For those of you who have seen Monty Python star and overall comedy genius John Cleese’s lecture on creativity, you might recall that it is a sort of pre-TED era TED Talk with exceptional points and quotes worth repeating–even decades later. In the case that you’re looking for a little extra creative juice this week, refer to this video and more specifically, his fail-proof recipe for creative thinking.

A Recipe for Creativity

Cleese highlights in this lecture that there are five specific factors that anybody can use to create a more fertile ground for creative thought:

“This is the extraordinary thing about creativity: If just you keep your mind resting against the subject in a friendly but persistent way, sooner or later you will get a reward from your unconscious.”

-John Cleese



“You can’t become playful, and therefore creative, if you’re under your usual pressures.”

TIME (1)

“It’s not enough to create space; you have to create your space for a specific period of time.”

TIME (2)

“Giving your mind as long as possible to come up with something original,” and learning to tolerate thediscomfort of pondering time and indecision.”


“Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.”


“The main evolutionary significance of humor is that it gets us from the closed mode to the open mode quicker than anything else.”

On Open and Closed Mode Dual Thinking:

“We need to be in the open mode when pondering a problem — but! — once we come up with a solution, we must then switch to the closed mode to implement it. Because once we’ve made a decision, we are efficient only if we go through with it decisively, undistracted by doubts about its correctness…. To be at our most efficient, we need to be able to switch backwards and forward between the two modes. But — here’s the problem — we too often get stuck in the closed mode. Under the pressures which are all too familiar to us, we tend to maintain tunnel vision at times when we really need to step back and contemplate the wider view.”

On Doing ‘Big Things’:

“It’s easier to do trivial things that are urgent than it is to do important things that are not urgent, like thinking, It’s also easier to do little things we know we can do, than  to start on big things we’re not so sure about”


Simon is a Brooklyn-based industrial designer and Managing Editor of EVD Media. When he finds the time to design, his focus is on helping startups develop branding and design solutions to realize their product design vision. In addition to his work at Nike and various other clients, he is the main reason anything gets done at EvD Media. He once wrestled an Alaskan alligator buzzard to the ground with his bare hands… to rescue Josh.