Becoming an ideas machine
In a new video series, Text 100 seeks to illuminate questions about creativity. Creative professionals give insight into their views, secrets and strategies relating to creativity. The following post is the first part of a related article series on creativity at work, trying to answer the following questions: How can everybody be (more) creative? Why is creativity important to work in PR and other areas? How can companies foster innovation?
I bet you know the situation: You’re sitting in front of a problem – a press release that just sounds boring; an event you need to turn into an attraction for customers and partners; a client briefing that needs to result in a consistent communications plan. But the solution just won’t come to your mind, you’re mentally blocked. What are you going to do?
My favourite solution is leaving my desk – grab a coffee, chat with a colleague or just walk around a bit. That helps surprisingly often. You may prefer to sleep on the problem and find a solution while in the shower next morning. Or set up a brainstorming session. Or look for inspiration in the sky outside. But you will probably not give up, saying: “Well, I guess, I’m just not creative enough.”
Unfortunately, there is still a widespread notion that creativity is a gift – either you are creative or you’re not. But although scientists like Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi have researched the common traits of especially creative personalities, there is nothing static and unchangeable about creativity. In his book “Creativity. Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention,” Csikszentmihalyi himself dedicates a whole section on how to enhance your personal creativity.
So if you can learn creativity as you can learn to cook, what’s the recipe to do so?
First of all, you’ll have to think over your definition of creativity. When you think about creative people, are painters, writers, sculptors or designers the first that come to your mind? In our video series, Tyron Montgomery explains creativity as creative problem solving and handling of everyday tasks:
This ability to think creatively and solve problems is in all of us. Do you remember how creatively you played, sang and painted as a child? If we stay curious, open our senses to the impressions of the outer world and allow our imagination to flow, we have already done an important step. In this video, Jörg Lenuweit explains what we can learn from children about creativity:
Do you think that sounds easier said than done? Fortunately, creative thinking is not just a mindset – there are techniques you can learn. As Albert Heiser explains in the video below, creative games have rules that free your spirit and help you to intuitively develop new ideas. Edward de Bono, the renowned expert on creative thinking, has developed various concepts like the “random word” or the “six thinking hats” that inspire lateral thinking and provoke fresh ideas. The classic brainstorm is one of these techniques. Although it is the most widely used, it has its limitations. From experience, I’d encourage you to try a new technique the next time you need a good idea. It breaks the routine, provokes fresh thinking and can be really fun!
There are also a number of everyday tricks to inspire your mind: Read about a subject that’s completely new to you. Take a different route to work. Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand. Just do something that makes your mind break out of its daily routine – and you will more easily think outside the box.
A tricky question is of course how to maintain a certain creative level in your every day work and life. In our video series, Chris Callaghan talks about avoiding non-creative routines as one of the keys to keep a high level of creativity.
And Jörg Lenuweit describes how the participation in a creative highlight project inspires him.
There is no way around it: If you want to be more creative, you will have to practice. As Maya Angelou puts it: “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” So, get out of your comfort zone. Seek out a creative solution for a problem today. And tomorrow. And next time you have a problem that really needs creativity, you’ll have the mindset, the tools and the practice that’s needed.