Everybody can be creative. An artist is no more inherently creative than an accountant, despite the stereotypes we have affixed the two roles. The only difference is the amount of practice with letting that creativity out. In that spirit, here are a bunch of ways for you to practice creativity in your everyday work, to get better results.
Before you dive straight in to the creative thinking exercises, it might be a great idea to read up on convergent and divergent thinking. It’s important that you tease out the good principles behind each generated idea before you kill it. The rule you need to remember is pretty simple – don’t throw out any ideas, no matter how bad they seem. The throwing out process can begin when you’re done generating and grabbing the good bits from your ideas. So without further ado, some simple creative thinking activities:
Be Someone Else
This exercise is pretty easy, and applicable to any work you could possibly be doing. It does require some empathy, so perhaps it won’t work if you’re a little psycho 😉
To perform this creative thinking activity, simply think of someone you admire, for any reason. Imagine that person has to do the job you’re doing right now. How would they do it differently? How would they do it better?
A truck driver who really likes David Beckham. How might David Beckham get from A to B in a truck? Well, on the pitch, a great player is determined by how much of a team player he is. So, in the spirit of team-play, how about a world where all truckers assist each other with wind-resistance, through a tight setup of caravanning, just like a pro cycling team? How much fuel might that save? Is it an idea worth throwing at management? Quite possibly!
A designer working at a marketing agency, who really likes Mike Tyson. What would Mike do, if he was set to work on digital marketing design? The brain is a massive associative machine, and right away you can probably picture the enormous muscle-bound man sitting at a 13″ macbook air doing graphic design. Seems dissonant somehow. Nonetheless, there are some things Mike would definitely do differently. First off, he’d introduce his special brand of self-deprecating humour to whatever was being communicated. Also, perhaps he’d alter the process in favour of a speedy hand-off, so perhaps making sure to send out an extra mock-up or two, to ensure he was still tracking right.
This method works with your brain’s fantastic ability to connect the dots, stereotyping (the good kind), and by providing creative constraints.
Imagine you had unlimited/0 budget
What happens if you have to do your work with no resources? What about if you have access to unlimited resources? Unlimited resources probably gets you thinking in terms of automation/robotics and 0 budget probably gets you thinking about sourcing cheaper to earn a higher margin.Pursue this for a bit. Especially thinking outside of economic constraint, as this lets you consider more deeply why your work is structured the way it is.
Play with words
In exercise #1, we used empathy and stereotypes to kickstart the brain’s associative machinery. In this exercise we’ll just use a simple list of words. How you generate the words is totally up to you, but go for nouns. If you don’t fancy generating a list of odd words, here’s one for free:
Fish – Pork – Potion – Castle – Peanut – Road – Park – Plastic – Brick – Ruins – Knife – Staircase – Knight – King
Now, the process is simple. Pair the task you have at hand, with the words in the list, one at a time. Remember to extend the meaning of the words to be non-literal. So, if you’re trying to invent a new type of soup, and you pair that with fish – don’t invent a fish-soup. Instead, expand into the word fish. There’s some saltiness, some freedom. There’s caviar/luxury. Fish-eyes, so perhaps your soup can should have a peep hole. See the idea? Let your brain associate, it’s super good at it.
Those were 3 quick and easy creativity exercises, which you can expand infinitely or use as they stand in different contexts. These tools are valuable if you are looking for a business idea too, and are partially how these to business ideas were generated: Great business idea #1 – Great business idea #2
There are a bunch of other tools for ungluing your creativity, just comment if you want more, I’ll make this post much longer.