Find, share, and enjoy it with others
Last year, my neighbor, Sara, confided in me that she was stressed and worried about an upcoming New Year’s Eve party that she agreed to host. Not only would a number of her oldest friends be there, but she also invited some new acquaintances who were used to over-the-top parties – at least based on what she’s seen on Facebook. She said “I’m stuck. I have no idea how I can pull this off.” I encouraged her to think through what was driving this fear – and walked her through some proven ways to spark creativity. In the end, her party was a smashing success and best of all, her guests kept remarking on how creative her party was.
Finding your inner creativity. It’s in all of us!
Most people think of themselves as creative or not based on their appearance, profession and what they’ve been told by others. Stereotypically, “creatives” are associated with the arts – but this pairing is as mythical as their dependency on a muse for inspiration. Studies by neuroscientists, psychologists and the like consistently conclude that creativity is an inherent skill we are all born with.
Creativity is about thinking in terms of alternatives, recognizing there is more than one right answer, and constructing third options when two are given. To be creative is to be open, receptive, generative and empathetic. Anyone can tap into their creative flow by leveraging existing talents and honing a few skills. As Diane Darrow, Artist and Educator, has said, we do not need to teach creativity, but rather its daily practice.
If there was ever a time to discover your creativity, it is when you’re trying to plan a memorable party, wanting to find the perfect gift for the person who has everything or needing to settle family disputes during the charged holiday season. Here are a few tips and tricks to make the most of your innate skill.
There is a difference between looking passively and registering what you see. The solution to what’s stymying you is often hidden in plain sight. To make the obscure obvious, consciously view the whole as well as its parts, and the value of the invisible.
A pencil, for example, is thought of as something that writes. But how often is this “thing” thought of as a combination of lead, wood, paint, rubber and metal – or a symbol of grade school education? When you look at a flag do you see stars and stripes on rectangle fabric, or do you see freedom? By seeing more than what your eyes look at, you notice what others miss.
Despite your expertise or past accomplishment, it is important to approach each creative endeavor free of preconceptions. To spark your creativity, shift from a convergent mindset of trying to find the best way to arrive at ONE right answer (5+5=10) to a divergent mindset with infinite possibilities and many right answers (X + Y = 10).
It is equally important to move away from an “ER” approach of incremental thinking – different versions of the same thing – biggER, brightER or shiniER.
Instead, choose a viable direction by REdefining and REexamining what you are trying to achieve. Adopt a “RE” mindset by taking a step back before moving forward.
Before the incandescent bulb, for example, light was produced by burning through wicks in a candle or gas in a lamp. Gas lamps could burn brighter and last longer than candles, but despite their differences, they both originated from the same frame of mind. However, the premise behind the light bulb was to do the opposite and create illumination without burning through a material. “RE” thinking is at the front end of the cREative process and the beginning of bREakthrough thinking. REmember, most creative insights started off as counter intuitive ideas.
“Creativity is just connecting things,” said Steve Jobs. Sir James Dyson, the inventor of the Dyson vacuum, connected dots from surprising and disparate sources. He noticed that a nearby sawmill used a cyclone – a 30-foot high cone spun dust out of the air by centrifugal force – to expel waste. He reasoned that if a vacuum cleaner could separate dust by cyclonic action and spin it out of the airstream it could eliminate the need for both bag and filter. Dyson saw the similarity between seemingly unrelated objects to reinvent the way vacuums clean.
Concepts are crystalized as they travel from head to hand. Ideas take shape and are expressed though images from magazines, simple art supplies, or any other materials you find helpful. Each version refines and redefines what was once on your mind. The goal is to build your way forward so that each iteration becomes a stepping stone on this evolutionary path of progress. Creativity does not happen all at once and the creative process does not end with the first thought that comes to mind. It takes multiple efforts, going down different trains of thought to come up with something original. Creativity is a slow-drip process that requires time to percolate. Flashes of insight, epiphanies and ah-ha moments suddenly happen after you put in the work.
Getting stuck is an inevitable reality of the creative process. Here are a few tips to get out of a rut and into a groove.
- Reframe the problem. By reframing a problem you are either redefining it or considering it from a fresh perspective. Not only does this method provide a new starting point, but it also expands the solution space and creates new ones.
- Verify what is a fact, opinion and assumption. You may be stuck because the foundation or basis for believing your view of the truth just isn’t right.
- Examine your biases, beliefs, attitudes and assumptions. It may be influencing or even tainting your perspective, choices and decisions. “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so,” said Mark Twain.
- Ask questions. Why? Why not? What if? These questions help disrupt the vicious loop of repetitive thought and points your mind in a new direction. It helps remove barriers and ignites your imagination with renewed possibilities.
- Look for inspiration. Google, Amazon and Etsy (a website that focuses on handmade or vintage items and supplies, as well as unique factory-manufactured items) are fantastic sites for inspiration. Type in search terms, then check image results for triggers to a new set of ideas. Don’t forget to look at the predictive terms, the ones that spring from your keystrokes, for the search engine’s collections of related search phrases.
- Fear less. The act of creativity is exploratory in nature. The process is a trail of trials and experimentation whereby you learn as you go. Missteps and set backs are encountered frequently as you follow your hunch, test and refine your ideas along the way. Fear less knowing that by finding and sharing your creativity, you’re giving a personal, priceless and thoughtful gift that never goes out of style and is always in fashion.
Fear of failure was what was blocking my neighbor, Sara. She was so worried that her friends would not approve of her party-planning skills that she almost cancelled the shindig entirely! After talking her off the proverbial cliff and sharing some of these tried-and-true techniques, Sara pulled off a New Year’s Eve party that was memorable – and most importantly – a party that represented who she was.
Morris Sneor is part of the management team at Paradigm Productions, Inc. a digital marketing agency. He is an expert at helping companies convert their creativity into a competitive advantage using design thinking and other methods of problem solving and marketing.