Creativity is a skill that can be cultivated. It’s said that creativity is simply connecting things in new ways, and that’s perhaps the simplest explanation of what it means to have an idea. In this blog post, you’ll find some simple ideas on how to be creative in your work, even when you feel like you’re running out of inspiration.
The Source of New Ideas
The root of all creative ideas is taking something that already exists and combining it with something else that already exists.
A new idea is never something completely new; it’s always a combination of something already known and something new and different.
The most creative ideas come from combining the known with the unknown.
For example, ideas from one project often lead to completely new and different ideas for a completely different project.
How Creativity and New Ideas Are Connected
The basic connection between creativity and new ideas is simple: creative people take the ordinary and discover the extraordinary. In other words: If you take the ordinary and find a new way to use it, you can be creative.
The process to get there can often be anything but easy. But we’re here to help pave the way for you!
It’s all about fostering opportunities for creative ideas. Fueling them.
Creative people are aware of their surroundings, they notice what’s happening around them and are open to change. They notice inconsistencies, see things in reverse order and in different contexts.
They notice what’s not there.
They notice things that are different.
There are two sides to this coin. Maybe you’re a champion of creativity in your organization or workplace, so you’re looking for ways to encourage creative ideas among your colleagues.
Or you may find yourself in a situation where developing creative ideas is part of your job or activity.
Bring New Ideas to Innovation
Innovation is often important to do or show. You should keep in mind that creative ideas always precede innovation and usually accompany it all the way.
Therefore, the goal of any organization should be to encourage creativity and innovation, and to challenge anything that prevents creative ideas from entering the process.
In doing so, it’s important to ensure that creative ideas serve the mission and don’t run in a completely useless direction!
Whether you’re a leader or a player in the creative ideas game, understanding your creative strengths and recognizing how to nurture them will give you a huge advantage.
The Role of Creativity and Innovative Ideas in Business
In business, the solution to harnessing creativity often lies in asking the right questions. Most of the time, these are unusual questions. The questions that no one expected.
The questions that can take a business venture from average to extraordinary, and perhaps in a very short time.
A classic is the story of Starbucks founder Howard Shultz, who expanded and changed the scope of what a coffee bar should be in America. A creative quasi-day dream that led to great success.
The Value of Design Thinking
Design thinking has taken hold in many of the world’s leading companies. Through collaboration between designers, entrepreneurs, and customers, creative ideas can be developed and refined.
The approach has proven effective in breaking down physical, physical, and mental silos that have developed over time in organizations.
It’s a philosophy and method that helps innovative and creative employees bring in new ideas and develop new and better ways of doing things. Such an approach to business is a real key to the future.
It can be broken down into five core phases:
- Discovery: understand the problem, look at existing solutions, define the problem.
- Interpretation: ask yourself important questions about your project from different perspectives
- Ideation: Find as many ideas as possible
- Experimentation: Build prototypes and test the ideas
- Development: Develop further
Build a Diverse Team for Success
When it comes to diversity, it’s important to have a variety of perspectives. People who think differently than others. People who can draw from different experiences.
People who can draw from different ideas and think in different ways.
In my career as a filmmaker, I’ve had the privilege of spending time with world-leading scientists and engineers who’ve worked on truly extraordinary projects.
They consistently found that the most important breakthroughs were made when people from different scientific and technological backgrounds worked closely together on a common project.
Just as innovative ideas can be created by anyone as long as they’re open to creative thinking techniques, the same is true for the creative ideas that emerge from that work.
Diversity of experience and perspective is especially important when you’re in a brainstorming session. You want to get people to think outside the box, and diversity helps you do that. Diversity of age, life experience, education, culture – it all helps open minds.
The Power of New Ideas
One thing that sometimes worries organizations and businesses is whether creativity and creative ideas somehow weaken or even endanger the organization.
The answer is actually the opposite. The more creatively an idea is developed, the more value it’ll create. And that’s what innovation is all about.
You should look at the creative ideas you’ve and figure out how to develop them to completion.
The best ideas can even lead to entirely new business models.
Creativity and Risk Management
Manage creative risk in the same way you manage other risks in a business. To do this, you need to ensure that both innovation and processes are aligned with the business strategy.
Enterprise architecture can help you understand how your business works and how creative ideas align with your business.
What’s critical is that you actually execute the creative idea. It’s not just about the original idea, but also the idea that comes out of that idea. And another idea that comes out of that idea. And so on.
Always remember that creative risk and success include creative failure. You can’t have one without the other – that’s why it’s important for people to understand that it’s OK to fail when you’re really creating and developing ideas.
One last piece of advice: always remember that a creative idea may not work for its intended purpose, but can be adapted beautifully to a different market!
Types of Creative Ideas
An idea becomes creative when it stands out from the conventional and ordinary and becomes interesting and new.
These ideas can be visual (such as a painting or sculpture), verbal (such as a novel or poem), or behavioral (such as a dance or play).
It’s important to say that creative ideas don’t have to be completely new or original. Sometimes it’s about execution or the way you present something. That’s, the way you convey the idea.
The point is that the creative idea is the opposite of the ordinary and conventional.
Creative ideas either come one at a time, or you experience a stream of ideas – which may or may not be connected.
Most often, people want to know “why” the creative idea is so exciting and why it should be pursued.
Ideas can be called brilliant, original, “sticky,” fresh, or “bold” – what matters are the mental models that underlie them.
It’s worth remembering that sometimes bad ideas can lead to bold ideas! A really bad idea can be the precursor to a huge breakthrough!
The Creative Community Around You
The community that surrounds you can also play an important role in creative ideation. In his book, The Creative Curve, Allen Gannett describes four types of people who help on the creative journey:
- Master Teachers. They provide role models, advice and feedback.
- Collaborators. People who help iron out your mistakes by offering a different perspective.
- Modern Muses. The motivators and inspirers who’re often a source of new ideas.
- Celebrity promoters. Those who use their credibility and audience to get your ideas out into the public.
Here’s what simple creative ideation looks like:
Breaking Old Thought Patterns
The first thing to say is that negative thinking can greatly interfere with the creative process. It distracts the mind and prevents it from developing creative thoughts.
This isn’t to say that thinking about a problem isn’t useful – it’s often necessary.
By “negative thinking” I mean the kind of thinking that assumes the worst or approaches a problem with doom and gloom.
The creative mind needs to be open and free from the limitations of negativity.
That’s why breaking old patterns of thinking – especially negative ones – can have a profound impact on your creativity.
Conversely, creative thinking can have a significant impact on breaking negative thinking patterns!
The creative process is a cycle that goes from initial idea to development to implementation. At each stage, it’s necessary to question the value of the idea. Think of it as a kind of “risk management” in a creative context.
The cycle begins with an idea in the creative phase. In the creative phase, many different ideas are considered and from this pool, a few are selected for further development. In the creative phase, you should think about the crowd. Don’t block out the ideas, just let them flow.
The next step is to develop these ideas into a working model that shows the idea will work. At this stage, we start applying conventional wisdom. We think about the budget, the time frame, the return on investment, and so on.
In the final phase, we implement the idea.
Finding New Connections
To be creative, you need to make new connections, and the best way to do that’s to get involved with more things.
If you want to be creative, don’t play it safe. Be risky.
There’s always a chance that the new thing you’re doing won’t work, that it’ll be a complete failure. And if it’s? Then you can always go back to what you were doing before, and it’ll probably still work.
But if it doesn’t, so what? If what you’re doing now doesn’t work, do something else. If your new idea fails, you’ve lost nothing but some time. But if your new idea succeeds- if something really new and good comes out of it – then the time, effort, and risk will have been worth it.
The biggest obstacle to creativity isn’t that you come up with something original, but that you’re too afraid of failure to even try.
Don’t see the possibility of failure as a reason not to do something. See it as an incentive: there’s always a chance that something really good will happen if you try.
Develop a Creative Mindset
You can’t solve a problem with the same mindset that created it. You can’t get to the top by staying at the bottom.
The problem with most people is that they spend too much time on the bottom and never get out of there.
They look at things the way they’re used to; they see solutions within their old framework; they spend their time trying to find reasons why what they already thought was impossible mightn’t be impossible after all.
And if you do that, you won’t get very far.
If you can’t get excited about imagining things that don’t exist, you’ll never be able to create anything new.
Finding good answers requires a combination of imagination and discipline. You’ve to be willing to think creatively. But you also have to be willing to test your ideas, no matter how good they seem.
It’s important to know what to look for. Throughout my career as a filmmaker, I’ve had to learn to recognize ideas that work and ignore everything else.
Be Open to Inspiration From Others
Personally, I find that reading a lot of creative literature, watching creative films, spending time in a museum, attending a creative event, listening to a concert or a jazz piece helps a lot. You know what I mean.
You need to get into a mindset where you’re open to the creative process.
In this stream of creative thinking, you should note that you can never predict where new ideas will come from. The subconscious mind is a powerful thing.
It’s been my experience that people at the top of the tree – in science, art, business, and elsewhere – have a wonderful capacity for simplicity in practice and expression.
In their simplicity – even though, of course, there’s a lot going on “under the hood” – I find great inspiration.
The Importance of Regular Rest
Regular rest plays an important role in our idea generation ability because it lowers the level of random neural firings in the brain.
That’s why meditation can also play a very useful role. It’s a kind of mental “detoxification” because it clears the mind of all the random thoughts and leaves you with a very clear mind.
And when you’ve a blank slate, sometimes new ideas can emerge from the void.
For me personally, the process of creative ideation is a bit like a relaxing vacation.
What do you do when you go on vacation? You sleep, you eat, you’ve fun, you talk to friends, you relax. And then you go home. And then you rest.
And then you wake up the next day and you start again.
That’s what creative ideas are all about.
Creative Thinking Skills
What exactly is a “creative thinking skill”“?
Creative thinking skills are a set of tools that can be applied in the creative process. These skills include, for example:
- divergent thinking
- lateral thinking
- systems thinking
- critical thinking
- and so on.
The problem is often that a lack of confidence in creative thinking occurs as we grow out of childhood; essentially, we begin to censor ourselves.
The good news is that there are accessible solutions.
In recent years, more and more evidence has accumulated that creative thinking can be learned.
With practice, new neural pathways form. You can do exercises that improve your creative thinking.
Creative thinking skills help you solve problems and develop ideas. But first, you need to know what kind of problem you want to solve and what kind of idea you want to develop.
The first step is to think of a question that needs an answer or a problem that needs a creative solution.
Then it’s time to brainstorm, where you come up with as many solutions as you can. Brainstorming can be fun, but it’s also hard work. The more ideas you’ve, the better your chances of coming up with a good solution. You don’t have to worry about making mistakes or not being original; it’s too early for that. Just post anything that comes to mind and see what happens.
Some Visual Games to Encourage Perception
A great way to play with perception and see the world in a new way is a popular trick used by photographers:
Walk around your room, point to different objects, and intentionally call them by the wrong name. So “sofa” becomes “TV”. And so on. After 5 minutes, stop and look around. You’ll perceive the objects more sharply because your brain will rewire itself! By the way, this is also why children recognize very small objects; what’s familiar to us isn’t yet familiar to them!
Another trick for photographers is to walk very slowly toward an object in your room, intentionally looking to the side (and not at the object). After a few minutes, stop and allow yourself to look at the object. You’ll see a kind of visual framing take place and things will appear sharper and clearer again for a while.
Encourage Divergent Thinking
Divergent thinking aims to achieve many different outcomes, while convergent thinking aims to arrive at a single solution.
Divergent thinking is considered important for creativity because it opens up possibilities to explore. It makes us try new ideas. It allows us to find new connections. It leads to a wide range of alternatives that we can consider.
Remember that divergent thinking doesn’t come naturally. People who describe themselves as “lazy,” “unable to come up with ideas,” or “unable to be creative” often don’t practice divergent thinking. This isn’t because they lack “imagination,” but because they haven’t yet learned to think in a way that can produce many ideas.
To solve this problem, you should try things with a playful attitude. Creative play in action. Don’t expect to find a solution on the first try.
Remember: many of the most original ideas seem strange and uninteresting at first!
As you play, use your divergent thinking skills to look around and see if new connections emerge, new ideas emerge.
A Simple Creativity Exercise for Divergent Thinking
It’s worth saying that just an awareness of creative thinking can pay dividends.
Here’s something you can do right now to improve your divergent thinking: Mind mapping.
Grab a sheet of A4 or even better A3 paper. You can also do this with an app, but pen and paper are better for this particular exercise.
Write a central theme or question you want to explore – it can literally be anything – as a short phrase in the middle of the paper.
Set a timer for 5 minutes and quickly write down a series of one-word branches. Use colors and small drawings if possible. It’s best to write the words along the branches, but some people like to use speech bubbles.
For example, like this:
Keep it loose and free. Let your thoughts guide you and just write out freely the ideas that come to mind.
By the end of this short exercise, you’ll certainly have a better understanding of the topic or problem, and in the meantime, you’ll have improved your ability to think divergently! All with the help of a quickly-sketched mind map!
There are many activities you can do to boost your creativity. Here are just a few of them:
- Going for a walk. A Stanford College study showed that walking boosts creative inspiration both during the walk and for a short time afterward.
- Read. Children spend up to two-thirds of their time in imaginative play! Why not do the same and engage in a good fantasy or science fiction novel? Avoiding psychological “closure” can help your creativity.
- Reward curiosity. In yourself and in others. Habits take three things to form: a trigger, the habit itself, and a reward. Why don’t you build in small rewards for useful discoveries you make when you act out your curiosity? That way, you’ll develop a creative habit! Giving such a reward to yourself is in itself a creative activity!