Quote attributed to Dorothy Parker
Creativity is hard to define and even harder to manage. Often when we think of creativity we think of people like artists, musicians, poets, designers and playwrights. They all seem to have a magic spark that allows them to transform the mundane into something wonderful.
It might be hard to think of yourself as having the potential to be creative, particularly if you spend most of your time in the rational world dealing with facts, numbers, and other business challenges. And, maybe the truth is that you are simply not creative. But, before you sell yourself short it might be helpful to reframe what creativity is.
Think of it as the ability to bring into being something new and valuable. It can be as insignificant as a novel solution to a problem or something as significant as a new concept that changes the world. In both cases, creativity is about finding new options.
How to Foster Creativity
For some people the ability to think out of the box is easier than it is for others. In fact, some of these people have trouble thinking in practical terms and can be frustrating. But, you don’t have to leap to extreme behavior to develop your personal creative skills. Here are 12 reasonably easy ways to help stimulate your creative juices.
- Learn as much as you can about whatever you are trying to do. Knowledge begets insight and insight is food for creativity. It always helps to understand a problem before you try to solve it.
- Think illogically. Explore ideas that don’t initially make sense. Kernels of brilliance are often found in obscure thoughts. Find this kernels and see if they can’t be morphed into an actionable solution. Don’t reject crazy ideas because they make you uncomfortable.
- Explore ideas that go against conventional wisdom. Most creative solutions are a brake with tradition. Don’t simply follow the rules. In business and life, rules can often be modified.
- Daydream. Don’t be afraid to let your mind wander. It will come back to the problem refreshed and ready to focus.
- Brainstorm. Take a sheet of paper and write the problem/challenge at the top. Then write down every idea that pops in your head as a possible solution. Go for volume and DON’T write in the lines. Your paper should look like a page of graffiti when done. Don’t reject any of the ideas. Look for connecting themes. Your solution is likely not on the page, but there is a good probability it will be stimulated by the observations you draw from the page.
- Take a break from the problem. Go do something different and relaxing. Often a possible solution will pop into your head when you are doing something you enjoy.
- Have fun. Don’t always be serious. Get yourself out of your normal context and think. I find some of my best ideas come when I am fly fishing.
- Don’t worry about pleasing others (particularly Management). This constrains your thinking. Creative ideas often make people uncomfortable and that’s ok.
- Think in pictures instead of words or numbers. Try drawing your ideas.
- Use metaphors. Find unexpected similarities and explore what the implications might be if the metaphor is valid. Permit yourself to make analogies with situations and things you know. Feel free to proactively create a metaphor rather than hope to find one waiting for you to use.
- Pay attention to what you see. Don’t let life pass you by. Th richer your experiences, the more fodder you have for creativity.
- Get in touch with your emotions. Creativity often is led by the heart rather than the brain.
What is holding you back?
I think most people find being creative hard because they fear failure. By their very nature, most ideas developed in a creative process will be rejected on the basis of impracticality, cost or risk. Know that going in. The win is when you uncover the one creative solution everybody can rally around. I think Thomas Edison said it best when he was asked by a reporter about his failures – “I have not failed. I have just found 1,000 ways that won’t work.”
I think if you give a few of the suggestions a try you will begin to become more comfortable with your creative side and eventually will develop an actual affinity for creativity. Open your mind, and to paraphrase that great philosopher Buzz Lightyear, let it take you to infinity and beyond.