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There are many ways to increase creativity. Some work better, some work worse. This article will help you learn about another three proven ways to increase creativity. These ways are based on experience of innovator, inventors, writers, singers, artists, entrepreneurs and other creative people. Are you willing to test these ways to find out if they will help you increase creativity? Let’s see.
Change how you see the problem
Sometimes, the best way to find a solution and finally solve the problem is by changing how we see it. It can happen that we become so immersed in the problem that we just can’t see any way to solve it. It sometimes seems to us that we hit the wall, that we get into a dead end. In these moments, the best thing we can do is changing our perspective and reframing the problem at hand. Although this can be what will lead us out of this dead end, it is also very difficult to do. The more time we spend on some problem, the harder it is to change our perspective.
Change your language, change your world
What are some methods we can use to change our perspective that may also increase creativity we have at our disposal? First, try to refine your language. Different people often describe one and the same thing using different words. Then, they get attached to these words, they used to describe the problem. This can be a problem. Words are very powerful. They can, and do, change how we see the world and think about it. Let’s take colors as one simple example. How many shades of red do you know?
Let’s say that your vocabulary of colors is very large, especially when it comes to red color. You know shades such as alizarin, amaranth, cardinal, carmine, cerise, crimson, dark red, folly, fuchsia, magenta, maroon, mahogany, rosewood, rosso, ruby, rust and scarlet. Since you know these all shades, you can also recognize and identify each when you see some of them. Now, imagine you visit a gallery with your friend, who can see only few shades of red. When both of you will see a painting with shades of red, you will see a slightly different painting than your friend.
Your friend’s knowledge of only a few shades of red will influence his perception. If the painting contains shades she doesn’t know, she may not see them. These shades will blend into each other and become invisible for your friend. You can then spend the whole day trying to explain to your friend how rich in colors the painting is. Yet, she will not be able to fully understand what are you talking about, unless you help her learn to distinguish all the different shades. She needs to know about them before she can see them.
This is true about anything else in the world around us. Our brain needs vocabulary in order to interpret the signals from our eyes and basically create the world around us. Otherwise, it can miss or misinterpret some things. So, think about the words you used to describe the problem. Chances are that these words limit the options you can think about. Try to describe the problem using different words. Or, ask someone else to describe it, someone from a different area expertise. Using another brain can help you increase creativity.
Change your focus, change what you see
Something similar, such as this blindness caused by our language, happens when we focus on something specific. Let’s say you want to buy a new iPhone. Then, chances are that you will see iPhones almost everywhere. The world will start to look like an Apple Store. No, people around you didn’t start to replace their old smartphones with iPhone over night. These phones were there before, you just didn’t notice them. Well, maybe not all of them. There is a different cause behind this seemingly sudden change.
This difference is that you started paying more attention to this type of phone. Your brain started to focus on this particular device and, almost like a laser-guided missile. As a result, you started to see it everywhere. Our brain pays special attention to what is important to us. And, when it sees that thing, it will make sure to interpret it and bring our attention to it. This can be very helpful for survival. Let’s say you need food or water. Then, your brain will look for it, everywhere. And, it will let you know when it finds it.
Good for survival. Not as good for solving problems and our effort to increase creativity. It was Abraham Maslow who said: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” When we focus on a problem, we tend to focus on, and use, our knowledge and experience. As a result, we form a very specific point of view, or perspective if you will. This point of view then influences where we look for solutions. In other words, our point of view becomes our hammer.
If we want to find unusual solution, and hopefully increase creativity, we need to replace our hammer with something else. We need to deliberately force ourselves to forget what we know, both knowledge and experience. We have to force ourselves to see the problem with fresh eyes, as a beginner. Easy to say, but hard to do. I know. So far, I found two things to be helpful. First, talk with someone else. It is easier to change focus, walk in other’s person shoes, and increase creativity, by talking with other person.
Second, remind yourself about the fact your experience and knowledge change how you think and see. This one is harder than just “borrowing” someone else’s brain. However, you don’t have another person to ask, or you don’t want to do it, it will do the job as well. Also, learning to change your own perspective, mental models and prejudices will be useful every time you will face some problem. This approach will not only help you increase creativity, it will also make you independent and self-sufficient.
However, acquiring this skill can be hard and take a lot of time. So, if you need some quick way to increase creativity by changing your focus and perspective, get out and talk with other people. Remember, you don’t have to always rely on your own perspective, or point of view. You can borrow someone else’s.
Unplug & shut down
There is one reason why we often fail in our efforts to increase creativity. We don’t give our brain any time to unplug and shut down. When we keep our brain constantly busy with something, it can’t work on anything else. Imagine your brain is a worker doing specific task. Suddenly, you come and give him another task. Now, your brain has to decide which task it should do because it is more important. And, no, multitasking doesn’t lead to good outcomes. With multitasking, the results are often average at best.
So, if we want to do something to increase creativity, it is this. We need to give our brain some space to work on the solution for the problem we want to solve. Remember, multitasking is not a solution. We can’t focus on, and think about, one thing on one hundred percent if we do something else that demands our attention. Imagine trying to write and read at the same time. It is hard for our brain to think about what to write while also translate and interpret the words we read at the same time.
Conclusion? We must give our brain time and space to think. Thinking, whether it is about the problem or about the solution, requires some of our brain’s computing power and energy. We can use these resources only on one place and for one activity. The best way to increase creativity, in a sustainable manner, is by unplugging and dedicating necessary resources to just one activity. We must give our brain the space and time to wander. Yes, it means that we must do … nothing.
The art of doing nothing
When you ask some of the most creative people in world on their secret to increase creativity and come up with new ideas, their answer is usually simple. It is either “go for a walk” or “take a shower”. It is especially during relaxing activities, such as these two, when our brain has time and space to wander. When we let our brain wander, we switch from something called focused mode of thinking to diffused mode of thinking. So, what exactly are focused and diffused modes of thinking?
Our brain is in focused mode when we deliberately focus on something, some task. We are in the focused mode every time we do anything we can’t do on autopilot, or automatically. When we do something we didn’t master yet. We are doing something that requires us to control of attention, focus, decision making, memory, etc. Yes, trying to solve a problem is also one of these activities when our brain is in focused mode. As you can guess, during this time our brain doesn’t have time to wander.
When we are in the diffused mode, we are not deliberately focusing on anything. Our brain may seem like doing nothing but it is a fact still working on the background. It is still processing information, forming memories and learning. Activities that allow our brain to switch to this mode are those we can do almost without thinking, automatically. Washing dishes, playing random chords, doing some sport just for fun, going for a walk, taking a shower, gardening, daydreaming and so on.
Dig deep and then… daydream
There is one thing we have to keep in mind. We can’t increase creativity just by focusing on being in only one of these modes. The key to increase creativity is actually switching between them. First, we need to be in focused mode to acquire information and knowledge. This is something we have to deliberately, like studying for exams. Then, we need to switch into diffused mode and let our brain process the information we learned, internalize them and search for potential connections between the dots.
This is why just taking a shower or going for a walk may not help you increase creativity and solve your problem. Doing so helps your brain switch to diffused mode and look for potential connections in your knowledge. However, this is only one part of the equation. First, you need to have some knowledge and information your brain can work with. Just as you can’t build a building, if you don’t have any material you can’t come up with new ideas by connecting the information, if you don’t have any information.
Again. The only way to in which we can increase creativity is by using both modes. Use focused mode to build library of knowledge by focusing on the problem and studying it thoroughly. Then, use diffuse mode, by doing some relaxing activity, so your brain can play with these information and search for potential connection on the background. It is only by following this process that we can use focused and diffused modes of thinking to increase creativity and come up with new ideas.
Forget perfection, focus on terrible ideas first
Beginning is often the hardest part of doing anything. And, it is especially hard if what we are aiming for is perfection. We want to come up with some groundbreaking idea. Oh, and it also has to be perfect. The problem is that creativity doesn’t work this way. Creativity is not a straightforward process that smoothly leads from the start to the finish. It is rather the opposite. Creativity often looks like a very bumpy and dirty road full of turns and blind alleys. It is also far from perfection.
We may get one idea that might somehow work, or it might not. We need to understand that if we expect perfection right from the beginning, we have no chance of ever reaching the finish line. So, what is the solution? How can we change our approach and increase creativity? We have to get comfortable with coming up with terrible ideas. The truth about creativity is that no one comes up only with brilliant ideas. Any innovator or inventor you know have at least two or three bad ideas for one good.
In other words, focusing on quantity rather than just quality will help us increase creativity. Or, we can pursue both. However, if we decide to focus solely on quality, we will get nowhere. Imagine you want to learn to ride a bike. Do you also expect nailing it on the first try, riding like a PRO, without any help? Probably not. You expect that it will take some time, effort and several attempts before you learn how to ride a bike on your own and without falling. And, yes, there will probably be some pain.
We must apply the same approach to creativity. Don’t seek brilliant ideas as a way to increase creativity. Focusing only on quality doesn’t work. Quantity is necessary as well. We must remember that having terrible ideas will actually help us increase creativity. There is usually a direct relationship between the amount of terrible and brilliant ideas. The more terrible ideas we have the higher is the chance we will have a good or brilliant idea. So, what is the recipe to increase creativity and number of good or great ideas?
How many great ideas do you want to have? One, two, five, ten, twenty, or even more? Take the amount of good or great ideas you want to have and double it. If you want to have five great ideas, come up with ten. If your goal is ten, come up with twenty. Think about this a warm up for your brain and creative muscles. Sounds like too much? This is actually the minimum. In the beginning, you may need to even triple the amount of terrible ideas. Remember, the more terrible ideas the more great ideas.
Closing thoughts on how to increase creativity
Here you have another three ways to help you increase creativity. Change how you see the problem, unplug and let your brain switching between focused and diffused modes of thinking and focus on terrible ideas. Are these three tips guaranteed to help you increase creativity? Even though all of them were tested a lot and by different people, nothing is for granted. One tip may help you more, another less. Your current ability to think creatively and come up with new ideas also plays role.
In the end, it is usually easier to learn a new language or play a musical instrument if you already know some. You practiced similar thing in the past. So, if you are just on the starting line, and looking for ways to increase creativity, you may need more time and effort. The key is to persevere and work as is necessary. Remember that the beginning is always the hardest. It will get easier with time and practice. Just don’t give up.
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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