David Usher is a creative tour de force. As the front man of the internationally acclaimed rock band Moist, and as a solo artist, David has sold more than 1.4 million albums, won countless awards—including five Junos—and performed at sold-out venues around the world. Believing that creativity and creative success is a learnable skill that anyone can master, his unique and dynamic presentations employ music and video to show audiences the steps they can take to stimulate the creative process at home and at work. David spoke at the Human Resources Professionals Association’s Annual Conference in March to discuss “How to Bring Creativity, Innovation and Inspiration to the Work that You Do.” He spoke with HRPA’s Duff McCutcheon on why creativity is important for everyone and how to re-engage your creative self:
Q: Why is being creative so important today?
The world is moving faster, and technology is moving us out of our comfort zones. Creative thinking isn’t just about building better things, it isn’t just for arts—you can apply it to anything. All fields are moving at an incredibly fast pace right now, and for people to keep up, they need to engage their creative thinking and creative thinking methodology. Because as world changes so quickly, you need to start being more dynamic in how you can interact and engage with problems.
Creative thinking provides tools to be agile and nimble and work through problems quickly.
Q: Why do you think anyone can be creative?
If you go into any kindergarten, you’re not going to see five kids being creative and the other 20 sitting around like lumps waiting to be told what to do—they all instinctively know how to play and imagine. That’s the natural state.
As we get older, we’re all taught how to sit still, how to think in straight lines—the rules.
Creativity really is in all of us, it just needs to be resparked.
You say creativity is 5% inspiration and 95% work—what’s the work part?
A lot of people think creativity is all about the idea—but that’s really a small section of the deliverable. To actually get something to a final process, whether you’re a musician or an entrepreneur, it’s all the other things that go into making the idea a reality—the planning and the execution.
Q: And the other 5% inspiration? Where can we look for ideas?
Inspiration is all around us, but it’s our job to open up and figure out how to start engaging with the world again. I think as people get older it’s very natural to fall into very specific patterns.
My biggest advice to people when they’re trying to re-engage their creativity and re-engage their openness to ideas is to physically break your patterns—stop doing the things you’re always doing. It can be as simple as have your coffee in a different way today, take a different route to work, go somewhere different for breakfast. If you’re used to taking kickboxing, try modern dance. Do things physically that are going to break your patterns and open you up to a different set of ideas.
If you want to think differently, you need to live differently.
Q: When it comes to businesses and organizations, who do you admire most when it comes to creativity?
There are so many interesting and amazing workplaces these days. You get the Googles and Apples on the big side, then there are these amazing local design houses in Montreal. You’ve got the C2 Commerce + Creativity conference in Montreal. There are so many people doing innovative and amazing things, like Deloitte which has a big innovation centre that is trying out new methodologies and tools to bring innovation to what they do and for their clients as well.
Q: And in music? Who do you admire most in terms of creativity?
My biggest musical inspiration is Leonard Cohen. I think it’s because those are the songs I listened to most growing up and also because I’m always trying to write a song as good as his—and always falling short.