In David Usher’s book Let The Elephants Run, he explains that people often shy away from “Pink Elephant thinking,” a way of thinking that embraces the wild and crazy ideas born from big dreams and a limitless imagination. David reminds us that it can be tempting to overlook pink elephant ideas in favour of ideas that are safe: the realistic, logical ones that appear “doable.”
“These Pink Elephant ideas are rare, they are shy, and they can retreat into the fog in an instant,” says David. “They often seem impossible and not grounded in reality, so it is always tempting to immediately dismiss them and to send them back into the wild without a second thought.”
If you want to start thinking and acting more creatively, here are three things that David Usher suggests you can do to unleash your pink elephant ideas and help them run wild:
- Get Back to the Child’s Mind
Children do not need to be told how or when to play—play is a natural part of a child’s day-to-day life. However, the older we get, and the more time we spend in places like schools and offices, the more likely we are to sit back and wait for approval before doing anything fun or creative.
“Throughout our lives, the more we ‘learn,’ the easier it is to become disconnected from our childlike curiosity,” says David. “To restart our creativity we need to reconnect to our natural ability for exploratory play.”
You, like everyone else, has curiosity living inside of you. You simply may be a bit rusty when it comes to acting on your sense of intrigue. Once you move away from institutionalized modes of thinking that stifle creativity, it won’t be long before you learn to embrace your own wild ideas. When you find yourself feeling curious about something, act on those wee kings. When you have a wild idea, think about how you can cultivate it, or repurpose it, and make it work in the situation at hand, rather than immediately rejecting it.
- Start Messing With Your Patterns
People love patterns. Too often, we retreat into the safety of the routine—what is known—rather than branching out into the unknown. Routines are not always a bad thing—preparing lunches for the week every Sunday, for example, can help to keep us organized—but for the most part, in order to be our best creative-selves, we need to make a regular, conscious effort to defy our routines and break our habits.
Stepping outside your usual behaviour will allow you to view the world from different angles—the more you observe, the more you will learn and, in turn, the more resources you will have to draw from in your next creative endeavour.
“If you take the same numbers and run them through the same computation, you naturally expect the same result. Why would the equation be any different with creativity?” Says David. “If you or your team are not getting the creative results you want, try changing some of the elements in the computation.”
- Keep Your Mouth Shut
Here’s the unfortunate reality: no matter how much effort you put into releasing your pink elephants and letting them run wild, the people around you who do not embrace creative thought will often deflate your innovative ideas, sending them crashing back down to earth before they come to fruition. Instead of your family and friends meeting your ideas with excitement, you might encounter skeptical questions and statements of resistance from others who are concerned about whether your new ideas are “safe,” “practical,” and “feasible” at first glance. Sadly, doubt and questions about the feasibility of your ideas may become overwhelming and discourage you from following through with your idea, even before you get a chance to start on the project.
To prevent naysayers from taking the wind out of your sails before your ideas are fully formed, wait until your next idea or creative endeavor has legs before you start discussing it with other people. The earlier you spread the word, the more likely the odds are to stack up against your favour. You will have a lot of time to discuss and defend your ideas later—in the early stages of your planning, keep quiet and do your best to develop them on your own.
At David Usher’s company, CloudID Creativity Labs, there is a sign on the wall that reads: “Dream big, let the elephants run!” The words are a reminder for us to hold a place in our minds for creativity, where big ideas can form and our imagination can run free. Based on his wildly popular speaking engagements, Let the Elephants Run shows us how to reignite creativity whether in the head office, the home office or the artist’s studio.
Usher believes creativity is in our DNA; it’s in everyone, not just the creative class. We all start our lives as creative beings, but for many that spark becomes lost over time. How do we jump-start our creative process as adults? What does it means to be a creative person? How do we follow through with our ideas and turn them into tangible outcomes?
Usher empowers readers to achieve more “aha” moments through two cornerstone principles of creativity: freedom and structure. Using a mix of personal anecdotes and professional examples from the worlds of industry, technology, science, music and art, he shows us that creativity is not magic; it is a learnable skill that any person or business can master. The dynamic full-colour design includes photographs, artwork and illustrations, as well as action pages to help readers start cultivating the habit of documenting their ideas for future execution.
Let the Elephants Run is an essential guidebook to reconnecting with our imaginations and nurturing our creativity in accessible and productive ways.