Do you think of creativity as a trait you are born with or as a skill you can develop? Your answer and the way you approach the creative process can make the difference between being merely surviving in and flourishing in today’s business world.
In his book Human Motivation, author Robert E. Franken defines creativity as “the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others and entertaining ourselves and others.”
When you look at it that way, you can understand that creativity is not something that belongs only in the art or music studio. It belongs in all keys aspects of your business, and, yes, just as you can learn “left-brained” skills such as math, you can learn and develop the “right brain” skill of creativity.
Keys to boost your creativity
Here are five key ways you can boost your creativity in the workplace and beyond.
Whether you are thinking of new product ideas or new ways to boost sales of your existing services, brainstorming is a good way to get the creative process flowing.
Try to generate as many new ideas as you can. Think “quantity” not “quality” at this point. You can develop good ideas or get rid of unworkable ideas later. As you list ideas, you will find that your mind opens up to new possibilities and to new connections.
- Get fresh perspectives
Next, enlist your team members in this process. Ask them open-ended questions that begin with “What if” to solicit their ideas.
After you have many suggestions on the table, follow up on your team’s ideas with more specific questions such as “How would that work?’ or “Tell me what that would look like?”
Edward de Bono, a pioneer in creative thinking, created the “six thinking hats” theory. De Bono believes that each of us tends to think in one of six ways, and he associates these six patterns with different colored hats: a green hat thinker is creative but often does not think through the consequences; a blue hat thinker is good at looking at the big picture in any given situation; a yellow hat thinker is constructive and looks for ways to make ideas work; a black hat thinker play the “devil’s advocate,” pointing out what might go wrong; a white hat thinker is logical and focuses on facts and figures; and, finally, a red hat thinker relies on his instincts.
De Bono theorizes that we can boost our creativity when we “try on” other people’s hats and think about a problem from different perspectives as a result. Encourage your team to switch their usual hats, and you will jumpstart a new exchange of ideas.
- Narrow down the possibilities
Now it’s time to look at your ideas to see which ones are workable possibilities. What are the boundaries for your particular situation? Cost? Distribution? Time? Manpower? See which ideas can be fit in the parameters you have. Be willing to stretch your boundaries whenever possible.
Keith Sawyer, author of the book Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity, recommends that you go with ideas that are “simple, elegant, and robust.”
Remember the true value of creativity is in turning great ideas into simple solutions.
- Get started.
Procrastination kills creativity. Sure you need to do any necessary research, and “sleeping on it” can bring clarity to any decision, but once you have gone through these first three steps, don’t put things off indefinitely. Set a time table and stick to it.
“Neuroscience and psychology have proven that all human beings, unless their brain has been seriously damaged, possess the same mental building blocks that inventive minds stack high to produce works of genius,” Sawyer explains in the book Zig Zag. “That creative power you find so breathtaking, when you see it tapped by others, lives as surely within you.”
What do you do when you want to learn and remember something new? You practice. If you study a foreign language and never speak it, you will forget it. If you take music lessons, and put away the instrument between lessons you will not improve. Similarly, creativity is a skill you need to use and re-use in order for it to be effective.
Establish a creative atmosphere by making simple changes in your daily environment. Add more light and color to your workspace, for example. Put on some classical music in the background. Go for a walk at lunchtime instead of heading to your normal spot. These slight changes can boost your creativity.
You can boost your creativity in other aspects of your life as well. Take up a new hobby, perhaps re-visiting a craft, sport or activity you did when you were younger. Read a book that is outside the genre you normally favor. Or take a workshop or class that teaches you something new that is completely outside your normal skillset.
“Creativity…consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know, “ says George Kneller, chair of Philosophy of Education in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California. “Hence, to think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted.”
It’s time to quit pigeon-holing yourself as an uncreative thinker. Switch your hat and get started.