One of the best ways to advance your career in 2015 is to become more creative. Becoming known as an idea person is an awesome way to differentiate yourself and increase your value to your boss, your organization and anyone else you serve. Here are 10 powerful ways to dramatically increase your creativity in 2015:
1. Read books about creative problem-solving and put some of the techniques that capture your imagination to work on your own problems and challenges. Great examples include Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko, Five Star Mind by Tom Wujec and Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity by Keith Sawyer.
2. Invest in creativity tools and applications, which you can utilize as a catalyst to generate breakthrough ideas for your work and life. Excellent examples include the Free the Genie web-based ideation tool from Creativity Champions, the Creative Whack Pack from Roger von Oech and Michael Michalko’s ThinkPak.
3. Cultivate an insight outlook: Become keenly aware of everything around you, with an eye toward “How can I use this?” The creative person knows that nearly anything they encounter in the course of daily life can be fodder for creative solutions.
4. Have a system to capture ideas and review them on a regular basis. If not, you should. Ideas tend to be fleeting creatures, bubbling up from your subconscious mind without warning, and then disappearing just as quickly – perhaps never to be recalled again. Fortunately, ideas are easy to capture and record, and you have many tools at your disposal that you can use to lasso your insights, hunches and ideas. These include index cards, notebooks, flip charts, whiteboards, digital audio recorders and mobile devices.
5. Expand the sources of information you consume to include new material not necessarily related to your primary area of interest. Your goal should be to diversify the raw materials that you are feeding to your subconscious mind. More variety equals a greater range of potential ideas.
6. Recognize that creativity is a skill that can be cultivated. The idea that some people are born creative and others are not is simply a myth. If you want to become more creative, you need to invest the time in learning and training.
7. Stretch your brain with visual thinking tools and techniques. As the problems we face in business and life become more complex, we need better tools to help us clearly and accurately describe problems or challenges, envision the ideas that may solve them, and formulate the action plans that can help bring them to fruition. Visual thinking can help in all three areas.
Visual thinking can help you to:
- See patterns and connections that others aren’t even aware of
- Envision new possibilities and ideas
- Dissect complex problems, view their components and discern their underlying causes
- Reach clarity more quickly on complex business problems
8. Cultivate different perspectives that you can utilize to come at problems and challenges from different directions. This will increase your odds of generating breaks your ideas to solve them. One of the problems we face as human beings is that we can‘t get out of the way of our own thinking. In other words, we tend to get trapped by our beliefs, experiences and perspectives. That limits our ability to develop creative ideas.
One powerful way to get around this mental block is to behave as if we‘re someone else, and temporarily adopt their persona, outlook, beliefs and experiences. These could be famous people, alive or deceased, or people who are experts in your industry or profession. Examples I‘ve used in my own brainstorming efforts have included Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Steve Jobs (Apple Computer).
To use this creative problem solving technique, simply use your imagination and ask yourself these types of open-ended questions:
- How would (name of person) solve this problem?
- If I was meeting with him or her right now, what would he or she tell me to investigate or learn more about, related to this problem?
- How did he or she solve a similar problem during his or her career or life? What can I learn from what he or she did to solve it?
9. When brainstorming, don’t stop with the first right answer. Push yourself to generate more ideas and dig deeper. That’s where you’ll find the real gold, the most valuable ideas. Why does your brain work in this way? Because the first ideas you brainstorm tend to be the easy and obvious ones, the “low-hanging fruit” of your brain. That also tends to mean they have lower potential value. To get at the more valuable, divergent ideas, you must push past the obvious, low-value ones. Try to continue generating ideas for at least 30 minutes at a time.
10. Be on the lookout for ideas and solutions that you can adapt from other industries our professions to your own. Often, winning ideas are not totally new to the world, but are an adaptation of a solution from a totally unrelated field or a combination of several existing ideas.