Building your creativity and innovation skills
We are all born with the same basic elements of creativity; unfortunately over time we are educated to become less so. Remember as children it was easy to draw something whether it was a house, a playing field, or family members. As we grow older the “risk” of making a mistake inhibits us from letting our natural creativity loose. A great example of this is an exercise we do during a “Creativity and Innovation in Business” workshop, we ask the participants to face each other and draw on a sheet of A4 paper a portrait of the person in front of them. You should see how many people cringe at this exercise. Eventually, they awkwardly begin to draw with some reserved giggles. Do the same exercise with 6 year-old children and they will just go for it. No questions asked, and they are very proud of the results!
Think differently, and think more creatively
Who has not heard that you need to, “think outside the box?" Well in today’s fast evolving world “the box” doesn’t exist anymore so we need a different type of thinking to help us become more creative. The way that we think today can be traced back to the fall of the Roman Empire, subsequent Dark Ages and loss of the learning culture. The following Renaissance period sparked the rediscovery of the ancient Greek and Roman ways of thinking. It was like a breath of fresh air, spurning some of the most creative works of all time: Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Botticelli, just to mention a few. This “new” thinking was adopted as the dominant mental software in our approach to think more creatively.
The origins of creative thinking
Where does our current way of thinking originate? You have to go back to 400-300 BC when the “Greek Gang of 3”; Aristotle, Plato and Socrates were a major influence. Aristotle believed that men had more teeth in their mouth than women, although he was married twice, he never counted their teeth. He didn’t need to because he knew. How did he know? With horses, the Stallions have more teeth than the Mares; therefore he thought that the same could be applied elsewhere. His point was that by using the past we can create boxes and ask ourselves whether something fits in or not and then extrapolate it. Plato was influenced, to some degree by Pythagoras, showing that mathematical thinking can give you the solution. You’ll certainly recall the right angle triangle theorem. Plato was essentially interested in discovering the truth essentially by using mathematical equations. Socrates used argumentative thinking to prove things wrong. In 80% of his discussions there was no constructive outcome. His business was to say what is wrong with something. For his purposes this was correct; by finding out how people used words such as, justice, courage, love, he was able to eliminate all the bad aspects and eventually get to the right answer. He premise was, if we can show what is wrong, we’ll eventually get to what is right. This was the birth of the Socratic questioning technique so beloved by the legal profession today.
Improve your creative thinking
Our thinking today is to a large part still based on ancient the Greek influences. In essence when you have a point of view A and an opposing point of view B you may eventually find some common ground. This is not the best way to spur the creative thinking process. An alternative is based on “parallel thinking”, originally developed by Edward De Bono. Imagine you send an explorer off to an island and then when they are back you want to know what they saw. Perhaps the explorer will say that they saw; “a bird”, or “a volcano.” You might then ask what else did they see? “That’s all that caught my eye”, might respond the explorer. So the explorer goes back another time with the instruction to look North, South, East, and West. The overall result during the second trip is a much richer, fuller picture. In reality North, South, East and West are metaphors for directing our attention and thinking. In essence we are thinking about something from different perspectives and thus spurring the creative process.
3 Keys to improve your creative thinking:
1. Make time to be think creatively.
Research has show that if you rush creative thinking, the results are limited. Take your time to explore the North, South, East and West of your idea
2. Engage you a challenging or stretch task.
By stepping out of your comfort zone and doing things that you’ve never done before helps to stimulate new neural pathways in your brain. Think about mastering a musical instrument, drawing a portrait or even filming a mini-clip
3. Make a list of wild ideas and doodle more.
During some moments, like when having a shower or in the middle of the night for instance, a brilliant idea comes to us. Have something ready to capture it, whether it’s a notebook, a mobile phone or a tablet. The mere fact of jotting it down frees your brain for some more creative ideas.