You might think of creativity as something clever marketers or copywriters whip out when they need to come up with a compelling ad, or a personal trait only certain people, such as successful serial entrepreneurs or brilliant improv actors, naturally possess. But according to Keith Sawyer, research psychologist and author of “Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity,” everyone can be more creative just by taking eight incremental steps, but not necessarily in linear order. His path to creativity is more back and forth, a process in which the steps to greater imagination and originality build on and feed off each other.
Here are his steps for cultivating creativity, along with a sampling of tips that can help you along the way.
- Quickly, without overthinking it, write 10 variations of the same question. For example, for the classic question “How can I build a better mousetrap,” you might ask questions such as “How do I get the mice out of my house?” and “What does a mouse want?” or “How can I make my backyard more attractive to a mouse than my house?” One of your new questions will likely be a better one than your original.
- Debug your life. Brutally criticize an imperfect product or situation you come in contact with every day. Once you have a list, think of ways to eliminate the annoyances. This can amp creativity because little problems are often symptoms of bigger ones. Steve Jobs, a genius innovator, excelled at finding bugs that distracted from a user’s experience of a product.
- Make something then reinterpret it. Sometimes before you get at the right question, you have to make something. Once you do, think of your creation being used for purposes other than your original intent. This process throws away your first assumptions, forcing you to consider new perspectives.
- Listen to TED talks. They’re free videos of inspiring, funny, or fascinating speeches made by brilliant people. To get started, check out 6 TED Talks Every Entrepreneur Should Watch.
- Use all your senses to thoroughly delve into a subject. Let’s say you want to learn about the town of Mystras, Greece. You could learn some of the Greek language, search for photos of the Peloponnese online, cook some of its traditional food, watch videos of its traditional festivals, stream its local radio, and email an innkeeper there to get insider information about what the town is really like.
- Get a mentor. Nearly all Nobel Prize winners have them.
- Set an idea time. Block out a regular time when you’re sharp, relaxed, and undistracted. Julia Cameron, author of popular self-help book “The Artist’s Way” suggests taking 30 minutes each morning to freewrite in a journal. As you do, you’ll notice new ideas creeping in.
- Engage with people who are different from you. We hang out with people who are like us, and while doing so may be comforting, it’s not stretching. Also try imagining yourself as someone else–such as a chef, a foreign student, a building inspector. How would such people see the world?
- Make ideas compete against each other. Select two of them and define how they’re different, even in the most subtle ways. Or if you have more than 50 ideas write each one on a sticky note or index cards. Move ideas that seem related close together. You’ll arrive at idea clusters and can look at interesting differences between ideas; perhaps they all vary along the same dimension.
- Draw a picture. Even if you think you can’t draw, you can at least doodle and no one ever has to see what you put to paper. Abstract problems–such as your relationship with someone or a crushing workload–benefit most from turning them into sketches. Cartooning with exaggerated shapes or using simple symbols helps.
Source – [INC]