10 ways to boost your creativity
In connection with United Nations #worldcreativityday, I illustrated my 10 best tips for how to boost creativity
# 1 Detach from the existing
First exercise is to overcome the mental barriers so new connections can be made. If everything we think about is ‘this have been tried before’, ‘this won’t work, and ‘this is not a good idea’ we will not be able to see new possibilities.
A method to detach from the existing is to set up a few guiding principles forcing us to think freely and positively, so new ideas can form and take shape.
Brainstorming was originally developed by Alex Osborn in 1953 in his book Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of Creative Thinking.
The basic principles are:
Go for quantity: Quantity over quality
Withhold criticism: No idea is a bad idea
Welcome wild ideas: new ways of thinking may generate better solutions
Combine and improve ideas: 1+1=3
Build on other’s ideas. Association stimulates ideas
And if all the positivity is not your thing, try out ‘reverse brainstorm’ or ‘negative brainstorm’ where you come up with all the reasons why something will not work. Afterwards you can then brainstorm solutions to all the different obstacles.
# 2 Use structured exercises
Having an infinite solution space where all and everything is possible can – counterintuitively – be restricting. We often get overwhelmed by opportunities. Setting up boundaries can help us be creative within a smaller space that seem easier to work with.
Here is a long and incomplete list of structured methods to generate ideas:
Brainstorm, user interviews, roll a snowball, personas, the 5 whys, journey mapping, spiderweb, SCAMMPERR, Thinking Hats, focus groups, association exercises, morphology analysis…
Look into the different solutions and try giving them a go to see how they work for you.
# 3 Use random inspiration
A classic tool to stimulate new and unexpected solutions: Look at how to solve a problem in a new way.
How might I solve X with Y?
Spark imagination with a random Y.
Y could e.g. be…
…the third noun in the first LinkedIn post that appears in your feed
…the fourth word in the headline on the second page in the newspaper
…what you point at when you open a random page in a magazine with your eyes closed
…the first word being said when you turn on the TV
# 4 Do nothing
When we are not really doing anything and our brain is not bombarded with information and impressions, we are more likely see new connections
Sit without distractions and stare out in the blue. Or try taking a shower (quite a few people say that this is THE place where they get ideas, breakthroughs to tough challenges, and ‘divine’ inspiration)
Creativity often comes from boredom. Giving your brain a break can spark new energy and leave room to make those connections you couldn’t see or didn’t know existed
# 5 Train verbal connections
Comparisons, metaphors, similes, and analogies. Writers and poets have always used words direct and explicit compare and describe other things, and to make new connections.
Try using different variations of this to train seeing new connections:
Train your ability to make associations by picking a noun and then try to come up with as many compound nouns as possible.
Experiment with banal ‘jokes’: What do you get when you combine a _____ (book, spoon, cat, book…) with a _____ (car, pea, chair, knive….)? How might this new combination solve your challenge?
Think of alternative uses: how might I use a _____ (book, spoon, cat, book…) to solve _____?
Pick 10 compound nouns and instead of thinking of the actual thing they describe, try associating alternative solutions.
E.g. Sun + Flower = Sunflower.
Flower with a sun attached instead of flower head
Flower generating heat and light
Flower shaped solar cell generating light
# 6 Be curious
Be curious about the world around you…
go outside at a time of day you don’t normally go out
take a walk and choose a route you haven’t walked before
read a book by an author you don’t know
watch a movie in a genre or language you wouldn’t normally chose
listen to music in a genre you would normally never want to listen to
talk to new people
try out new stuff
Exposing yourself to new impressions will open your mind and stimulate your brain to make new connections.
# 7 Be inspired by others
Its OK to feel uncreative! To feel empty and lost for ideas. We can’t always force out good ideas on demand.
But then what to do?
Don’t worry. Every idea does not need to come from your own head.
Seek inspiration from past, present and future people:
How have others solved similar problems previously?
How might an artist, musician, or writer solve the problem?
How would a big corporation like Apple solve the problem?
How would your 7-year old solve the problem?
How might completely other industries go about the problem?
And most importantly: ask people!
Talk to people and listen to their understanding and ideas about the problem.
Ask users and end-users
Ask expert and non-experts
Ask collaborators and competitors
Ask start-ups and non-profits
Ask public and private companies
And ask all of them who they think you should ask – you might have overlooked an essential source of insight and inspiration.
# 8 Collaborate
Discuss your issue or idea with others. An idea formed in one mind can change and grow when adopted in another mind.
Different people, different perspectives, different ideas, different solutions. Diversity spur creativity.
1+1 can sometimes equal 3
Examples of more formalized methods:
Co-creation: innovating the customer involvement
Open Innovation: innovating with stakeholders
# 9 Look at how nature solves problems
Go outside for new inspiration. Get some fresh air and look at how good old Mother Nature has solved problems since the beginning of time.
#biomimicry is nature inspired innovation
and there are endless cool solutions to be inspired from….
Burdock burs with its little hooks getting stuck in dog fur inspired the world-famous fastening system Velcro
Shark skin inspired swimsuit with less water resistance
Humpback whale fins inspired wind turbine blades with lower drag
Cold-active enzymes from the Greenland inspired low-temperature efficient washing powder
# 10 DRAW !
Last, but not least: draw!
Drawing is a powerful tool for boosting creativity. Doodling and drawing can lead to new connections.
When you draw a problem or challenge you are forced to really see it and understand it. Quite often it is easier to find a solution when your hand, eye and brain work together.
Try simple drawings such a s mind maps to visually lay out what you know and assume about the issue you are trying to solve.
Or try to make random doodles while thinking about the problem you want to solve.