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Do mistakes upend your creative ideas, or do you expect mistakes along the way to creativity?

The reason for asking is, as mentioned previously, I took a lengthy Bible class earlier this year where miracles were a relatively frequent topic. Someone in class raised the question of why the types of incredible miracles (think the parting of the Red Sea) and unusual events (someone being swallowed up by the earth) contained in the Bible don’t happen now.

We discussed that during Bible times, there were few ways to identify why things happened in nature. Today, we feel pretty good about our ability to seemingly explain everything. Or alternatively, if we can’t explain it, scientists are quick to come up with a theory they expect to prove one day to explain what happened. Then whatever’s left over is dismissed as wild stories people are imagining or fabricating.

As evidence, the week we read in the Bible about someone being swallowed alive in the Old Testament, a guy in Florida was swallowed alive – except now we say it was a sinkhole with no speculation about God possibly addressing the guy’s immoral behavior.

Mistakes, Creative Ideas, and Boring Miracles

The past few years, however, I’ve thought a great deal about how mistakes, creative ideas, and miracles might be intertwined.

In becoming more personally comfortable with learning from mistakes, I’ve realized the only “miracles” we tend to think about are those resulting in a dramatic change from what was expected. We don’t tend to notice mistakes leading to “boring” miracles.

I think of boring miracles as the unexpected, often frustrating things that happen that turn out in a positive, albeit unremarkable way.

Want an example?

One recent Sunday, I was planning on going to church at 7 a.m. As is typical, I’d already been on the computer, was late getting ready, and wound up racing out the door. Although I was running late, I decided to stop and throw the Sunday newspaper at the end of the driveway the last 40 feet across the yard to the porch.

Even before the plastic bag holding the paper left my hand, I sensed a problem.

Newspaper-StrewnThe too small Kansas City Star in the too big plastic bag came flying out all over the damp morning grass. Knowing I couldn’t walk away, I scrambled to pick up the paper, unlock the front door, and put it on the front table. I locked the door again, headed back to the car, and was ready to turn the key, but something didn’t feel right. I reached into my back pocket and confirmed my wallet (with my driver’s license) wasn’t there. So back to the house, unlock the door, dash to the office to find my billfold, and scramble to the car again.

As the minutes were ticking away, I asked, “God, is there some reason you DON’T want me to go to this mass?”

The rest of the drive was uneventful – although there was a particularly long red light where no other car came anywhere near the intersection. I was at church in plenty of time and everything worked out fine.

In the past, the seemingly unnecessary delays would have sent me over the edge, and I’d have been furious by the time I made it to church.

Now, as I told my fellow class members, I chalk it up to something remarkable – and potentially tragic – that might have happened if everything had gone mistake-free and as smoothly as I would have liked. While the outcome seems completely run of the mill, who knows what other more negative things might have happened if I’d been 5 minutes faster getting to church?

Where do your creative ideas originate?

With a lot of changes in my life since starting The Brainzooming Group, and discovering new ways to generate creative ideas, I’ve become much more accustomed to mistakes and keeping my patience on the way to what might be boring miracles.

So, do you look for miracles behind the mistakes in your creative life? Do you see them as connected in any way? Or do you only see the mistakes and doubt there any miracles? I’m curious to know what you think. – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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4 Responses to “Creative Ideas – Do Mistakes Lead to Boring Miracles?”

  1. John Bennett says:

    “Where do your creative ideas originate?” May I suggest this to me is the concern, NOT the role of mistakes … Once you seek to find / develop a procedure for creativity, that’s when creativity from you diminishes. As you’ve written many times, strategy – then creativity. But strategy has to do (again for me) with (1) being open to opportunities for creativity EVERYWHERE including mistakes; and (2) the need to initially characterize the immediacy / importance of the opportunity – carefully them all by their characterization for future and regular review.

    Bottom line: I don’t think you want a procedure to follow to identify creative opportunities, rather you want to be open to creative opportunities presenting themselves at any time.

    • Mike Brown says:

      I think it’s both, John. There’s an importance to being open to creativity, but the point of so much of our work is that you don’t have to leave creativity to random inspiration alone. There are ways to put yourself into mindsets and situations that create a higher probability of creative ideas. I strive for openness and process to maximize creativity.

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