In the last blog, we discussed some of the blocks people have in achieving solid critical thinking. In today’s blog, ways to break through to better creativity are explored. Here are a few ways you can cut through the blocks you’re experiencing to become a better creative problem solver!
Set aside non-normal times for your creative thinking time. If you’re a morning lark, your brain will be better at finding creative insights at night, when you’re tired. A tired brain struggles to filter out distractions and focus on one thing. It’s also more likely to wander off on tangents. Creative thinking actually benefits from distractions and random thoughts. Research has shown that we’re better at “thinking outside the box” at our non-optimal times.
Turn down the lights. Research has proven that dim lighting can improve creative performance. In dimmer lighting, the subconscious feels more free to explore: Darkness elicits a feeling of being free from constraints and triggers a risky, explorative processing style.
Think playfully. Look for connections: Steve Jobs said “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.” Creativity is really just about making new connections between existing ideas. This is pretty exciting, because it means creativity suddenly seems less scary: we can all see the relationships between things that already exist, right?
Sleep On It. If you’ve ever had the experience of going to sleep thinking of a difficult problem and then awakening with at least part of the solution in mind, you’ve experienced the benefit of the hypnopompic state. Anything we are deeply involved in, challenged by, or attempting, we will dream about in a creative way. The American Indians used dreams in this manner – to find better hunting; solve community problems; find a sense of personal life direction. Scientists, writers, designers, and thousands of lay people have found very real information in dreams. After all, through dreams we have personal use of the greatest computer ever produced in the history of the world – the human brain.
All this mental stretching out and limbering up should make you ready for the warm-up exercises around the creative thinking track. You’ll get in shape quickly by adopting the following regimen:
- Pose new questions to yourself every day. An inquiring mind is a creatively active one that enlarges its area of awareness.
- Engage in creative hobbies. Hobbies can also help you relax. An active mind is necessary for creative growth. Keep track of your ideas at all times. Many times ideas come at unexpected times. If an idea is not written down within 24 hours it will usually be forgotten.
- Adopt a risk taking attitude. Fear of failure is the major impediment to generating solutions which are risky (i.e., small chance of succeeding) but would have a major impact if they are successful. Outlining the ways you could fail and how you would deal with these failures will reduce this obstacle to creativity.
- Be alert in your observations. Look for similarities, differences, as well as unique and distinguishing features in situations and problems.
- Keep abreast of your field. Read the magazines, trade journals, and other literature in your field to make sure you are not using yesterday’s technology to solve today’s problems.
- Have courage and self-confidence. Be a paradigm pioneer. Assume that you can and will indeed solve problems.
- Learn to know and understand yourself. Deepen your self-knowledge by learning your real strengths, skills, weaknesses, dislike, biases, expectations, fears and prejudices.
- Learn about things outside your specialty. Use cross-fertilization to bring ideas and concepts from one field or specialty to another.
- Be open and receptive to ideas (yours and others). New ideas are fragile; keep them from breaking by seizing on the tentative, half formed concepts and possibilities and developing them.
- Keep your sense of humor. You are more creative when you are relaxed. Humor aids in putting your problems (and yourself) in perspective. Many times it relieves tension and makes you more relaxed.
- Avoid rigid, set patterns of doing things. Overcome biases and preconceived notions by looking at the problem from a fresh view point, always developing at least two or more alternative solutions to your problem.
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