As business-critical skills go, creativity is one that’s often overlooked. However, thinking inventively and elastically about problems can be a positive boon to any job role, in any department, in any industry.
As a creative agency, our clients rely on us to be creative with each and every project – and we relish every creative challenge! However, we do love it when our clients bring their own ideas and imaginative verve to the table. There’s no such thing as too many good ideas. There’s never too much creativity in a room.
With any project, the more creativity and innovation that goes in, the better the eventual outcome. So let’s explore how to maximise your own creative superpowers with 11 pointers that our team regularly use.
First, a Foreword on Creativity
We have to remember that creativity is a very subjective thing. Our minds are complicated contraptions that don’t necessarily always do the same things in response to the same stimuli.
Exercising the creative power of the mind is like a muscle – it’s only going to get stronger the more you use it and exercise it. Letting this “training” drop can result in reduced creativity, though you can always earn it back with a bit of work.
And a quick disclaimer: this isn’t medical or mental health advice, we’re just sharing some of the methods we use to keep our creative tools sharp so you can too.
So let’s get started.
The Three Creative Categories
When it comes to conditioning your mind to be more creative, our tips fall into three overarching categories: Exploration, Self-Knowledge, and Self-Challenge.
Boosting Your Creativity with Exploration
An important step towards becoming more creative is to give yourself the freedom (and patience) to explore ideas, concepts, your inner world, and the world around you.
No Such Thing as a Bad Idea
It’s easy to fall into a trap of thinking about ideas and suggestions in very binary terms, sorting ideas into “good” and “bad” piles. However, it can be counterproductive to dismiss seemingly “bad” ideas outright. So called “bad” ideas can often be used as a stepping stone to something more robust, can facilitate better understanding, or can present an opportunity to look at the problem a different way (a creative skill in its own right!).
The worst thing you can do is punish yourself or others for having “bad ideas”. If you work creatively with others, encourage them to put all of their thoughts out there with no judgement, no “bad ideas”, and no such thing as a silly question.
Become an Info-Sponge
Exposing yourself to new experiences and concepts is a great way to open your mind and start thinking elastically and creatively. So read that book you wouldn’t normally read; watch a film from a genre that you wouldn’t usually choose; catch up with a friend or relative that you haven’t spoken to in a while; or simply take a different route home every now and again.
Alternatively, for an extra challenge, you could take a trip to somewhere you’ve never been before – or indeed somewhere you haven’t seen in years. You could even expose yourself to new, opposing points of view, take up a new hobby, or learn a new language.
Make it a priority to become an information and experience sponge by doing new things, speaking to new people, and engaging with things on the fringes of your comfort zone.
Hunt Down Hidden Connections & Patterns
Sometimes, creativity is all about uncovering hidden connections, patterns, and associations. So explore wordplay; relish in visual puns; and always seek out the hidden rhythms, meaning, and synchronicities behind things.
Nobody can switch their creative mind on and off like a lightswitch – creative ideas often come to us at the weirdest of times. So always keep a notepad on you, or keep an app on your phone where you can store your eureka moments as and when they happen.
Boosting Your Creativity Through Self-Knowledge
Next, we’ll explore a few ideas around knowing your own creative triggers and giving yourself the space to explore the unique stimuli that your brain responds well to.
What Kindles Your Creative Fire?
Give yourself space to explore which actions and situations best kindle your own creativity. For example, does being around certain people get your creative neurons firing? Being in a certain place? Doing something in particular? Eating or drinking something specific? Whenever you’ve got a creative task coming up, doing these things can help you get in the right frame of mind.
Alternatively, are there any situations or experiences that bring your creativity levels to a screeching halt? Be aware of these limitations and minimise them when you’re really got to think “outside of the box.”
Play With Space & Time
The old saying goes that “a change is as good as a rest.” So experiment with changing your surroundings, whether it’s simply changing the layout of your desk, using a different device, working in a different room, or even upping stakes and working from different premises for the day.
You might also want to try changing up your daily routine to discover when you are most creative in the day or week. If you do find some new creative “golden time”, then restructure your schedule to regularly make the most of it.
How Are You With Pressure?
Pressure can be a real creative wildcard. Some people do their best work under looming deadlines or strict restrictions. However, this pressure causes others to feel panicked and deflated, stifling their creativity.
Our advice here is simple: know which camp you’re in and make the most of it!
Look After Your Body
What’s good for the body is generally good for the mind. So stay hydrated; make healthy food and exercise choices that suit you; and prioritise time to rest and have fun.
Our team swear by the power of a good walk to boost innovative thinking. Sitting still for 8 hours a day is very bad for us, but it’s just as bad for our creative powers! Just getting outside to blow the cobwebs away, letting your mind wander and do its own thing, can be conducive to great ideas.
We all have off-days even at the best of times, but factors like stress can absolutely sink your creativity like a lead balloon. So if you’re having a hard time with something – whether it’s related or unrelated to your creative task – then cut yourself some slack. This is why we love to ideate as part of a team, whether that’s internally or alongside clients. If anyone is having an off-day, there’s enough energy in the room to pick up any slack, and sometimes it’s enough to pick that colleague out of the creative doldrums as well.
Boosting Your Creativity Through Self-Challenge
These are the tips that put your creative skills to the test, strengthening your creative muscle and keeping you on top of your game.
Force Yourself Out of the Box
We’re always so stuck in our own heads, it can be good to sometimes step out of our own shoes and look at a problem from a different perspective. Frameworks like Dr Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats can present interesting ways to approach and solve problems creatively.
To think about it another way, problems are not unlike physical objects. They can be viewed from countless different angles, under numerous different conditions, and even put to different uses (see the Alternative Uses Test, below). So when you’re solving a problem creatively, really make an effort to take yourself out of your own perspective and think about things from other points of view.
Deliberately Challenge Your Creativity
Keep your creative muscles toned with creative prompts like J.P. Guilford’s Alternative Uses Test. How many alternative uses can you think for a common household object? How diverse are those ideas? And how much can you elaborate on the ins and outs of each? The deeper you go, the more you hone your creative skills!
In a similar, more marketing-oriented vein, Upworthy challenges their writers to come up with 25 titles for every piece of content they create. Why? Because forcing ideas out can help you come up with real creative paydirt! Their now infamous guidance on the matter they says:
“You will write some really stinky headlines. Once you start getting desperate, you start thinking outside the box. […] Number 24 will suck. Then number 25 will be a gift from the headline gods and will make you a legend.”
Exercise Your Speed of Thought
Speed of thought is also something that comes with practice. Being able to think on your feet and develop an idea on the hop can do wonders for your creativity. Thankfully, thinking speed – called “fluency” – is another quality that comes with practice.
Inventor of the mind map, Tony Buzan, suggests developing your cognitive fluency by regularly challenging yourself to think faster and more originally. There are a number of ways you can do this; through puzzles like crosswords or sudoku; strategy games like chess or Go; or by learning a new language. You could even play that video game you’ve had your eye on – go on, it’s good for you!
So whether you’re bursting with your own creative verve or you’re looking to outsource your more “blue sky” ideating, the team at OLCO Design would love to hear from you! Book a free, no obligation discovery session with us today!
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