for a closer look, perhaps in a
slightly different way!
What is Creativity?
Very little sport psychology research has addressed this topic, so
excuse me for going out on a limb this month. But - that's actually
the essence of creativity - not being afraid to go where few venture!
My dictionary defines creative as "resulting from originality of
thought or expression." Psychologists liken creativity to "divergent
thinking" or "thinking that extends in many directions from a single
point." Creativity involves coming up with many possible solutions
to a single problem. The opposite of creativity is rigidity or
closed-minded thinking. Perhaps you know folks who remain hopelessly
fixed in their way of thinking - always viewing things from only one
perspective. In my opinion, these people limit their potential for
Expressions of Creativity
Creative performers can be spotted by their actions and thoughts, but
attempting to fully describe creative behavior is a contradiction
that would show incredible rigidity! What is creative tomorrow is
often unknown today. Nevertheless, certain behaviors and thoughts
seem to characterize those who are truly creative:
Fluency of Ideas - The ability to generate a large number of ideas.
For example, athletes with fluency of ideas imagine many
competitive scenarios and how to deal with them most effectively.
Flexibility - The ability to adjust to the situation effectively.
Flexible competitors do not remain focused on solutions that do not
work. Changing strategies during competition is an example of
Originality - Behaving in ways that few others do. It's an
expression of creativity to come up with a novel solution to a common
problem. How many tennis players used a western forehand grip before
Bjorn Borg? How about the forward pass in the 1930s? Originality
does sometimes pay dividends.
So you've decided that creativity may have some advantages. Here are
some ways in which you can develop creativity:
Loosen Up Your Stereotypes - People often simplify reality by holding
on to stereotypes and judgements that are not based in reality.
Learn to identify and let go of your false assumptions more often and
you'll find that greater creativity will emerge. You'll be more
aware of subtleties that were previously blocked by a rigid and often
Brainstorm - Spend a regular portion of your time generating ideas
without stopping to evaluate them. This creative process is best
achieved in a completely non-judgmental setting where everyone is
allowed to share without the benefit of criticism. Ideas that seem
silly are encouraged because they often lead to other ideas that are
the key to future success.
Incubate - Think of one serious problem that you want to solve before
you retire for the evening. Convince your mind to work on the
solution during your sleeping hours. You may be surprised when the
solution presents itself in the morning! The unconscious work toward
a solution is often accomplished by just leaving problems, but
returning to them later.
A Creativity Contest
I've ranted long enough. It's now your turn to tell me who you think
the most creative tennis player ever was and why. I will post the
winner in the next Mental Equipment article! Send your response to me using this form.