How to be more creative

When people hear the word “creativity” they understand it as a characteristic that is attributed to a certain type of people, creators, spear headers within various industries and artist. It can be frustrating to feel like you are not one of these gifted people when you are unable to come up with new ideas or are stuck on a problem. However, creativity is not a magical gift that has been given to only a selected few, granted, some may find it easier to access their creativity than others, but we all have it. It is rather a resourcefulness we all possess, a desired leadership quality, and research shows that with some practice and hard work, you can cultivate and develop creativity.

Remember, even though we all have it, creativity is not a passive process. While taking a break and disconnecting from a problem might help you see a problem in a different light, it is in general not enough just sit back and wait for inspiration and creativity to hit every time you are stuck. Instead, you should focus your energy on activities and tips to you can incorporate in your day-to-day life that inspires you and help you boost your creativity level. Keep reading for some tips and trick on how to increase your creativity.

Build a growth mindset

One of creativity’s fiercest rivals is closed-mindedness. Like Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.” Which is why having an open mind and building a growth mindset is crucial if you want to level up your creativity. A growth mindset focuses on seeking out and mastering new skills, putting in effort to learn, see challenges as a problem to be solved and embrace them, instead of believing in failure you believe in lifelong learning and view feedback as a source of information.

Part of having a growth mindset means seeking out new challenges and learning opportunities, any learning opportunities, not just topics related to your industry. Research suggest that by broadening our knowledge in any unfamiliar topic fosters divergent thinking and lead you to new ideas, as Robert Epstein, a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology (AIBRT), says “New ideas come from interconnections among old ideas”. Epstein demonstrates this idea through an exercise called “the expert game” where a group of people give 5-minute lectures on obscure topics that they already knew something about or have researched for the purpose of the exercise, for example how a ballerina shoe is made. After these lectures on unusual topics, everyone in the group comes up with three new ideas for services or products, according to Epstein you would be amazed at the creative idea people come up with on the back of this exercise. Basically, learning anything new help you brainstorm ideas later on by creating interconnections you otherwise would not see, because different people have a different repertoire of information they can use in various ways.

A good exercise to try when you are trying to develop a growth mindset is to try to solve the overarching issues of your industry or larger societal issues like world hunger. This helps you practice brainstorming open-ended solutions and training you and your brain to solve puzzles.

Unplug and be bored

In today's globalized, high-tech, and constantly connected world, distraction is always just a click away. Although learning as a way of boosting creativity is encouraged, you should also challenge yourself to just be bored for a while. Unplug from the world for a while and see what happens. Some studies show that boredom helped participants perform better on a creativity test than the participants that were relaxed, elated or in distress. The cue here being that it is not enough to just feel relaxed, rather you should feel bored to reap the most creative benefits, although being relaxed is better than being in distress. Boredom basically encourages creative thinking because it signals that your current situation is not stimulating and lacking, so your brain starts seeking for solutions for your boredom problem and looks for inspiration.

In another study, the researchers linked participants boredom with daydreaming which in turn lead to greater creativity in participants. So how about letting yourself feel bored for a spell rather than filling every single idle moment with apps, email and games? As Alan Cohen once wrote "There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither", constantly working will make you feel productive, but does not help with creativity, you need time to process experiences, facilitate the connections Epstein talked about and regenerate. For all you know, your next great idea might come while you are sleeping, in the shower, hiking or just sitting still – let your mind wander and let your brain do its magic.

Surround yourself with inspiration

Although boredom can be beneficial in generating new creative ideas, having “saved up” inspiration will make it easier for you to connect ideas when you are being open for it. Therefore, look for new sources of inspiration wherever you can. Change your environment. Sometimes something as little as changing up the setup on your desk or move rooms is enough to spark creative new ideas. Other times reading a book, going to a museum, or playing video games is needed. Yes, research indicates that playing video games can help increase creativity. Another study from Stanford found that going for a walk boost creative thinking, maybe its time to try out Steve Jobs famous walking meetings? Use whatever technique works best for you! Seek out things and experiences that inspire you and help you focus your mental energy and focus on the task at hand. Filling up on inspiration gives you a gigantic pool of knowledge to tap into when you are feeling stuck.

Inspiration can also be found by looking at other industries, remember how crucial open-mindedness is to creativity, use a broader lens while looking for inspiration. Of course, it is important to know what your competitors are doing, but copying them won’t make you stand out, look at other industries and niches and try to find ways of transferring what is working for them into your own industry. Creativity in business is vital as it allows you to differentiate yourself from your competitors and helps your company grow, so do not overlook other industries just because you can’t immediately see how their knowledge can benefit you.

Try the Six Hats Technique

When inspiration and creativity is running low, try out the six hats technique to get the juices flowing. The technique involves looking at a problem from six different perspectives (hats). By doing so you stimulate creative thinking and the practice often leads to more ideas that you would otherwise generate because you are using perspectives you might not otherwise use. The different hats are:

  • Black hat: Negative perspective. Look at the problem and try to see which elements of your solution will not work.

  • Blue hat: Broad perspective. What is the best overall solution to the problem?

  • Green hat: Creative perspective. What alternative ideas can you come up with?

  • Red hat: Emotional perspective. Look at the situation emotionally, what does your feelings tell you?

  • White hat: Objective perspective. What are the facts?

  • Yellow hat: Positive perspective. Which elements of your solution do you think will work?

Key takeaway

There is a plethora of ways to improve and boost creativity, the ones mentioned here merely scratches the surface. One thing to remember though is that, as mentioned above, creativity is not reserved to a select few, anyone can improve their creativity and use it to solve all kinds of problems, be it personal or business. But as with all exercise, patience is key, it might take some time before you notice a huge difference, so start implementing some of these ideas into your day-to-day life and see how it changes the way you think. Before you know it, you’ll be solving issues you never knew you could.

Author: Mathilde Bastiansen

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