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is everyone awake and ready for WordCamp? I’m Sara Cannon. I’m from Brimingham, Alabama. I’m so thrilled that I get to speak to you about Open Source and Creativity.
I’m the managing partner and the creative director at the digital agency Range. We specialize in strategic design and WordPress development specifically. We really love what we do and that it touches creativity and WordPress daily. because of that, i’m really excited to talk to y’all today about creativity
some people might describe creativity as that spark or idea, the solving of a problem in a unique manner, an original methodology, or something that has yet been created.
Others might describe it as something you have or you don’t have. either you’re a “creative” or you are not.
when i say creative, i am not referring to being “artistic” - I am speaking towards the ability to open our mind to possibility. opening up ourselves to new thinking.
I believe that everyone is born with creativity. As children, we were all creative but we learn to inhibit ourselves. We stifle and constrain our actions and thoughts in order to conform to society. It is the ones of us that have learned to be able to break down these self-taught creative barriers that make us a “creative person” - but in reality, we all really are. It comes easier for some and not others, yes. But I really believe that we all take our own creative input for grated. A big way that you can see creativity at work is in Improv Comedy.
I don't know how many of you have been to an improv show, but it’s quite the experience. The barriers to creative thought are taken down, and there’s a certain amount of vulnerability that leads to honesty and hilarity. In improv, the most important rule is the idea of the Agreement
The agreement is that you take whatever happens to you, whatever is thrown in your direction, and you accept it at face value and as truth. Now where creativity comes into improve is that after accepting your fate, you mentally say “yes, … and”
this is the key to being creative in improv. this is actually a game that comedians play. saying “yes.. and” rather than “no… actually.” paves the way to creative thought and therefore good comedy.
I’m not an improv comedian… but this is just an example how the “yes… ands” in improv can open up creative chanel to lead to the absurd. where am i getting at with all this? Improvisitation , the “yes.. and” is all about Positivity. if we were always saying “no, actually” .. and not being in agreement… then it might so something like this:
then you kind of end there. it’s not funny and it does not lead to creativity or progression. it does not even up the channel of creative thought. it’s interacting with negativity instead of positivity.
this is key to creativity. if we’re all negative.. “that wont work, that wont work, that is a bad idea” rather than “YES, I get the concept. AND what if we look at it in a way we haven’t thought of yet” this leads us to open up our ideas rather than stifle them. we become open to new thought. positivity leads us there.
we can see this type of positivity at play in science. Science seems like such a cut and dry endeavour. Hypothesis, method, results, data. you are constantly analyzing and collecting data. So where does positivity and creativity fit in the world of science?
I asked my friend Luke who is a scientist. he has a grant from nasa to study micro organisms in extreme heat conditions. this data might be helpful in figuring out if there could be life on hot planets… He says that he wants to be known as a “creative” scientist and much like improve comedy… when presented with a problem… he wants to be the one to say “yes… .and” and continue the exploration. Scientists are trained nay-sayers. They are constantly proving things false instead of true. BUT Creative scientists don’t see dead ends but see a jumping point for exploration of the unknown. This POSITIVITY makes a creative scientist and a good scientist… It sparks creative thinking. and it’s beautiful.
another thing that is important to scientists like my friend Luke is open data. The more data that scientists publish, the more information scientists have to base their experiments on. the more creativity, innovation, and advancement can happen. This is the exact same for us.
the more people post up their work, their code, their methods, their thinking, their words… the more everyone can use it as a springboard for innovation, advancement, and collaboration. It really is a beautiful thing.
…. now to put your ideas out there… it kind of makes you vulnerable.
vulnerability is something that is scary. “what if my code is embarrassing” “what if my idea is a flop” “what if my design idea is a bad user experience” “what if I share what I’ve been working on and it makes me seem less intelligent” “what if people view my work as sub par” there is a lot of vulnerability in sharing.
At WordCamp Birmnigham, the last camp i spoke at, I opened up and shared our creative process as an agency. I laid out all of our metholodigies for our discovery and design phases. It’s a vulnerable feeling. you have doubts like “what is my process is archaic” “what if there are better processes out there and mine looks un-intellegent?”…. opening up yourself is VULERNABLE.. but i’m telling you…
Vulnerability leads to greatness. you have to be willing to show potential weakness in the present in order to gain long term success. This is what people call a growth mindset.
now, don't get me wrong, vulnerability can lead to failure… but that failure is just part of the journey.
none of us want to fail. we are all scared of it. but being vulnerable and failing is all part of the journey to success. We need to be RESILIENT in the face of failure. and we need to embrace it and learn from it.
it all comes down to practicing your craft. I have a friend who has made so many paintings. he is continuously practicing. continuously making. some of his paintings are experimental failures. but out of the thousands that he makes, there are many that are absolutely spectacular… and he would not have made them had he not made the ones he failed at. It is all part of the practice. the practice of your craft. putting yourself out there, being vulterable, failing, and then learning from it - picking yourself back up and doing greater things. This leads to creative confidence.
creative confidence is not something that one is born with. you are born with creativity, but not with the confidence to unleash it naturally. It comes out of being vulnerabe, and it comes out of practice. If you shape your mindset around positivity, being a “yes.. and” type of person, then you are continuously opening up chanels of creative thought. If you start looking to problems creatively instead of always saying “no… actually” you build up your personal confidence that you can look at things differently. that there is always another point of view.
Collaboration plays a huge role in creativity. you know how they say no man is an island? well think about it. we are all building on the shoulders of others. I want to mention two types of collaboration: passive an active
passive collaboration is something that is always happening. weather you like it or not. we’re taking inspiration from others in our work. We’re always building on other people’s ideas and working towards betterment. Someone had to design the first ghost button, someone had to code the first theme based on the rest API. Someone had to be the first one to use a certain technique before it became a standard. We really are all collaborating passively with each other and are building upon each others ideas. It’s how progress is made.
Now what about active collaboration? What if we all weren’t just looking around and building upon what we see but are actively working together to put our creative heads together to achieve greatness? There are many places where you can see this in action.
for me, one place I can see this is in the role of the Creative Director. Creative directors are the creative leads who work with designers, artists, copywriters, develepers, sales teams and marketers to create a VISION. They oversee the creative process and give guidance. Sort of like the conductor of a symphony.
I once had the great opportunity to work with Kelly Housholder on the rebranding/renaming and website for Jones Valley Teaching Farm. Kelly was an incredible creative director. She brought together over 5 people to collaborate on this project. Two designers to bounce ideas off each other, an incredible photographer to take the photos for the website, a copywriter to help write the copy for not only the site but the ads, a developer to build the site. We launched this non-profit with a new name, look, site, and collateral with over 5 creative minds working together. Kelly could have done most of the work herself… but this ACTIVE COLLABORATION made the outcome better than it could have ever been.
Active collaboration plays a huge role in Open Source
as no man is an island, no open source project is either. The whole idea is the many coming together to collaborate to make a project better. When you put your code up on github, you don’t expect it to be perfect. you don’t say to yourself “Ha! I stooped them! this can not be improved on!” no, Open source is the one big symphony.. the long game. the ultimate meeting of the minds in collaboration. it’s quite a beautiful thing. Creativity plays a huge role here.
it’s not just about projects and code. many organizations and agencies are starting to write more about their work and share in their thought process. such as facebok.design. Reading from organizations like this pushes us to do better work. They’ve opened up code and assets for free for the public. I’m really excited about this trend of transparency. Many large tech corporations are starting to be more open in their dialogue about their projects, and are open sourcing their code.
So, Read! Read your heart out. Utilize their knowledge in your own thinking
READ! a great book on creativity is “Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All” by tom and david kelly of IDEO. is a great read on creativity and opening up your mind to new ways of thinking
another great read is “BIG MAGIC - creative living beyond fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Read blogs, design essays, read what others are saying … and dare to write about what you’re thinking and what you’re working on. The world will be a better place because of it!
Some of you might say “i’m a designer. how can I contribute”
have you ever made an icon? put it up for free download. Autmattic did this with genericons. they released them under the GPL license and those little icons were used widey! you know you’ve downloaded other people’s work! Remember whet Teehan & lax put up for free download their high resolution apple device comps? Designers around the world used them - they were the gold standard of device comps! you can do this too!
open source your methodology! do you have a certain design process you go through? share it! Because I share my creative process, I was able to have conversations about progress and find ways for improvement.
open source your thought. Blog. Write. share the logic behind your decisions. tell people WHY something works. What lead you there. Be vulnerable and allow others to learn from you, from both your triumphs and mistakes.
people can use your assets and methodology and they know why you did what you did because you wrote about it. they can help you improve what you’ve done!
but more importantly, collaborate on open source projects. it will make you a better designer. put yourself into the mix. Learn from others. say “yes, and” to ideas.
get involved. Talk with Tammy about how you can help with design. step into the world of creativity and WordPress
If you pay any attention to WordPress Core, you see many great minds actively collaborating, being vulnerable, and working together to make WordPress better. If you are in this room and you are a contributor to the project, THANK YOU. It’s not always easy to actively collaborate. There’s a lot of disagreements and bumps along the way. I know it’s hard, but keep up the great work. You are literally making the world a better place.
and for those of you who have yet to contribute - there’s no better day to start than now! come to contributor day and get your feet wet in the beauty of creative collaboration and improvisation
lets all say “yes….and”! If we were always saying “no, actually” that won work, no.. actually that’s a bad idea. …then the indepth creative collaboration can not occur. Now, I’m not saying that we have to say YES to every idea… I am saying that as a community, we need to say yes to the fact that ideas have merit.. and then the AND is where we either build on that idea or steer it in another direction. This type of collaborative thinking can open many creative channels within our community.
in conclusion: be positive, open your mind to thinking about problems differently, put yourself out there and be vulnerable, don’t be afraid to fail, actively collaborate, AND contribute to open source projects such as WordPress. I can not wait to see all that you create. you all are going to make the world a better place and I truly believe that.