Demystifying Creativity: How to get stuff done

Yuri Zaitsev
Feb 4, 2019 · 5 min read

So you most likely want to make something new and cool. At least dozens of people want to, from the starving artist on day 3 of a stare down with a blank canvas to the starving engineer who had a brainstorming meeting scheduled over the lunch break. Being creative at a moments notice can seem really difficult, but it is totally doable. The secret is to recognize how you naturally square off against creativity. To make things easy: there are just about 6 different basic personality types around this.

This is a guide to help you recognize which personality instinctively lean toward, with a tip to help you get even better. And these don’t come out of thin air, there is actually some science behind it all. First up there is the:

1. Editor in Chief

You immediately grasp what is going on and can revise any idea to be ten times better. You may not have the right idea first, but you definitely know when an idea is wrong.

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“Alright, take number 42. It’ll sound awesome once I get the settings right.”

Most effective when: You take someone’s rough “first draft” thought and then are given time to create twenty new drafts, each one better than the last.

Pro Tip: Don’t worry too much about getting the right idea first, your job is to take the ideas already there and hone them.

Cognitive Reframing

2. Sherlock Holmes

You see the hidden connections in all ideas. You read between the lines and bring them to light. You can observe two separate ideas and deduce the need for a third.

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“A real logician can look at a drop of water and infer the existence of the Nile without ever having seen it.”

Most effective when: You have many elements to observe and have the freedom and authority to connect them in ways nobody else would think of.

Pro Tip: Your power is to make the connection between ideas explicit for all to see. Sometimes it involves gluing two ideas together, but sometimes it’s uncovering a hidden idea that must exist based on what you see.

Perspicacity Vigilance

3. Plato’s muse

You have most likely never uttered the words “it’s a small world.” You are connected to an infinite, churning, pool of thoughts and ideas. Your power begins when you say: What if…

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“How many licks DOES it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?”

Most effective when: You are a conduit through which ideas flow, and you are at your peak when you bring them from your mind to reality by voicing them out loud or writing them on paper.

Pro Tip: It is surprisingly easy to be censored, especially when you are doing it to yourself. Even if you aren’t an expert, let the ideas come. Try saying it out loud, run with it, see what happens.

Social Cognition

4. Enthusiastic ball of energy

You don’t just talk with your hands, you talk big with your hands. Sometimes the best ideas only come when you are on the third mile of your run. The brain tells the body what to do, but you know that it can also be the other way around.

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This is the closest image I could find that shows what a physical eureka moment look like.

Most effective when: You work best when you are moving. Even if you find yourself in a conference room, don’t restrict yourself. Big gestures lead to big ideas.

Pro Tip: Think in extreme adjectives, especially in sizes. Use words like: “big”, “long”, “many” and use your arms to show the magnitude.

Aerobic exercise effects on neurotrophic factors

5. Champion

You foster, you advocate, and you support. When spirits get to a lull, you can refocus and turn the situation around.

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“Good job everyone! Ready? ‘Brainstorm’ on 3: 1, 2, 3- ”

Most effective when: You are selected to be the leader or spokesperson of a group. You help encourage ideas and create a space for everyone else to thrive in their fullest capacity.

Pro Tip: Keeping everyone’s energy high is a good way to manage the ebb and flow of creativity. It is so important to understand where everyone’s strengths lie and being very careful to encourage everyone to participate.

Positive reinforcement Chaining

6. Game Changer

You see the forest for the trees and can dive from boggy details to big picture abstraction. For you it is simple to see something in a new light and to flip ideas completely on their head.

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“Instead of making our thing from plastic and worrying about the waste, why don’t we make it compostable?”

Most effective when: You perform best when you have a great understanding of the problem and can think laterally about overcoming a question rather than refining a specific answer.

Pro Tip: Search for the unspoken heuristics that are going unsaid and unchallenged. Look for the ways to completely redefine your problem. What are the rules you can break?

Cognitive Flexibility Psychological Schema

Putting it all together

Sometimes it seems like creativity is this mystical talent that you are born with or you are not. Creativity is more like this elusive monkey that is constantly playing hide and seek with you and is really good at learning about the places you normally search in.

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If the Creativity Monkey has found a very good hiding spot, and you can’t find it, try on a new personality type and look for it in ways you normally would not. Do you normally sit back coming up with one idea after another but nothing is clicking? Look for ways to put some stuff you already have together. Are you stuck polishing that one sentence that you wrote? Try walking around waving your arms while reading it. I’m sure that you will catch your monkey.


Curious ruminations on human-centered design, by Amplifi Design and friends

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