July 25, 2019
How to be creative (even when you think you’re not)
Have you ever found yourself saying “I’m just not the creative type”? Well, you wouldn’t be alone. When you think of what it means to be creative, you may find yourself automatically categorizing people as the ‘naturally creative’ types – those who have a natural-born flair for creativity with a vivid imagination – and deciding whether or not you fall into that category. In actual fact, there actually is no such thing as the ‘creative type’.
The problem really stems from our definition of creativity. The story that has been woven into society is that being creative is in your blood; it’s something you’re born with that you either possess or you don’t. However, the nature of creativity really isn’t so black and white. Whilst some people may have a more natural tendency when it comes to practical creativity, such as being able to paint or compose a compelling piece of music, being able to think differently is a type of creativity we don’t always think about. And the best part? It’s something that anyone can achieve. It’s just a matter of exercising this part of your brain, like you would a muscle, rather than writing it off as something that’s just not in your genes.
So, even if you don’t consider yourself to be the ‘creative type’ there are endless ways to nurture your creative skills and learn to think differently. Being able to challenge your own assumptions and question what you’ve always done is a creative skill and something that everyone, no matter your natural skill set, can learn to accomplish.
Read on to discover how you can harness your creative potential – even if you don’t believe you can.
Hang onto your youth
Children’s imaginations are something to behold – the way they view life has never-ending possibilities, being completely unrestricted in their view of the world around them. However, as we get older, our life experiences begin to shape our understanding of the world. We begin to lose our childlike innocence and start to think more practically about most elements of our life. Innovation author Stephen Shapiro (2003) once said ‘Creativity is not learned, but rather unlearned’. Being able to tap back into the mindset of your younger self will allow you to remove the mental restrictions that we build as adults. Meaning you can learn to become more open and curious about finding alternative and ultimately more creative solutions.
So where do you start? The secret lies in making play a priority. This might not sound particularly productive at first, as we all know play is synonymous with fun – but fun is actually one of the most powerful ideas generators out there. Ensure you make play a part of the idea generation process – this could be as simple as beginning a brainstorming meeting with a game to loosen up your colleagues and get them suggesting some of their more wild ideas. It could be one of these ‘out there’ ideas that end up becoming your next creative solution.
So when you think about a child’s creativity, can it then be said that we are, in fact, all born creative? But just like anything, the less we practice a skill, the more it dwindles. Engaging this part of the brain just a little every day will help your ‘retrain’ the creative thinking skills you may have gradually begun to lose over the years.
So, don’t let go of your youth – after all, age is just a number; it’s your mindset that makes all the difference.
Daydream with purpose
When do you find your most creative ideas come to the surface? Is it when you’re sat focused at your desk? Or do they strike when you’re ‘switched off’ and out walking the dog, taking a shower, or going for a drive? Daydreaming is another one of those child-like activities we tend to associate with the more lazy, unfocused parts of our day. However, don’t be quick to write daydreaming off as being unproductive. Taking the time to think can do wonders for your creativity and your ability to come up with innovative ideas and solutions. When we stop to relax, our brains assume the ‘diffuse’ default mode. This is when our minds really begin to wonder and we start to visualize and make our own spontaneous connections and ideas.
You may then ask why are you not coming up with creative ideas all the time? The key is to engage in focused daydreaming. In order to achieve something from your daydreaming, you need to establish a goal that you want to achieve, and research the area you’re interested in to fuel the subconscious part of your brain that works through the problem. This will keep your imagination focused on a specific intention, so any ideas that unconsciously float to the surface will be anchored to what you want to accomplish.
“Creativity is found in those moments when your perspective shifts, and you find a new way of looking at things.” — Dr. Michah Goldwater, Senior Lecturer of Psychology, University of Sydney
Learn to challenge the status quo
How often have you heard the phrase ‘We’ve always done it this way’? Continuing to do the same things, the same way, simply because it’s what you’re used to doing is the biggest killer of creativity. It’s important to work in an environment where new ideas can be fostered and flourish, so you don’t get stuck in a hamster wheel of routine and monotony.
Today’s media and consumer landscape is changing and evolving every single day. Learning to adapt and move with the times is vital if you want to survive in today’s world. Some of the best innovators even go beyond just moving with the times; they become trailblazers in their field. The obvious example of this? Apple. Before the iPhone, the market drivers were smaller phones, with longer battery life. Apple reinvented the wheel with the iPhone, offering something completely unseen before – and with staggering success.
With the rise of mobile devices, in particular, the speed at which consumer habits are changing is at a pace like we’ve never experienced before. Be sure to not get stuck in your ways, so you don’t get left behind. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a creative person, being able to actively think about your thinking will naturally encourage you to come up with new and interesting ideas.
Always ask yourself why you’re doing something; even if it’s something small that makes up a minor part of your daily routine. Learn to constantly challenge yourself on your processes, assumptions and decisions so that you are forced to consider alternative options, which will naturally open up the doors in your mind and allow you to think more creatively.
Consider what you do well
If you’re still convinced that creativity boils down to natural talent, then consider what things you are good at. Perhaps you’re good at analyzing figures or organizing events. We all have our own unique areas and talents that we’re proud of – you just may never have considered that your biggest strength actually enables you to be creative, as you put your own stamp on it. Every job and skill can be enhanced through creative thinking, even if you’re not in a typically creative role. Identifying the areas which you naturally excel in means you are one step closer to being able to think differently about these skills and try new things to make them a success.
Many of us engage in creative thinking every day when faced with a challenge or problem that we need to overcome. Dr. Goldwater, Senior Lecturer of Psychology at the University of Sydney, says that one of the easiest ways to get better about thinking creatively is to simply practice. The more you encourage yourself to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new, you’ll find that coming up with creative ideas gets easier each time. Being creative isn’t about becoming the next Banksy or Mozart – it’s about making small changes each day to challenge the way you do things, so your natural creative skills can get stronger and grow into true innovation.
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