by Dr. Brandon Thornberry, DVM
I have a strong feeling that when someone wants to share advice with you, they are really just asking for an opportunity to share some hard-earned wisdom with a previous version of themselves.
So here I am. Writing to an earlier version of myself, who as a student in veterinary school, wanted to learn how to build his own creativity in pursuit of becoming an innovator for the benefit of both people and animals.
Can creativity be learned? It absolutely can be. And it does not take an associates, bachelors, masters, or doctorate degree to give you the authority to pioneer a new idea.
As a second year veterinary student, I filed for my first patent with a classmate. We were new to the world of entrepreneurship, and honestly, we had no idea what we were doing. We juggled attorney meetings between our microbiology and pharmacology lectures, crafted business plans on our short break periods, and spent one whirlwind weekend jumping on planes to pitch our idea in front of venture capitalists. I learned a great deal during my first run at pioneering a new idea, and this learning process came with both successes and failures. But success is not final, and failure is not fatal, right? (Winston Churchill)
Within a year of graduating veterinary school, I incorporated my lessons from the first patent and went on to become a co-inventor for two other medical devices, which span across both human and veterinary medicine.
I collected some very valuable lessons throughout those years about channeling creativity to develop an original idea, and I believe each one of you is in a position to make an impact with your creativity. My tips apply to anyone who wishes to infuse some ingenuity into your life regardless of your craft or creed.
Fostering creativity requires patience, and starting is sometimes the most intimidating part. What I will share with you are my dots. These dots will help you form habits to engage and tap into your creativity; however, I will leave it to you to connect these dots because how you connect them is unique to everyone.
So here we go, creators.
Your first dot:
- Be a collector of ideas.
You are influenced by your experiences and what you love. Recognize and remember good ideas, even if they have nothing to do with your field. The more you collect, the more positive influences you can draw from when you want to look at something in a new way.
If you want a journal to collect your ideas conveniently combined with a short read to encourage your creativity, I strongly recommend Austin Kleon’s books, “Steal Like an Artist,” “Show Your Work,” and the “Steal Like an Artist” journal.
- Mimic those who inspire you.
Everyone first learns by mimicking: artists, musicians, athletes, etc.
I started listening to podcasts on start-up companies and how these major ideas found their bedrock. Each inventor mentions someone they admired and wanted to emulate. “How I Built This” podcast on NPR is a great one for all listeners. The ‘Atari & Chuck E Cheese’ episode is also a great starter.
- Identify and focus on a problem you personally experience.
True innovation does not typically stem from asking people what they need; instead, it comes by training your eyes and ears to focus on observing and listening to the underlying problem. Henry Ford recognized that if he would have asked people what they needed, they would have asked for a faster horse rather than a car. Simply put, the better you understand the problem, the better you position yourself to understand what is needed of a solution, rather than asking people for what they need.
- Interview LOTS of people who also experience the problem
This was a big step I missed my first time chasing a new idea. I thought we already had a good solution, so I did not see the need to ask more people about the problem we were addressing. You can gain so much insight into a problem by just asking others some open ended questions. How often does this problem happen? What are the consequences of this problem if uncorrected? Who is affected by this problem, and how are they affected? What are the strengths and limitations of previous attempts to solve the problem? How would your job be changed if this problem was solved?
- Surround yourself with budding creators
You need to surround yourself with other budding and seasoned creatives in your community. I highly recommend getting involved with your local 1millioncups organization (aka, free food, fresh coffee, and an opportunity to be inspired and inspire others with new ideas).
Good luck, creators. I cannot wait to see how you connect the dots.
Dr. Brandon Thornberry is a veterinarian practicing in St. Louis, MO. He completed a one-year medical device fellowship at the University of Missouri, after graduating from the university’s veterinary school. He enjoys inspiring others in the veterinary industry to think creatively and use their talents for the advancement of One Health. To connect with Brandon, please visitwww.linkedin.com/in/brandon-