Claiming Your Creativity Intentionally

Carl Nordgren on the Power of Intention in Creative Entrepreneurship

This article is part two in a series covering my great discussion with teacher, business man and creative, Carl Nordgren. Check out Part One: Becoming A Creative Genius


If we’re all born with creative genius, then what stands in the way of us carrying it with us into our adulthood?

Well, it starts in school. That was one of the things about which the researchers were clearest. When George Land and his team completed this research, they helped us appreciate the opposite of creative thinking. Let’s call it ‘uniform’ or ‘orthodox’ thinking which is taught in school.


We are taught in school that there is one right answer to every question. Even worse, we’re taught that there’s only one right way to get to that right answer. We are trained to follow a singular process to achieve conventional goals. That is learned limitation to one’s creativity.

We’re taught that if we do it differently than the norm, we’re likely to get admonished,  or even punished. Incrementally, over the course of every year that we’re in school, we’re told more and more and more to stay within the lines, to do it “as I say that you should.”

What happens next?

Then, we go right into the career realm. Let’s face it. The western economy has been extraordinarily successful in the past because we’ve really been good at applying logic and analytics, right? I mean it’s been that which has made us great.

Unfortunately, that success comes at the price of our creativity. Our businesses have mostly maintained what our schools started, which is, “Hey, you have this assigned task. Accomplish this assigned task under this exact time limit, don’t give energy to anything else until you’re done. Just focus on it.”

That approach shuts off so much of our brain power; it’s impossible to expect creativity can be preserved under these conditions.

Increasingly, businesses are recognizing that the competitive advantage is having the most creative organization possible. I think there’s a growing awareness that that old way of doing things, which, again, served us well, and logical and analytical skill will always be important. It’s just not sufficient on its own any longer.

Now, we need to merge that with this more creative and entrepreneurial appreciation for how the world performs, and how we can therefore create value within that world.

Where can we make changes in our lives to help unlock our inner genius?

That growth and where you’ll see some of that change most quickly is in your perception of the world. All of the philosophers, the physicists, the poets, can all agree on one thing: We don’t see the world as it is. We see the world as we are.

When we intentionally declare, “From this point forward, I’m going to be the most creative and entrepreneurial version of myself I can be,” in that moment, you begin to see the world as a creative or entrepreneurial person sees the world.

Initially, that shift in your perception will be incremental. However, notice I didn’t say only incremental, because, man, there is great power in the increment.

Let’s say I’m looking at a problem or a challenge that I’ve been wrangling with for days. I haven’t been able to figure out how to create advantage from this problem or this challenge, looking at in different, even incrementally different way than I did before. That might be all that it takes for me to now fully understand this challenge and this opportunity in a way that I can now do something creative with.

When you talk about operating with intention, what do you mean?

The power of intentionality, right? When I talk to my students about being intentional, I don’t want them to just hang the term out there and not define it in context.

I want to attach some things that they can do to be intentional, to begin to grow their creative and their entrepreneurial qualities. Perhaps the simplest one, the easiest one stems from a piece of research that came out of the University of Munich about three years ago.

Tell me more about that research.

The researchers developed four discreet, creative, cognitive tests in order to measure the four different types of creative processing. The one on which I based this practice involved a simple color experiment.

They bring in one control group of participants to lay down the baseline scores. Of the subsequent groups that come in, group one stares at the color red for thirty seconds before they take the tests. Group two stares at the color blue. Three stares at orange, another stares at yellow. Those people that stared at those colors on average had no changes in their scores when they did the creative exercises.

One group came in and stared at the color green for thirty seconds. After staring at the color green for thirty seconds, they showed a twenty-five percent improvement in their scores on average.

I went out that day and I bought myself a green folder. I keep that green folder in my briefcase, and three or four times a day I take that green folder out and stare at it for thirty seconds.

That’s an act, an easy, simple act of intentionality that is, according to this research finding, having an effect on my creative capacity. Building the strength of your intentionality, your ability to follow through, will have an immense impact on your success as a creative.

If you are a successful designer, graphic artist, or illustrator, you’ve expressed your intentionality to get there, right? You’ve been willful, you’ve had a plan, you’ve executed that plan, so you know how to be intentional. Now bring that intentionality to the process of growing your creative capacity.

Creative Portrait

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