Six Ideas for Creative Action

A red button with the words "Take action" on itWhat kind of action can you take, today, to advance your dream? What action can you take today to make real your invention, your new business idea, or art project?

This is a post about taking creative action. All the great ideas in the world, all the wonderful concepts, all the ground-breaking thoughts we have are useless unless we get into real world action.

It’s an easy concept to forget for people who love ideas, concepts, and imaginative thinking. Somehow — we are such great rationalisers — the good vibes generated when we have those lovely thoughts feel like action. But sadly they are not. Every day that slips by without real world forward progress on our creative ideas is wasted and gone forever. We have to take action in spite of all obstacles. Don’t let fear, uncertainty, doubt, finances, or time get in the way. There is always a way to do Something. 

This all comes to mind because I’m here in Buffalo once again for the annual Creative Problem Solving Institute (CPSI). I first came in 1988 and it changed the course of my entire life. It feels like I’m back in college, installed in a bare bones dorm room, squirrelling away bottles of water and bags of almonds to augment the weird food. This is the conference that is so inspirational for ideas. It’s a bit like Burning Man for applied creativity people.

CPSI is the conference where they teach the Osborn-Parnes Model of brainstorming (aka “CPS”) and, all sorts of other fascinating creative and innovative content. Most of the attendees here are creativity wonks or wonk-wanna-be’s. They newby’s will learn the amazingly powerful and flexible CPS framework and will feel incredibly empowered leaving this conference. You’d think this empowerment would fuel a lot of creative behaviour, that is, real action in the world. Sadly, for many, this will not be the case. They’ll simply be much better at generating ideas they won’t use. In that light, for them, and for the rest of us struggling to get into action, here are…

Six Ideas for Creative Action:

  1. Instead of spending endless time perfecting an idea on paper or in your head, get a quickie version out. Sometimes action itself is an idea refinement method. Really, the Lean movement is all about this. Get into action and learn, improve, re-implement. Do a sketch of that painting, do an outline for that book. Run that new speech by someone for feedback. Do It Now.
  2. Don’t feel that you have to be ready to take action. Feeling energized sometimes happens after you jump into the cold pool of action. Be a bit crazy — take action in an explosive and unexpected way. Surprise yourself. Pick up the phone and make an audacious call. Make a bold public declaration of intention. Write the first chapter of that book. Today. Action steps that are safe are rarely bold action. Leap into action, work with the clay of your ideas in real time. Now.
  3. Attack what’s holding you back.  Fear lurks in the shadows. By not looking in the shadows we avoid not only our fears but we avoid action. Look into your shadows deliberately, what are you afraid of? Okay, now, right now, strike back. Take a decisive action to defeat your fear — even if it scares the crap out of you to do it. Do It Now.
  4. Throw caution to the wind. More than once. There are moments when we have to take risks, sometimes big risks. I’ve seen people grab for a brass ring and fail, big time. You know what? I love those people. Generally they recover, and it’s amazing that they often try again right away. Every time they try they get closer and boost their odds of eventual success. With belief and persistence you can grab that ring and then do something truly amazing. When one of those moments sneaks up on you, be bold, jump off that carousel horse and go for it. Take a Risk Now.
  5. Baby steps are action. If you’re not buying into the bold bigger step, fine, take a measurable baby step. Then take another. Sometimes something like a phone call can be a builder that improves your confidence to take bigger action. Getting materials you need for a project is an action step. Setting up an appointment, preparing for a pitch, these are great baby steps. Here’s the thing — keep making those baby steps, don’t stop, and you’ll look back a month from now and see you’ve been in constant action. You’ll make real progress. Take a baby step Now. 
  6. Be creative in the way you take action. Celebrate your action as you take it. I’ve had champagne with my first cold call of the day. Walk into a meeting and say out loud “this is going to be the best meeting we’ve ever had” — then make it so with some creative flair. Surprise people. Great ideas presented in a boring way don’t look much like great ideas. Be creative in how you take action steps, make it fun, do it with energy and verve. So you’re calling that CEO or customer with an idea — think of something to say, first thing, that grabs attention in a creative way. Offer to pay her $100 to listen very carefully for five minutes. I had a friend that wrote a memo on toilet paper inside a boss’s toilet. Get the idea? Be creative inside an action, like, right Now!

Creative thinking is often inspired by creative action. Let action inform your creativity — and let creativity inform your action. Do something today. 

There is magic in action. Fortune befriends the bold (Emily Dickinson).

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