…’Can you come up with something a bit more outside of the box? Y’know… try to be creative with it!’…
Reactions to this type of request usually range between a bubbling cauldron of excitement at being able to run with a task or a project and come up with something different, not to be held back by what is conceived to be normal or even sensible. Or it is met with an internal fiery panic as you try to rifle through the file cabinets that fill your mind hoping to find the section where you are supposed to keep your wacky, save for a special occasion thoughts… the ones referred to as ‘creative’.
Eager or not… we are all capable of being creative. However, it is completely understandable if it does not always feel like it comes naturally to you.
All of us have different approaches.
Tasks that require logical and processive straight thinking will be easier for some. Whereas for others, having the opportunity to cover far more than what is conceived as potentially possible is much more appealing.
It is not actually that black or white though. Creativity is not some magical gift that gets bestowed onto some and not others, it is a skill that can be developed with time, commitment, and regular creative workouts.
Various exercises exist out there as to how you can begin doing this, however to me, learning how to become more creative is not about forcing it, and trying everything possible to quickly manufacture new ideas to problems. It is about providing yourself with the best possible environment to be creative in, allowing new ideas to blossom naturally.
Each of these are things that you can do regularly to boost your creativity and ensure that you can attack your next challenge ready to flex your fresh creative abilities.
Take the weight off your mind
If you want your mind to fly with creativity, you can’t allow for its wings to be weighed down with unnecessary baggage. It will never take off.
If it stays grounded, your brain will suffer further wanderlust as it can’t drift into areas new and unexplored.
Your mind, unrestricted, has the power to pioneer.
A very effective way of lightening the mental load is to hoist it up and place it somewhere else. No need to physically limber up for this, your power won’t come from your physical structure and muscle, instead it will come from your ability to write freely to cleanse your mind.
Grab a nearby pen and turn to an empty page in a pad. Place the nib down on the sheet and write… without lifting it back up off the page.
This obviously causes neatness issues; however, the lack of organisation and rules is what makes this exercise what it is. Write what comes into your head, no matter what it is, and see a stream of consciousness appear line by line.
This exercise also helps you to remove the rules that you believe exists around how creative you can be. This jumbled collection of words in front of you proves that your thoughts do not always come out in recognised moulds, they are scattered.
When you are done, you are likely to find that you feel mentally prepared. Ready to explore ideas that you may not have even realised were out there previously.
Would you begin a running race without stretching out all the muscles you will be using to power towards the finish line?
Then why expect your brain to be firing on all cylinders immediately when you begin a creative task?
To use another workout analogy, if you’re going to go weightlifting, you will do some mobility and stretching and then practice the exercise you’re about to do but with a much lighter weight.
Well, it is a good idea to do the exact same for your creative mind.
For mobility and stretching, put yourself in a new space, throw in some options… coloured pens, post-it notes, etc… Then go for it!
Set your challenge, remove all rules limitations (you can add these back in later once the creative process has done its stuff) and start to throw some ideas out.
Woah! Wait a minute, where were the light weights?
Well starting may be slow, (this is still the warm up!) but give yourself the time and space (i.e. slowing adding more weight to the bar) and then you will find ideas start to come quicker and quicker and they will get more and more exciting!
Allow your mind to wander
You don’t want anything breaking up your flow.
When your mind is heading into new territory, we do not need anything to grab it by the shoulder and yank it back into familiar surroundings.
Make space to be creative and to enter your own world. That can be a literal space, where nothing can disrupt your rhythm, or it could be that you pop in some headphones and turn up some creative beats.
I often find that it is not always the same things that work all the time, so be experimental and see what and where it takes you.
Additionally, if you are getting frustrated that your mind is only venturing down worn paths, it could be worth trying to do tasks that require creativity when you are less alert. Some find that when tired, they are more likely to explore tangents that the focused mind refuses to entertain, therefore naturally thinking outside the box.
Another important note is to consider separating yourself from technology. The last thing you need when finding your way into a utopian idea-filled state of mind is your phone to buzz telling you that you have crops to harvest on your popular farm-themed game.
Take on wider amounts of content
We all have our interests and passions, and therefore we consume content regularly in those areas. We crave gaining more and more knowledge.
However, these cravings should not ease beyond our interests.
If we spend all of our time only learning about things we care about… It would be incredibly limiting, and also detrimental to our creativity. We need to get curious about everything.
By directing your attention on subjects outside of your immediate interests, you will learn about new concepts, ideas, and methods that you never knew existed, which may even be able to be translated into the areas you work or are interested in.
An example that works really well for me is to watch how music is produced.
Music is an interest of mine, however I know very little about its production and how it all comes together. Despite this, there is something hugely inspiring to me about watching someone else be creative and their process… even whilst they are doing things I have never done, or do not have the ability to do yet.
Even though we are creating different things. Can I adapt parts of their process for innovation into mine?
Some of the greatest creative ideas you can have just come from building on other existing ideas and making connections and adaptations.
Do something new and change things up
New experiences bring new perspectives.
Structure is an important way to stay organised, however when repeated religiously over and over again, it can be easy to breeze through life on autopilot.
It is just the same activities as yesterday… but today.
This does not particularly stimulate the mind.
Now, this step is not me telling you to freestyle everything, throw out your diaries and calendars and live your entire life on the fly.
However, by changing little things here and there at the start of your day, you are giving each morning a slightly different flavour.
Adding an element of the unknown every day will help you also formulate thoughts that may have also been previously unknown.
This can also apply to your surroundings too. Looking at the same objects in the same places in the same room will not easily inspire different thoughts. This is also why it is suggested that embracing mess is a great idea for creativity too.
Everything looks different each day and not bogged down by predetermined locations and how things must be. They are free to roam, as are you and your mind.
There is power in groups
What can be better than one creative mind? Two creative minds! Perhaps even three creative minds! Could even be four creative minds… I could go on.
What I am poorly trying to articulate is that people, collectively, can be the perfect remedy for creative solutions.
You ever heard that bizarre phrase about getting people into a room and getting them to ‘bounce off each other’?
Yeah, I know… strange turn of phrase isn’t it?
Well, it is actually incredibly accurate when it comes to describing the evolution of group ideas as they form together and mould something which combines perspectives, thoughts, and knowledge.
Therefore, making creative solutions occasionally a task most effectively accomplished in numbers.
Alex & The Excel Team
P.S. If you would like to discuss any of your learning & development challenges for 2021, call us on +44(0) 1628488 854.
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