4 Tricks for Jumpstarting Creativity
Creativity isn’t just for traditionally artistic endeavors – design, literature, music or art. The best business solutions, new products or organizational changes can all benefit from injecting fresh thinking into processes in order to conceive more unique and viable solutions and ideas. The challenge that we all face, though, is gaining the necessary inspiration or stimulation to break through the clutter of old ideas and solutions to get to something truly original. The help break that logjam, we’ve identified four tricks that we’ve found are most effective in helping you or your team to Jumpstart Creativity:
- Surround Yourself with Different. Our brains are designed to recognize familiar patterns, process that information and deliver solutions based on prior results. It’s a most logical and effective system, but not necessarily one that’s well designed to deliver creative responses. So: destroy your routine. Push yourself into a “discomfort zone” to truly explore new ideas. Work with different people, in different places, adopting different rituals and approaches. Embrace diversity in the truest and broadest sense by surrounding yourself with people that of unique and dissimilar backgrounds and life experiences. Look for the “creative friction” that comes from engaging with someone who doesn’t see things exactly as you do. Here’s a specific exercise: if you are “stuck” on a problem or challenge, create a “different day” consciously changing your routines: from the food you eat, to the people you engage with, to the websites you visit, etc. Come back to your challenge after you’ve disrupted your routine and you’ll find that you are processing the same information and insights in an entirely new way.
- Forced Perspective. One definition of creativity is “looking at the familiar in a new way” – taking a common challenge or opportunity and twist it, shake it, and turn it around. Force yourself to look at things differently, and you’ll likely see something new. Specifically, with “forced perspective” you can approach the situation as another person, brand or company… what would BMW or Donald Trump or Facebook or Miley Cyrus do? It’s a simple exercise that forces us to get out of our traditional patterns of thought and development and bring a new way of thinking.
- Embrace the Illogical. One reason that many of us are challenged with creativity is that we are so bound to logic. Yet, creativity demands that we consider what may appear, at first glance, to be highly illogical or counter-intuitive solutions. Consider this example: during World War II the British Royal Air Force (RAF) recognized the need to fortify their planes and initial reached the seemingly obvious solution (based on the analysis of planes returning from air scrimmages) to put extra armor where the planes were being hit by enemy fire. Statistician Abraham Wald looked at it differently: after analyzing the records, he recommended – to the surprise of many – adding armor to the undamaged areas of the planes! Since Wald had data only on the planes that returned to Britain he theorized that those bullet holes were all in places where a plane could be hit and still survive. The planes that were shot down, he reasoned, were probably hit in different places than those that returned. So here’s the trick: brainstorm ideas that avoid sensible solutions – go to wild extremes. Push your thinking to some truly uncomfortable places, conceive of outrageous and audacious solutions to your opportunities and challenges. Once you’ve developed many absurd ideas, review this approaches through a more practical prism.
- Get Visual. Most people approach problems using words – either spoken or written. But not only is the cognitive process highly visual, using imagery allows us to think differently. The human brain reacts differently to visual stimuli – while language is processed in a more time-intensive linear fashion, the mind interprets visual elements concurrently. Reactions to imagery are more immediate and more visceral, and, as a result, can help us to develop more creative solutions by effectively being both liberating (to stretch our thinking) and confining (by creating the type of parameters that focus our thinking). Here’s a specific way that you can use visual language: flip through a diverse range of magazines (i.e., Wired, Real Simple, National Geographic) and tear out images that inspire you for no particular reason. After you’ve collected a dozen images, use words or phrases that reflect the key themes and ideas that most inspired you in the images. Let these ideas, images, words and phrases be the starting point to trigger creative responses to your challenge.
A world of increased commoditization and sameness demands truly new ideas and answers. We hope that these tricks can help you to break out of some old patterns and leverage your underutilized imagination to get to some exciting new solutions.