My father-in-law was one of those people who thought of himself as non-artistic.
Then he bought a book that taught him how to draw by copying sketches of upside-down subjects. It was amazing how the simple step of turning common ideas around helped him learn how to sketch.We can use the same principle for unlocking creativity. Many of the following suggestions involve looking at problems in unusual ways. Try them when you need some fresh ideas.
- Keep an idea list. Always have a small notebook handy for recording ideas that pop into your head. Review them periodically to see if any are ripe for use. Tell your supervisor that you keep such a list.
- Go ahead and doodle. It can activate creative juices.
- Broaden your ideas by being a generalist. Cultivate curiosity in many subjects. Adopt a hobby that seems unlike you. Spend time with people different from you. Propose to your boss that you spend two days next month outside your usual work area.
- Ditch the myths about creative people: They are not all sophisticated, worldly, witty, exciting, cultured, well-read and snobbish. But they are curious, knowledgeable about their fields and organized. Don't tell yourself that you're not creative; it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- Look for more than one right answer. Play with the wording of the question. Ask different questions to get different answers. Think of all the possible meanings the question could have.
- Allow your ideas to be illogical. Exercise: Try finding common qualities in two dissimilar objects, such as a lamp and a mushroom. Also, create similes. For example, finish this sentence: Life is like a . . .
- Break rules. Let your motto be: Every rule here can be broken except this one.
- Spend time what-iffing. Take a current project and come up with three what-if statements to help you think of new solutions. For example: What if we dropped that product line?
- Avoid conformist thinking. When you're at a meeting where everyone agrees on a course of action, table the issue for a few weeks until different approaches surface.
- Let humor and fun free your creativity. Read the funnies, listen to comedy routines, do something frivolous.
- Think positively. Look at what has gone right, not wrong. Avoid complaining, worrying and talking down to yourself.
- Help others churn out good ideas. Ask lots of questions, offer information, share your ideas, praise unusual ideas.
Sources: "The Creative Corporation," Karl Albrecht, Dow Jones-Irwin, 1987; "The Creativity Mystique," John M. Keil, John Wiley & Sons, 1985; "A Whack on the Side of the Head," Roger von Oech, Warner Books, 1983.