What a Japanese Word Teaches us about Creativity

Those of us who seek – and study – human creativity are besieged with overused tropes. “Think outside the box” and “color outside the lines” are right up there with words like “disruption” in the cliché Hall of Fame. But I recently stumbled on a Japanese word that made my Corporate Lingo Bingo card fall straight to the floor: Datsuzoku.

The term denotes a break from the norm, a respite from routine. It involves exploring new approaches as opposed to complying with the old ones. Here’s a beautifully-written definition, courtesy of Shibumi Design Studios:

Datsuzoku: a break from daily routine or habit, a certain freedom from the commonplace. It involves a feeling of transcending the ordinary and conventional. The result of datsuzoku is pleasant surprise and unexpected amazement. Datsuzoku signifies a certain reprieve from convention. When a well-worn pattern is broken, creativity and resourcefulness emerge. Many of us view our bonsai with blinders on: this is the way the tree has always been and how it must always be. Even attempting to envision something different can be a huge challenge. Work to see your tree with “fresh eyes.” Re-energize your creativity by taking regular “timeouts”, then you will be able to find a creative resolution. If you have trouble with this, ask a trusted friend or attend an artist workshop for help.

It’s hard to pause in our furiously busy, full-throttle lives. We tighten our grip on previous patterns, repeating our routines with stunning precision. Yet we end up shutting ourselves off from the abundant novelty that’s squarely within our grasp. Datsuoku gives us permission to look up instead of looking down; to explore what’s possible instead of defaulting to what is.

This week, focus on breaking patterns and routines rather than obeying them. Look for ways to break the cycle, which will allow you to spread your creative wings and soar.