Last updated: September 28, 2020
How to Be More Creative: 5 Steps to Success
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Curious and endlessly productive, humans are creative by nature. Yet, according to a 2012 study from Adobe, while the majority of adults believe creativity is beneficial to society and essential to economic improvement, only 25% believe they are living up to their creative potential.
Unlocking that potential might seem like a monumental task, but in truth, becoming more creative is just a few simple steps away.
The Importance of Curiosity
Artists, scientists, and creative people of all kinds have traditionally offered a range of advice for harnessing creativity and putting it into action. But from Plutarch to Burnett to Einstein, many have lauded curiosity as a key factor in doing so.
Whether they're painting a mural, writing a novel, or building a website, a curious person is likely to absorb a wide range of information, and therefore develop a pool of potential connections that is both broad and deep. The more information you have at your command, the greater the range of potential juxtapositions and connections you can conjure to spark an idea.
Curiosity Helps Build Connections
And those connections matter as much as the curiosity that empowers their creation. Since 1978, science historian James Burke has hosted a series of documentaries called Connections, which explores the complex relationships between seemingly disparate items such as credit cards and the Duke of Burgundy. By bringing together different elements, Burke's documentaries help underscore the interconnectedness of the world as a whole, and the sometimes surprising nature of creative inspiration.
Simply comparing and contrasting ideas, images, sounds, and other information—especially those that seem to have no obvious connection—can lead you to unexpected places, and generate some fresh ideas when you're feeling tapped out.
Beyond curiosity and connection, kick-starting creativity also requires a little bit of contemplation and critique. After all, it doesn't matter how inspired your idea is if you never bother to refine it or expose it to outside criticism.
Becoming more creative is a process, not an unreachable dream. By being open to, and with, your ideas, you can make the most of your creativity and find a way to spark ideas you can put into action.
How to Be More Creative
Don't consider yourself creative? Nonsense.
James Webb Young likened the production of ideas to the production of cars — there is a definitive process involved.
Here are a few simples steps you can take next time you're in need of an idea.
The 5 Steps to Creativity
By James Webb Young
- Gather the Raw Materials
Don't sit around waiting for inspiration to strike — be curious.
Browse all different sorts of information. Gather general information as well as specific information on what you're after.
Remember, gathering is a lifelong activity. Read widely and have an interest in everything around you.
Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people. — Leo Burnett
Sift through the gathered materials and look at them in different lights.
Bring them together and see how they do and don't link.
Creativity is just connecting things. — Steve Jobs
- Don't Think
Let your thoughts unconsciously bubble away.
Drop the problem completely and turn to something else that stimulates your imagination.
Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. — Ray radbury
- Wait for Eureka
Out of nowhere, an idea will appear.
It'll happen when you least expect it, so be ready and keep a notebook ready.
All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking. — Friedrich Nietzsche
What happens here isn't a mechanical technique, but genuine creativity. The more you link concepts, the easier the "ah-ha" moment will come.
- Bring the Idea to Reality
Now, submit the idea to criticisms.
Be pragmatic when adapting the idea as a viable creative solution.
It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all. — Edward de Bono
Following Young's technique, you can nurture your creativity so that ideas will flow freely to your mind.
Tools and Techniques to Try
Of course, creativity doesn't always burst out. Here are some methods you can try that will help loosen the creative mind.
Developed by Brian Eno & Peter Schmidt
Cards with phrases are used to encourage lateral thinking.
- Go outside. Shut the door.
- Change ambiguities to specifics.
- Cut a vital connection.
Lotus Blossom Technique
Developed by Yasuo Matsumura
Similar to a mind map, it starts with a central idea and expands outwards with solutions in an iterative manner. You have a fully fleshed idea space before considering it is complete.
See this technique here.
The Six Thinking Hats
Developed by Edward de Bono
There are six metaphorical hats that one puts on and takes off to indicate the type of thinking used.
- White hat — Looks at the information and data.
- Red hat — Covers feelings, emotions and intuition.
- Black hat — Exercises judgment and caution.
- Yellow hat — Finds reasons why something will work.
- Green hat — The hat of alternatives, proposals, provocations and changes.
- Blue hat — The process control hat. Looks not at the subject itself, but at the thinking of the subject.
Other Techniques Include
Write down 100 ideas. The sheer mass of ideas will help you refrain from criticizing in your head before they have time to evolve.
Identify ways of causing the problem. This can help finding the solution.
Dr Seuss wrote 'Green Eggs and Ham' after placing a bet with his publishers that he couldn't write a book in under 50 words. See what limiting your mind can do for you.
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them. — Albert Einstein
Creativity needs to be nurtured and pushed in order to succeed. So try, try and keep trying. Innovation needs hard work, so work at innovating.
Invention, my dear friends, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple. — Willy Wonka