One of Our Favorite Exercises for Creativity

We're often asked for our best exercises for creativity? We come back to our favorite time and again: Don't Repeat.

Don't Repeat - A creative exercise
Our favorite creativity exercise detailed

“Don’t repeat”

You could define creativity in many ways -- and they could all lead to interesting propositions. But if you want to be different and novel at all levels there are two words you should embed in your creativity exercises:

“Don’t repeat.”

The phrase coined by Ferran Adria, the chef at the groundbreaking restaurant El Bulli is critical to creativity and innovation.  

Because creativity is not repeating.

This encompass so much:

  • The difference between quantitative change (repetition that is world expanding) and qualitative change (non-repetitive novel worldmaking)
  • The need to know what has been done so as to be able to block it (disclosure and blocking)
  • A belief in the unknown and the not yet existent (there are genuinely new things to be done)
  • An experimental approach: it will not happen in your head (ideas are repetitions)

But, most importantly, not repeating brings you directly and immersively into the world of the unintended. What has been done and what has been used -- which is to say the intended -- now cannot be used. Everything else is fair game.

But what is left?

In a literal sense: nothing. No-thing that has an identity, or a pre-existing purpose.

Does that mean nothing can be done?

Paradoxically -- No: it means that you have to work outside of knowing, and go back through “zero” to build up a new approach.

This zero and this nothing is not the nothing of a void -- of a total absence -- it is full -- it is overflowing with possibility (unknowable directions) and only possibility for the new -- because you have to block all potentials (knowable directions).

This is the experimental portal to the unintended. And El Bulli did this so well. Developing effective processes with distinct phases and tasks -- a methodology to manufacture creativity. This might strike you as absurd: “you cannot manufacture creativity” -- sure, if you think manufacturing always works or is neat linear process, but they had astonishing success because of the application of a rigorous process to deeply engage with the unintended.

The El Bulli materials shared in the links above are really worth watching and reflecting on in terms of inventing effective processes for creativity and for how deeply they enter the vast ocean of the unintended.

on What Is Innovation, and How to Innovate

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