A lot of people tend to think that creatives spend all their time thinking of new and interesting ideas. In fact, truly creative people aim to find and recognize only one good idea and pursue it until they can prove themselves right or wrong. Thomas Edison agrees: “Creativity is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” Or try this one: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

While creativity can invoke ideas of spontaneous insight and far-out inspiration, the truth is that being creative is mainly about a practical understanding of the situation at hand and evaluating all the factors that contribute to the problem. To be able to reach this stage of complete insight into the problem you would have to explore every possibility. But how do you know if you looked under every rock in the yard? Is a pebble considered a rock too? What if the rock is too heavy to lift? And where does the yard actually end?

At this point someone has to set the borders, create an outline and manage this exploration of rocks and pebbles, wouldn’t you agree? In the office you probably would step to your manager and present the different answers to the question and discuss which is the right one to pursue. So, one could conclude that the solving of problems requires management. The verb manage comes from the Italian maneggiare which in turn derives from the Latin manus (hand) and means: to handle, train, be in charge of and control horses.

During my last holiday I went on a horse-riding trip. As an inexperienced horse rider I didn’t yet know that horse riding meant management. But I learned fast. The horse I was riding (better: trying to ride) was named “Slow-mo”, but every chance the horse got into speeding into some nasty spiked bushes and low-hanging branches of trees, Slow-mo took. Just to get me of his back. I quickly learned that if you are not managing the situation the situation manages you. It is to manage or be managed.

So yes, you should manage creativity. Otherwise it will run free like a wild horse. We shouldn’t however limit the horse to the stables. First we let it break free like a wild horse to break open conventions and scare the hell out of narrow-minded participants in the process, but later on we have to start brushing the manes as well, preferably without getting injured. Obviously not all of the wild ideas will be practical or possible. So, as part of the creativity process, you need to decide which criteria you’ll use to evaluate your ideas. So, the secret to effective creativity lies in good management and good decision-making.

In the workplace, some people are naturally more creative than others. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t all learn to more creative, and use creativity enhancing tools and techniques. At its core, creativity is the ability to see familiar things in a new light, and the first step to being more creative is to break free from the stable. You can brush your manes later.

Methods are tools.

It takes people with spirit

to make them work.