A Method for Creativity – Lessons from Joan Rivers

In recently concluded Negotiation course, in one of the sessions we had a lively discussions with participants about ability to generate creative options during a negotiation. The debate was about what helps more in generating creative options. The argument was whether it helps to prepare a lot or whether it helps to prepare less and keep our mind free and hence, flexible to generate free options. Many individuals believe that rules and regulations generally kill individual creativity. To a great extent there is some weight in this argument. However, research has shown that it’s not just full freedom, rather a combination of freedom and a structure that fosters creativity. Creative behavior is a combination of convergent and divergent ways of thinking. Divergent thinking basically consists in defining a problem in a different (novel) way and generating many relevant options to solve the problem. Generating options is where one needs a combination of freedom and an organized system of thinking. Brainstorming, a famous idea generation tool developed by Alex Osbourne, works on the principle, ‘Quantity begets Quality’. More ideas (or alternatives for a solution) you generate better are the chances of getting a more creative idea.

The same is true for individuals. More options one generates, greater the quantity of ideas you keep with yourself, better it is. This helps not just in situations where you have to look for a particular solution for a problem, but it might as well be helpful in situations like, creation of an artwork. This video, which is an excerpt from a documentary, ‘Joan Rivers : A Piece of Work’. In this video Joan, who is a famous stand-up comedienne explains how she organizes her jokes. Research has shown that for individual as well as organizations, it’s important to have more options, stored in the ‘memory’ so that it helps them ‘improvise’ whenever need arises.

Well, so if you are an artist, remember to retain all the spontaneous ideas that you generate, in an organized manner so that you can refer to them whenever need arises.



Osborn, AF (1953). Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of Creative Problem Solving Book

Moorman, C., & Miner, A. (1998). Organizational Improvisation and Organizational Memory The Academy of Management Review, 23 (4) DOI: 10.2307/259058

Khandwalla, Pradip (2003). Lifelong Creativity Book


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