Communication & Alignment

The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice

Most people think of creativity as a mystical, incomprehensible force that is beyond our ability to influence. In a recent Fridays With Vistage webinar, however, Todd Henry revealed the dynamics of organizational creativity in his presentation, The Accidental Creative: How to be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice.

Todd began by asking the question: Is it possible to be prolific, brilliant, and healthy all at the same time? Most people, he noted, master two of these traits but find it a real challenge to master all three.

Usually, it’s health that’s being compromised, and if your health suffers, the other two pieces suffer as well. In today’s create-on-demand world, we work hard to meet our deadlines, but at the cost of creativity. We come up with comfortable solutions and hover around our problems, rather than finding meaningful connections and creating novel ideas.

There are three enemies of creativity that Todd Henry called, “Assassins”:

  1. Dissonance: This is the lack of resolution and tension that people feel when they don’t understand the true objectives or edges of their work.
  2. Fear: When the perceived consequences of failure outweigh the perceived benefits of success, people feel afraid. Then they don’t venture into uncomfortable places.
  3. Expectation Escalation: This occurs when people constantly compare their present work with their past work, and ratchet up the expectations so high that it becomes paralyzing.

To counteract the assassins, Todd recommends a series of practices that are easily remembered by using the acronym F.R.E.S.H.

  • Focus: Learn to ignore the notion that “something out there might be more important than what’s in front of you.” When you check your email every five minutes, you put yourself in a state of continuous partial attention. To maintain focus, write down your three biggest challenges on an index card and carry it with you at all times. Once your problem statements are elevated, cognitive breakthrough occurs.
  • Relationships: For intellectual stimulation, Todd recommended starting circles. Pull together a group of five to seven people, and ask each other 1) What are you working on right now? 2) What can we help you with? 3) What’s inspiring you right now? These discussions will leave you sharpened, motivated and inspired.
  • Energy: People don’t manage energy well, so when we need a brilliant idea at 4pm, we’ve got nothing left. Todd recommended pruning your systems or, in other words, learning to say, “No.” Some ideas are good, but not for right now. Also, start thinking, Whole Life. It’s not good to throw all of your energy into your work life or your financial life and then ignore everything else. Acknowledge that you are one person at the center, and devote energy to your life as a whole.
  • Stimuli: Learn to be purposeful about the things you put into your head. Read articles and journals that challenge you and make you think. Take better notes. Include intuitive hunches as well as facts and figures. Force yourself to look at life through a different lens.
  • Hours: Time is the currency of productivity. What activities provide the most value? Are you developing curiosity? Are you experimenting? Dedicate time to your three biggest problems- the ones you wrote on the index card- because you have to be purposeful about building a structure in your life for ideas to emerge.

Todd is the founder and CEO of Accidental Creative. His work has been featured by Fast Company, Fortune, Forbes,, US News & World Report, and many other major media outlets.

Category: Communication & Alignment Innovation


About the Author: Rebecca McCarthy

Rebecca L. McCarthy is the owner of the The Written Coach in San Diego, California where she gives business professionals the tools they need to write and publish their books. She has published more than 40 books—some se

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