How can people become more creative in their everyday lives?

The gifted amateur as a heroic innovator is one of the great American myths. Stories about Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, and even Steve Jobs conveniently overlook their unique brilliance and years of experience. If anyone could do it, they would. We learn by doing and all learning is developmental. The same holds true for creative brainstorming. Research on creative thinking gives us three simple suggestions that will greatly aid in generating great ideas in a short period of time.

  • Fluency: Whoever said that one good idea is better than a thousand mediocre ones probably never invented anything. More is better. One of the inhibitors of creative thinking is your voice of judgment that kicks in when you think too long about the viability of your idea. The key is to generate ideas faster than you can evaluate them. This will produce some unusual and impractical ideas that will serve as triggers for novel ideas that work.
  • Flexibility: Steve Jobs remarked, “Creativity is just connecting things.” Creating a breakthrough idea may simply be a matter of reapplying an idea from one situation to another. For example, to improve their patients’ hospital stay experience, a medical center sent their doctors to live in a posh hotel one week and their own hospital the next. The center simply applied the practices of the hotel to the hospital to completely transform the patient experience.
  • Flow: Most of us have experienced a feeling of effortlessness and timelessness when doing something creative like painting. Researchers call this our flow state: when we are the most creative and “in the zone.” Some people are creative in the morning, while others are more so at night. Some people are most creative when listening to music while others need contemplative silence. The key is to find a time and a place where you typically enter this flow state.

Be an anthropologist and keep track of your life for a couple weeks. Pay attention to where and when you are most creative and the people you are most creative with. That will tell you how to be more creative.

I have a number of strategies and articles on creativity on my blog at Inc. Magazine. Also check out the following YouTube video about how to improve your brainstorming techniques: How to Improve Brainstorming — The Dean of Innovation


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