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Creativity is like a muscle. If we want to increase creativity we have to train it and use it. The truth is that everyone can become creative. We just need to know what ways work the best. In this article, we will discuss the first six tested and proven ways to increase creativity and how to implement each of them. Get ready to ignite the spark of your creativity.
Change your mindset
The first thing we have to do in order to increase creativity, and get the job done, is changing our mindset. It is hard, if not impossible, to be creative if we constantly feed our minds with thoughts about the exact opposite. Imagine you want to run a marathon, get stronger or build a business. What will you tell to yourself, in your mind? What kind of thoughts will you think?
You will probably tell yourself something that will motivate and encourage you. It will be something that will help you get started and stay on the track. You will probably not tell yourself that you can’t do it, that it is impossible or that you are just wasting your time. No. Instead, you will do the opposite. You will tell yourself that you can do it, that it is possible.
Yet, when it comes to creativity we often tell ourselves only those negative stories that we are not creative. It is no wonder that we get in trouble every time we need to actually be creative. And, we start to look for ways to increase creativity. The problem is that we are not solving the real problem. We are not going to the roots of problem. We are solving the symptoms.
When you break your arm, do you take a painkiller and forget about it? No, that would be insane. And, it would only “cure” the symptom—pain. You will go to the doctor and let him solve the real problem—broken bone. We must do the same if we want to help ourselves increase creativity. We must go to the root cause—our own mind. This is where the real problem is.
So, if you want to increase creativity, stop looking for tips, hacks and cool tools. Start with your own mind and work on your self-talk. The first step to becoming more creative is about believing that you are creative. Or, at least about believing that you can be creative. Change the story you are telling yourself about yourself.
Have a hobby
A very good way to increase creativity is having a hobby, usually something outside your work. Reading, writing, sport, games, gardening, puzzles, coding, composing music, design, engineering, poetry, collecting stamps, investing. It can be literally anything. The only thing that matters is that your hobby of choice should take your mind away from work, let it relax.
Having said that, I would recommend finding a hobby that involves some kind of a creation. The best way to become better at something is by doing that very thing. When you want to learn about some specific topic, you focus on that topic, not on something else. So, if you want to increase creativity, or become creative, your hobby should help you train this skill.
Also, hobby you enjoy and that involves creativity can be a good way to gently start working on your creativity, as a skill. It is not necessary to jump right into it. In some situations, and for some people, a more gentle and smoother way works better than a shock therapy. Something you already like to do, a hobby, that involves some creativity can do this for you.
Think about what you already like to do, or what you think could be interesting and fun to do. Think about how this thing can help you become creative person, or increase creativity. Then, just try it. Give it a shot. Experiment. This is what creativity is about. Remember that you can always stop and find something else.
Find your source of inspiration
The more we know the more creative we can, and will, be. It is hard to come up with something creative if we don’t have any material to start with. Imagine we want to cook a meal for ourselves and our friends. However, we don’t have any ingredients. Our kitchen is completely empty. In situation such as this, cooking anything, except the water, will be impossible.
Creativity works in a similar fashion. We can even think about creativity as a chef. Chef can’t cook a tasty meal out of plain water. He needs ingredients, or material, in order to cook. And, the better the ingredients the more tasty will the meal be. The same is true about creativity. One way to increase creativity, is to provide it with some good material. What is this material?
This is the good news. It can be literally anything. Magazines, books (both, fiction and non-fiction), poems, science, photos, design, paintings, code, architecture, videos, music, fashion, history, people, movies, shows, nature, ideas from other people. The world around us is full of material we can use to increase creativity. We just have to look around and pay attention.
Information, ideas and knowledge are necessary material for creativity. The more we have the more creative we can be. Ideas in = ideas out. So, if we want to increase creativity, we can start with taking in more information, and from diverse areas. The most creative people in the history. They were often interested in multiple areas, not just one. They were generalists.
My most favorite example is Leonardo Da Vinci. We will hardly find someone who was as creative as Leonardo. And, we will hardly find someone who was interested in so many different areas. Painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, cartography just to name a few.
With all these areas of interest and all the information and knowledge, imagine the flow of ideas. It is no surprise that, before his death, Leonardo produced dozens, if not hundreds, of notebooks. All of them overflowing with diverse ideas, thoughts and sketches. I think that Leonardo is an example worth following for anyone who wants to increase creativity.
So, this raises one question. Is it better to be a generalist or to be a specialist? My answer is … both. It is not necessary to choose between these two. Meaning, we can focus on mastering one area, or a few. And, we can also learn about and explore other. We don’t have to go as deep. We can tip our toes here and there, while being focused on our one thing.
Or you can also dedicate certain amount of time, probably years, to one subject and master it. Then, you can move to another and repeat the process. And then again. This can potentially help you master multiple subjects. At least, it will provide you with material that will help you increase creativity.
Talk with people
More heads, and brains, know more. Being open to new information and knowledge is crucial to increase creativity. As we discussed, the equation for creativity is simple—ideas in = ideas out. Another sure way we can increase the amount of information and knowledge we have is by talking with other people. The truth is that there is no such a thing as lone genius.
Sure, it happens that one person comes up with creative, even revolutionary, idea. However, that is only one piece of the puzzle, the one we see, the result. What we don’t see is what lead to that result. That is a different story. When we take a look at many inventions, we will see a cloud of random connections, all from different sources. This is how innovation really work.
The same is true about creativity. Creativity is not about coming up with ideas from vacuum, or cooking from water. It is about collecting many different ideas and then connecting, mixing and blending these ideas together. This is also why one idea + another idea is not equal to three ideas, but four, five, six or even more. Every idea can result in multiple new ideas.
Therefore, do you want to increase creativity? Increase the number of people you talk with. Also, remember that the only way to find creative solution to any problem requires knowing the problem exists. We have to talk with people to find out what their problems and pains are. This is also one reason why it is so important for developers to work with the users of the product.
So, if you want to increase creativity, talking with people is one way to do it. And, what if you are not exactly a “people person”? First, change your mindset. Second, remember that every conversation with another person can spark new ideas and help you increase creativity. Turn it into a game. One person = at least one new idea. How many people can you talk with today?
When you think about your work, what is the first word, or emotion, that comes to your mind? Is it play, fun, excitement, joy? Or, is it resistence, boredom, disgust, sadness, depression, anxiety or even pain? For many people, work is usually connected with one of the emotions from the second group. For them work is something they just have to do, sometimes even suffer through.
Although this is understandable, the problem is that this is not the best way to increase creativity. How creative can a person be if she thinks about the task at hand as something painful? Probably not so much. Chances are, she will think more about the discomfort, or pain, itself rather than about the task. Not to mention trying to come up with some new and creative idea or solution.
What I want to propose is changing how we see, and do, our work. Although our work may be uncomfortable, look for ways we can make it more like a play. Let’s take a look at the tasks we have to do and let’s try to bring in a bit of gamification. In other words, let’s think about how to turn these tasks into game. We can also think about how to turn them into a challenge, or competition.
With a little bit of effort, we can find a way to transform even those really boring chores into a game or a challenge. Do you have to get done a certain number of calls? Or, do you have to write a certain number of words? Make it a game or a challenge. Compete with yourself. Give yourself a challenge and then see if you can crush it and win. Even if you lose, you will still finish the work.
Give yourself a deadline
Sometimes, the biggest obstacle to get the job done is time. This may seem like a paradox. However, having all the time in the world may not be the best thing. It can be even detrimental if we want to increase creativity. Don’t ask me why, but this is the truth. Finding more time will not help us increase creativity. Well, there might be something that could possible explain it.
Our brain likes comfort. It wants to save energy instead of spending it anywhere without blinking an eye. Our brain has no reason to burn energy just because we want to increase creativity. So, when we have a lot of time, our brain sees it as yet another reason to slow down and think and work less, or be less creative. Let’s think about a simple example we all probably experienced.
Imagine that you have to do something, whatever it is, and have a lot of time. Say, about two months. How much time will it take to do the work and finish it? Okay. Remember your answer, maybe write it down. Now, similar scenario. The same work but you have only two weeks. How much time will the work require now, going from start to finish? Compare your answer with the previous.
Chances are that you can get the work done in both scenarios, even though the time frame is quite different. According to a study, done by MIT Sloan School of Management and INSEAD Business School, when we set self-determined (but realistic) deadlines it can improve our task performance and decrease procrastination. That’s great. However, can this also increase creativity?
Just getting started
The truth about creativity is that it requires work. Think about the usual scenario. You are sitting at your desk, or standing, looking at the work assignment. And, you don’t feel creative at all. This is because creativity is not something that magically appears when we think about it. We have to get our hands dirty. This is why starting writing anything often solves writer’s block.
Creativity is a lot about getting momentum. All we have to do is get our creative juices flowing. This is a great way to increase creativity, doing the first step and starting creating. When faced with some task, think about the smallest step we can make. Get momentum. Get our creative juices flowing. Remember that momentum is the key for both, increase creativity and productivity.
Another reason why deadlines can increase creativity and productivity. They can motivate us and give us a sense of urgency. We often don’t feel creative when the task itself is not interesting for us, or if it is not urgent. Imagine you have to do something you don’t care about and that is not even important, something that is not urgent. How creative will you feel? Not so much.
So, even if the task is boring and we don’t care about it, there is still something we can do that will help us increase creativity and productivity. We can create an artificial deadline and create a sense of urgency. This can nudge our brain to be more creative, look for ways to finish the task on time. This is very similar to giving ourselves a challenge or competing with ourselves.
Think about a time when your were in a very difficult situation and had only so much time to find a solution. Then, creativity was not a problem. Put simply, we can be incredibly creative, when we have our backs against the wall. A tight self-imposed deadline will achieve this. So, the next time you will not feel creative, try to give yourself a deadline. Chances are, it will work.
Closing thoughts on how to increase creativity
These are the first six ways that can help you increase creativity. Or, become a creative person if you think you are not. In that case, please, make sure to start with your mindset, seriously. It is very hard to achieve something if you don’t believe that you can achieve it. We should remember that we all, as human beings, are creative, from our birth. We sometimes just forget it.
So, start with your mindset. Believe that you are already creative person. You just didn’t train this skill for a long time. It requires a little bit of training to dust off this skill and increase creativity in every area of your life. Use those ways we discussed today, and those that will come in the next part, to ignite the spark of your creativity. And, do it today.
Do you have any questions, recommendations, thoughts, advice or tip you would like to share with other readers of this blog, and me? Great! Please share it in a comment. Or, if you want to keep things more "private", feel free to contact me on twitter or send me a mail. I would love to hear from you.
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