Finding Your Creative Energy
In times of turbulence, uncertainty or stress, it can be difficult to tap into the creativity needed to do your best work. SYPartners and kyu Collective Founder Keith Yamashita says those are the times it’s most impactful to have a reservoir of inspiration to pull from. Why are some of us able to replenish our creative energy while others feel constantly depleted? It all comes down to building a practice that works for you.
In this Creative Confidence Podcast conversation with Keith, we talked about rituals and tactics you can try to find inspiration individually, in duos and in teams. Here are our top takeaways.
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1. Business success relies on creative energy.
“Creative energy is the ability to look at the world with fresh eyes and bring something new.” — Keith Yamashita
When things feel unpredictable, it’s natural for humans to seek more control and stability. But Keith says this limits our ability to think creatively. If your problems are rote, control and focus may work to solve them. But if your problems are complex or unusual, creativity is what will help you come up with the best solution.
2. Create a blueprint for stoking your individual creative energy.
“Creative energy comes from knowing you have virtually infinite sources to draw from.” — Keith Yamashita
In order to have creative energy in a group, you first have to have creative energy within yourself. While we often think of creativity as a spontaneous act, Keith says it comes from a constant effort to observe and take in the world. To build a reservoir of inspiration, start by examining your current behavior: Where do you draw inspiration? What are your rituals? How do you replenish your energy?
Big changes aren’t always necessary. Micro actions will compound to make an impact. Keith suggests creating a ritual that works for you. Here are some ideas:
- Bring awareness to your day — what moments of inspiration might you notice if you took a pause from routine to intentionally observe?
- Organize and store ideas — use folders on Instagram or a bulletin board by your desk.
- Make the first and last thing in your day something expansive — many of us default to looking at our phones. Keith shifted to a practice he calls “poem scraps,” where he writes one line of poetry every morning. Ending your day with a moment of gratitude is another option.
- Cultivate your mind diet and heart diet — examine who you surround yourself with and what you think about.
Want more ideas for your personal creative energy blueprint? Keith shares things to try individually, in duos, in teams, and with friends and family in this mindmap he created for his appearance on the Creative Confidence Podcast.
Download a PDF version of Keith's creative energy mind map
3. Explore the world and find inspiration in duos.
“Duos are the atomic unit of trust.” — Keith Yamashita
No two individuals are the same. Find someone who inspires you with a new perspective, and set aside time to connect with them regularly. There’s a level of trust between two people that doesn’t exist as easily in larger groups. Keith says these duos function as accountability buddies for creative inspiration.
If it feels hard to find the time for these conversations, assess your current interactions. Which are energy nourishing vs. energy depleting? Add up the time you spend on behaviors that don’t inspire you and see how much you can shift to a bigger creative task. “Do the math on the negative energy that’s in your business day and you’ll probably find you have a couple hours each week that you can dedicate to nourishing your creativity,” Keith said.
4. Ask more beautiful questions to shift the energy of your work.
“We cannot solve a problem unless we’re willing to ask a question about it.” — Keith Yamashita
In business, we tend to ask yes or no questions, and then we tend to get yes or no responses. Try shifting from a question seeking a concrete answer or business output to one that gets at the emotion or creative opportunity at play.
For example, your team might be asking, “Did we hit the goal? If not, who was at fault?” Instead, try, “What is our pattern that prevents us from succeeding? I know some teammates had a rough time on this project — how might we support them in claiming victory next time?”
5. Creative energy at the team level is built on understanding whole human desires.
“We often think of capital as a resource. And yes, it's vital and important. But creative energy is also a resource.” — Keith Yamashita
Teams that have creative energy share ideas openly, they debate well, they pursue things that are contrarian, they are comfortable breaking the status quo, and they know how to jointly confront fear together. To access those creative capabilities, you first have to build a foundation of understanding each other on a whole human level.
Keith led an experience with the leadership team at creative firm Godfrey Dadich that was designed to surface each individual’s wants and desires. He asked each person to answer the questions: What is a great life? What is great work? What is great impact? Everyone wrote their answers down, then they took almost half a day to share deeply with the group. It could seem like a fluffy exercise, but Keith says when you understand each person’s definition, that becomes the way you treat and work with each other. It draws out people’s creativity.
Of course there are tasks to be done, but those tasks can now be more clearly rooted in your values. Your work will take on more meaning and you can more easily prioritize the most impactful actions.
About The Speaker
Founder, SYPartners and kyu Collective
Keith Yamashita is dedicated to using creativity as a powerful catalyst for change in the world. For the past two decades at SYPartners, he has worked with leaders at Activision Blizzard, Apple, eBay, Emerson Collective, Facebook, IBM, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Oprah Winfrey Network, Nike, and Starbucks, among others. From 2009 to 2011, Keith also served as The Charles and Ray Eames Brand Fellow at IBM, working to build a culture of design across the organization. Keith is also an author and essayist on leadership and design, having published in the Harvard Business Review and several journals. Keith holds an M.A. in Organizational Behavior and a B.A. in Quantitative Economics from Stanford University.
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