Unleash Your Creativity! Three Quick Tips

Creativity counts. Organizational leaders who generate environments that encourage creative thought excel in today’s global marketplace.  And it is our responsibility to bring creative thought into our projects and our teams.

In the August 12, 2012, Fast Company article, “If Miles Davis Taught Your Office to Improvise”, Frank J. Barrett wrote,

“Nurturing spontaneity, creativity, experimentation, and dynamic synchronization is no longer an optional approach to leadership. It’s the only approach.”

Some see creativity as a natural-born talent – an attribute of the few.   But let’s expand our mindset and think of creativity as a skill we can build – regardless of our position or our occupation.

Creativity is in all of us – just expressed in different ways. We easily see creativity in famous artists of all dimensions – music, theater, dance, athletics, architecture, etc.  But we often refuse to see the creativity in ourselves.

In addition, our self-talk often works against us.  Have you ever said, “I’m just not that creative”?

How many of us may have been stalled at a young age when we presented our fabulous creations to others … only to hear the words, “what is THAT?”  Our creative spirit then took a nose-dive.

Our job is to regain the confidence of your creative youth.  David Kelley, founder and chair of IDEO (a legendary design firm known for many design innovations including the first mouse), spoke of building “creative confidence” at a Ted conference on design in March 2012.

“I really believe that when people gain … [creative] confidence …  they actually start working on the things that are really important in their lives. We see people quit what they’re doing and go in new directions. We see them come up with more interesting, and just more, ideas so they can choose from better ideas. And they just make better decisions.”

So – how do you awaken the creativity within?

Censure your censor

“The fact is, almost all of the research in this field shows that anyone with normal intelligence is capable of doing some degree of creative work. Creativity depends on a number of things: experience, including knowledge and technical skills; talent; an ability to think in new ways; and the capacity to push through uncreative dry spells. Intrinsic motivation — people who are turned on by their work often work creatively — is especially critical.”

– “The 6 Myths of Creativity” (An interview with Teresa Amabile), Bill Breen.  Fast Company.  December 1, 2004

You know that little voice inside of you.  The one that says, “I am not.”  Well, stop it!  Silence the doubter.

You do have creative juices running through you.  You just might not have expressed them as of yet.  Or maybe you have suppressed them.

Listen to your self-talk. And if you are telling yourself no … then turn that into yes.

Give yourself space

“Even the outline of a box can influence creativity. … Our team examined the originality of ideas among 104 students at Singapore Management University. First we showed students pictures of objects made of Lego blocks. Then we asked them to think of original uses for the objects, either while walking along a fixed rectangular path indicated by duct tape on the floor (marking out an area of about 48 square feet) or by walking freely as they wished.  The differences were striking: students who walked freely were better at generating creative uses for the objects — coming up with over 25 percent more original ideas.”

– “When Truisms are True,” Suntae Kim, Evan Polman, and Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks.  New York Times Sunday Review.  February 25, 2012 

One of the myths about creativity is that most creative thought occurs in a pressure cooker environment.  To me, pressure constricts thought.  So, if your thoughts are constricted, your creativity is nullified.

Set your mind free.  Allow yourself the time to be creative. Walk away. Wander around with your mind.  Follow your thoughts wherever they lead.  Gain perspective by talking with others.   Think “outside the box.”

Connect the dots

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.”

–  “Steve Jobs:  The Next Insanely Great Thing” (An interview with Steve Jobs).  Wired.  Issue 4.02. February 1996.

Stretch your mind by making connections – not just between common pairings (pen and paper, glass and water).  Start making connections between uncommon pairings (a horse and a road sign, a tea bag and a shoe).  Silly – you may think.  But, when you force yourself to think about connecting two very dissimilar objects, you begin to unleash your creative mind.

Stick with this connection exercise.  You will find that once you start, it becomes easier to make associations among dissimilar objects.  You become more comfortable with your thoughts.  They are no longer silly … they are the beginning of alternate views … the foundation for better quality decision-making.

As you consider creativity, allow Kelley’s words of wisdom to frame your new paradigm.

“It would be really great if you didn’t let people divide the world into the creatives and the non-creatives, like it’s some God-given thing, and to have people realize that they’re naturally creative. And those natural people should let their ideas fly. “

So – how are a horse and a road sign similar?  I would love to hear your thoughts!

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