Use Awareness and Experience to Fuel Your Creativity

Creative AdaptationThis is part four of the Creative Adaptation series.

There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.” ~ Audre Lorde

It doesn’t matter how new an idea is: what matters is how new it becomes.” ~ Elias Canetti

Those are my favorite quotes about ideas.

I’ve used them frequently with creative clients, especially those who struggled to have an “original” idea. Anything that was even remotely related to something that already existed, they deemed cheating.

Boy, did they have it wrong.

As we’ve already seen in this series, creative adaptation is the basis for creativity. Most of the great masters, in a variety of creative fields, were inspired by other works. And in some cases, only created direct adaptations.

Anyone who thinks they have come up with an idea that is completely new, and not influenced by any existing work, is either:

  • An absolute genius (or possibly a messiah of some sort)
  • Delusional
  • Lying

With all the folks I’ve met over the years, I never had the pleasure of meeting the first type, but plenty of the second two.

How about you?

The Intersection of Ideas

I’m going to let you in on one of the greatest secrets of creativity. It’s a secret you probably already know, but forgot, or overlooked.

Many of the greatest innovations in the history of humankind were found at the intersection of existing yet unrelated ideas, concepts, styles, or works.

Different ideas creatively adapted into something new.

This production of “new” ideas was brilliantly covered by Frans Johansson in book entitled The Medici Effect:

When you step into an intersection of fields, disciplines, or cultures, you can combine existing concepts into a large number of extraordinary new ideas. The name I have given this phenomenon, the Medici Effect, comes from a remarkable burst of creativity in fifteenth-century Italy.

The Medicis were a banking family in Florence who funded creators from a wide range of disciplines. Thanks to this family and a few others like it, sculptors, scientists, poets, philosophers, financiers, painters, and architects converged upon the city of Florence. There they found each other, learned from one another, and broke down barriers between disciplines and cultures. Together they forged a new world based on new ideas — what became known as the Renaissance. As a result, the city became the epicenter of a creative explosion, one of the most innovative eras in history. The effects of the Medici family can be felt even to this day.

You see this mix in all creative fields, but one of the tastiest is fusion cooking.

Creativity Is About Possibilities

If you want to be more creative, and use the power of adaptation in your own business, the most important trait you can cultivate is awareness.

True awareness is about being open to new ideas and experiences. It’s also about seeing things in new ways.

The world around you is a buffet of ideas, concepts, styles, and experiences. Learning how to combine and adapt those things in a new way is what true creativity is about.

The possibilities are endless, if you’re willing to adapt them — and use your creativity to make them your own…

Creative Adaptation Series


  1. The idea that you can’t take a pre-existing idea and run with it, developing something new and improved – and therefore brand new is unheard of… why struggle when there are already so many great foundations out there to work off of! I enjoyed my visit and will be back.

  2. Thanks for a great series, I’ve enjoyed it. I think it’s going to have a positive impact on my future creativity. I had always felt guilty about borrowing ideas, but if I focus on making them my own it’s not stealing.

    I only found your blog recently from one of your guest posts, but will now be a regular reader.

  3. Kat – That’s true. It’s the basis for most creative innovations.

    Terry – A lot of people feel that way. The goal is to be on the lookout for things that inspire you.

  4. Your creativity series was great. I always felt I was a little creative since I can scrapbook fairly decent but you made me realize even if I cooked a decent meal with a little bit of extra flare I was being creative!

    I teach a workshop on Outside of the Box Thinking and will adapt some of the content to reflect some of the ideas in your articles.

    Thanks again for helping me to be creative!

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