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Ok, let’s get this straight: creativity doesn’t rely on having some kind of mystical muse or spontaneous bursts of inspiration where amazing ideas just come up by themselves. There are simple, practical techniques that you can use to stimulate creativity. These are just some of them...
Deliberately switch things up. If you’re only reading fantasy novels, try picking up a thriller. Watch a documentary about a topic you know nothing about. Listen to music that gets your heart pumping, or subscribe to a magazine or online journal that sends you articles on diverse topics every day. And most importantly, reflect on the content you consume. As Steve Jobs said:
“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 synthesise new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’d had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.”
Do you work better in a quiet room or a busy cafe? Do you like to have music playing in the background or not? Physical comfort helps your brain work better too, so try things like a comfy chair or lighting a candle.
According to Edward de Bono, a psychologist and expert in creativity and lateral thinking, “Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” So in a sense, learning creativity is the process of unlearning established rules or adapting them in new ways.
One way of doing this is through divergent thinking.
Divergent thinking is all about thinking outward. You start with a question, and come up with multiple solutions. It’s the opposite of convergent thinking, where you draw one correct answer or solution to a problem after looking at the facts - think of solving a math equation or a multiple choice question.
Another technique for going out of the box is lateral thinking.
Lateral thinking is about taking a creative approach to problem solving, where you deliberately avoid the obvious answer and come up with alternatives. This is essential for effective problem solving...
Create a moodboard of different images that evoke the feelings and associations of your project. You can do this digitally in Canva or manually in a scrapbook or corkboard.
Try mind-mapping. You’re probably no stranger to this technique. Think of group school projects and butcher’s paper, where you start with a central theme and branch out. You can even tape the brainstorming paper onto a wall, so you can step back and see how everything connects.
Finding a group of peers who share your creative interests is a great way to boost creativity, for example, a writing group, design club, debating team. Social media also means that you can create a digital creative network, get inspired by what other people are doing, bounce ideas around and get feedback. Consider going outside of your creative circle, too, and surrounding yourself with diverse perspectives.
This is another creative approach which challenges you to think holistically about an idea or project.
Download our template for a Six Hats Brainstorm below!