Working backward and working forward

Working backward and working forward

The approach to creative work can feel foreign to people who are ingrained in structural thinking. Structural thinking is used for building projects like businesses and ventures that need systems and have are clearly defined end-goal. 

With creative thinking, you’re constantly tapping into your intuition in the moment and the end goal is changing as you work towards it. You are working forwards and taking it one step at a time. There is little room for planning because you’d always be heading back to the drawing board and the moment will have passed.

In business, you define an end-goal and work backward to accomplish it. In order to make “progress”, you need to put blinders on and keep moving towards your target and push any new information or feelings out of the way. Those become obstacles towards the path you’ve drawn. 

Creativity is improvisational. It puts you in a flow state and demands that you pay attention to the cues coming in second by second. You never know where it’s going to go and that’s the exciting and fun part of it. 

I’ve seen the case where structural leaning thinkers get excited with where creatives are going and strangle the fun and improvisation out of it. There are many cases where creatives have gone so far out there that the ideas are flowing fast and are completed unrelated to create a sense of chaos. 

The most fascinating projects to me are ones that are able to balance the working backward and working forwards. Creating guard rails for creative thinking and then letting it bounce around and create its magic.  I find this to be a useful dichotomy to reflect on and figure out what type of thinking you’re using, when and why. Do you need to be working forwards here, or working backwards?

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