7 Tips to Supercharge Your Creative Productivity
Human beings have a natural inclination toward creativity, primarily due to the fact that creativity has afforded us basic tools to enhance their daily lives. Everything from basic modes of communication to high-tech software that allows a company to target a specific audience is all the result of creative effort. For example, children draw upon their creativity to communicate with their parents when they are unable to verbalize their wants, needs, and desires. An infant will cry, use eye movements, hand gestures, and a variety of other means to convey their message when other forms of communication are absent. Ultimately, creative ideas are what allow us to evolve, grow, and change as a species, as the world changes around us.
“Creativity is a great motivator because it makes people interested in what they are doing. Creativity gives hope that there can be a worthwhile idea. Creativity gives the possibility of some sort of achievement to everyone. Creativity makes life more fun and more interesting.” – Edward de Bono
A recent survey conducted by StrategyOne, polled over 5,000 individuals in order to provide insight into the role of creativity in business, education, and society. According to the study, ‘unlocking creative potential is seen as key to economic and societal growth’, however, less than half of people who responded to the survey describe themselves as creative individuals. Interestingly enough, Americans expressed the strongest concern that they’re not living up to their creative potential. When asked about the challenges to creativity in the US, the general response was as follows: “So many ideas have already been used, and in variation. When I think of a creative idea that I believe is new and original, it’s likely that it has already been done. I think the internet can often stray us away from our own creativity.” Ultimately, this survey highlights the fact that people recognize the importance of creativity in their daily lives and the workplace, but often lack the tools or time to think creatively. The following tips and tools are meant to aid in your creative process by changing the way you think about being creative.
1. Open Your Mind to Creative Thinking
The first step to thinking creatively is taking the time to be creative. However, opening your mind to creative thinking isn’t limited to creating, it is a combination of creating AND experiencing. You need to get inspired and experience new things so that you have ideas to draw from when you’re actively creating. The key is to take advantage of every opportunity to learn something new or see something in a different way.
Try these approaches to learn new things:
- Read a New Book: New York Times Bestseller List , Goodreads
- Browse the Web: StumbleUpon, BuzzFeed, Reddit, LifeHacker
- Stay Up to Date on the Latest News: CNN, Google News, BBC News
- Meet People with Similar Interests, or Try New Things: Meetup
- Learn a New Hobby or Skill: DiscoverAHobby, Skillshare,
- DIY or Learn to Make Something: Instructables, CraftZine
- Find Cool Products: Wanelo, Fancy, Fab, Incredible Things
- Learn About the World: HowStuffWorks, TED
- Focus on Self Improvement: ZenHabits, PositivityBlog, The Happiness Project, MindTools
- Go Back to School: iTunes U, Academic Earth, Khan Academy
- View Unique Art: DeviantArt
2. Capture Your Ideas & Inspiration
Maybe you heard something funny of the street or saw an inspiring image, write it down before you forget! Everything you see, hear, and experience can spark a new train of thought. Keeping a creativity notebook or journal will help you keep track of any inspiration that pops into your head at any given moment. Make sure that you take the time to go back and go through your notes, and see where your ideas take you.
3. Create a Mind Map
A mind map is diagram used to visually outline information that usually features a word, image,or phrase in the center with ideas and thoughts branching out across the entire page. Mind maps are a great tool when you need to think through a problem, make a decision, or accomplish a task. The idea behind the mind map originated from Tony Buzan, who advocates these seven simple tips to creating an effective mind map:
- Start in the center of a blank page turned sideways
- Use an image or picture for your central idea
- Use colors throughout
- Connect your main branches to your central image
- Make your branches curved lines, rather than straight
- Use one keyword per line
- Use images throughout your map
Check out these online Mind Map tools if you don’t want to hand write your map : Text 2 MindMap, Mind Meister, Mind Maple, Bubbl.us
4. Scale Your Ideas
Having a new idea can be exciting, but you don’t want to get ahead of yourself. Think about the decisions you need to make in the immediate future and what you need to make sure your idea works before you start thinking of 1,000s of applications and marketing strategies. The idea is start small, and then spread.
5. Think Through a Problem with the “Six Hats Technique”
The Six Thinking Hats Methodology is based upon the book Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono, who advocates the idea that the human brain “thinks in a number of distinct ways which can be deliberately challenged, and hence planned for use in a structured way allowing one to develop tactics for thinking about particular issues.” Each ‘hat’ identifies, and helps someone focus on, a different part of a person’s thought process. Whenever you have a problem, or are working through a concept, the idea is that you “wear” each of these hats to fully work through the problem to resolution.
- Hat 1– Blue (Think Broadly): What is the overall solution? This hat is designed to help you focus on your project, manage roles & responsibilities, and create a timeline for the project. What is the logical sequence of events?
- Hat 2 – White (Information): What are the facts? What data do you have? What data do you need? This hat is designed to help you understand the factual information you have, and see what you can learn from it. The idea is that you look for gaps in your knowledge, and either fill them in or prioritize them.
- Hat 3 – Green (Creativity): What are alternative solutions? This hat is designed to help you think outside the box, and suggests that you try something new or look for alternative solutions or possibilities.
- Hat 4 – Yellow (Optimism): What are the positives? What are the benefits? This hat is designed to help you analyze and assess the value of your idea or problem from a positive standpoint. You need to look at the good things about the concept to either improve them or keep them the way they are.
- Hat 5 – Black (Risks): Are there any errors in your logic? What are the potential problems or dangers? This hat is designed to see why your concept or solution may not work. By wearing this hat you are better able to assess the reasons your solution may not actually work.
- Hat 6 – Red (Instinct): How will people react emotionally to this? What are likes/dislikes when it comes to the concept? This hat is designed to allow people to have an emotional reaction to the concept, and define what they feel in their gut.
6. Listen to Music
Music has been proven to help boost creativity for a variety of reasons. Initially, music has the ability to change your state of mind, and even aid you experiencing a range of emotions. Different tones and sounds evoke an emotional response that can help you think about a problem differently. In addition, music can cause a switch in brain waves, which can alter our awareness and state of consciousness. Try listening to different types of music when you work to see what motivates you, inspires you, boosts your creativity, and helps you focus.
Listen Online: Pandora, Spotify, Songza, Rdio, GrooveShark, TheSixtyOne
7. Reframe Your Ideas
“Reframing” is the process of looking at a concept or idea from a different perspective. That is, you aren’t changing the idea in any way, you’re just looking at it through a different worldview or frame of reference. By putting yourself in the shoes of other people you can better answer questions like:
- What else could this mean?
- What can someone learn from this?
- Where else could this be useful?
The first step to reframing is deciding on the different perspectives to use in your analysis. Will you place yourself in the persona of a client? teacher? businessman? activist? Mind Tools provides an example of using a reframing matrix when a product is not selling well, because they utilize four different perspectives to fully analyze the problem.
The Moral of the Story
Enhancing your creativity is a task that will take daily work. Just as with every muscle in the body, you need to actively use your creativity to increase its strength and stamina. It’s not an impossible task to be more creative…all you have to do is be open to change, trying new things, and exploring the world from different perspectives. Take every opportunity you have to learn and try new things, and you’ll be more creative in no time.
*The images used in this post are linked to their original source. We thank the authors for their amazing illustrations.