Ask any ‘creative’ person and they’ll tell you that coming up with ideas isn’t always as easy as they make it seem.
People appear to have the notion creativity is something you can simply turn on and off like a tap (or faucet, depending on which side of the pond you’re on) when the situation demands. Those same people are sadly misinformed. Let me tell you, as someone who makes a living with my mind, there are days when your creative ‘bent’ can be well and truly out of shape, and some days it just doesn’t want to come to the party at all.
To make matters worse, today’s always-on-create-on-demand world isn’t conducive to carving out idle moments of quiet contemplation.
So whether you’re a manager trying to come up with a better system, a sales person searching for a better pitch, a business operator developing a new product or a designer wanting to create a work of art … what can you do to get the creative juices flowing?
Here are just 3 approaches to get you started…
1. Embrace your childlike curiosity
As we get older our curiosity narrows into specific areas of interest, for some it diminishes completely and we look no further than our own backyard. Maybe some people are afraid that if they’re too curious, others will label them ‘stickybeak’. Call it what you like, curiosity is a wonderful thing. It sparks excitement, it triggers associations, it prompts questions and most importantly – it stimulates ideas. Think back to when you were little and the world was new, and you had an insatiable desire to know everything about everything. When “Why?” was your favourite question. You can be that person again. Take a good look around and try seeing things with fresh eyes and if that doesn’t work, hang out with your kids for the day.
2. Tune into your subconscious
The unconscious mind has incredible creative powers, kind of like your imagination on steroids. But to get it working for you, you need to engage in some quiet time. So put down that smart phone, turn off your email, stop tweeting for a while and just sit and reflect. Better yet, let it play while you sleep. Ask it a question just before your head hits the pillow, and see if it can’t come up with an idea or two by the alarm goes off the following morning.
3. Try a little random association
Chalk and cheese don’t go together we’re told, but why can’t they? Some couples manage it all the time. What do you think happened when they created gems like Sony’s Walkman waaay back before Apple gave birth to the iPod? Who knew you could take your favourite music with you, while you pounded the pavements. So instead of trying to drag an idea kicking and screaming from the usual pool of suspects, abandon the predictable, start teaming up your thoughts with things that may be totally out of left field and try them on for size. Pluck words from the dictionary, the newspaper, websites or the TV show you’re watching. Every brain benefits from a fresh angle and you’d be amazed where those little suckers called ideas can hide.
Change your scenery, change your habits, change your state. Whatever works for you. Just keep at it because the more you work at creativity, the better ideas you’ll have.
The fact is anyone can improve their ability to generate not just good ideas, but great ones if you’re willing to put some effort into the process. Be prepared to take baby steps, but with plenty of practice and some regular kinder gym fun for the old grey matter, you’ll soon start to hit your stride.