6 May 2012


"Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating." Here are 5 conditions to allow creativity to flourish, according to comedian John Cleese (Monty Python):

1. Space. “You can’t become playful, and therefore creative, if you’re under your usual pressures.” Seal yourself off in a quiet spot where you'll be undisturbed.

2. Time. "Create your space for a specific period of time" for about an hour and a half. You need about thirty minutes to be able to focus and after an hour and a half, you need a break, so it's better to schedule 90 minutes now and 90 minutes next week. Another reason for that is condition number 3 below.

3. Time (again!). There is no need to take the decision until it's time to take it. Know first when the decision has to be taken to allow maximum pondering time and defer the decision until then, which will lead you to the most creative solutions. "If, while you're pondering, someone accuses of indecision, say: look, babycakes, I don't have to decide till Tuesday and I'm not chickening out of my creative discomfort by taking a snap decision before then. That's too easy." (21:20) But once the decision is taken, stick "to it while it's being implemented".

4. Confidence. “Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake. (...) Whatever happens, it's okay. (...) You cannot be playful if you're frightened if moving in some direction will be wrong, something you shouldn't have done. (...) Risk saying things that are silly. (...) While being creative, nothing is wrong."

5. Humour. Whatever the topic, however "serious" it is. Laughing does not make any topic less serious. Solemnity: "what is the point of it?" (25:18). Humour is an essential part of creativity.

I love the speaking style of John Cleese, inserting "light bulb" jokes in the middle of his speech without laughing himself. I just love deadpan humour. Add British accent and I don't need anything more! Certainly don't miss the last three minutes on how to destroy creativity (32:25 onwards).

PS: the video is no longer available on YouTube but his other talks on the same topic possibly cover the same points.