To some, creativity is an elusive muse who rarely graces us with her presence. To others, she’s a best friend who stops by all the time to play and hang out. Either way, you can cultivate creativity any time–even right now. While you may not become the next Jony Ive or Salvador Dalí, it is possible for anyone to become more creative than they already are and to practice creativity.
To be more creative, you have to understand a bit about the creative process. Creativity is using our imaginations or original ideas, especially in the production of artistic work. It’s also about making something new or making connections between seemingly disparate ideas or concepts.
In business, creativity is all about solving problems with specific requirements and constraints. Sometimes we use creativity to break out of a rut, sometimes just to feel inspired. Are you trying to solve a problem, get unstuck, or are you just hoping to find something interesting to occupy your time?
The answer to these questions should influence your approach to creativity, because your specific reason for wanting to be creative affects the nature of the creative process.
Here are two approaches to creativity you can use right now:
If you want to solve a problem, then you must frame your need for creativity as a problem-solving process. Start by drafting a problem statement, such as, “The problem I am trying to solve is __________.” Once you have your problem defined, brainstorm as many solutions to it as you can, then rank them according to what’s possible, given your time, resources, etc. Congratulations, you have just been creative!
If your intentions are more casual in nature and you’d simply like to explore, then you should frame your need for creativity as a process where you follow your intuition and encourage thought-provoking discoveries.
Think of a topic or issue and write it in the center of a blank page. Next, think of as many ideas as you can that relate to your topic or issue and write those on the page near the original topic. Now, ignore your central topic for a moment and think of all the ideas and topics that relate to the list you have just generated and draw lines to connect them. You can do this several times. You just created a network diagram related to your initial topic. Circle the ideas or topics that intrigue you or feel most important to you.
Now, explore how you can make connections between the central topic and the ideas you’ve circled. Making those connections is a part of the creative process–once again, you have just been creative!
Here are some suggestions for how to facilitate creativity:
While necessity is the mother of invention, too much pressure to be creative can actually squelch creativity. It’s important to relax and open yourself up to new and wild ideas. If your environment is confining or too distracting, move to a space that allows you the freedom to be creative.
Use the rules of brainstorming while you’re being creative–never dismiss an idea, no matter how absurd it may seem. Good ideas can come from anywhere. You might reject the idea later, but while you’re being creative, don’t edit yourself. Welcome any and every idea that you can come up with.
Creativity isn’t something you can force. Creative ideas often riff off of data we’ve got stored in our heads, including thoughts, feelings, and inspiration that are based on our experiences. You must allow your brain the time and space to reference the material it has saved–making the connections is necessary to get creative. Inspiration often bubbles up to the surface when we’re engaged in other activities.
Whenever you want to be creative, look for inspiration by changing your routine, engaging with inspiring people, or reading topics that are seemingly unrelated to your quest.
If you feel stuck, walk away from your creative pursuit and allow your mind to focus on other things. Flashes of insight often come when you are absorbed in a different activity.
Whatever the reason, if you want to be creative, it’s helpful to think about the reason why. If you pick a motive or purpose for your creativity then you can embark on a creative path that will facilitate your needs. You can always change course later if you need to, but pick a reason now, and get started!
—Michael O. “Coop” Cooper is the founder of Innovators and Influencers. For the past 15 years, he has worked with creative professionals and right-brain entrepreneurs who are shaping and changing the world we live in.