Creativity and innovation are no longer optional. If not already, creativity must become part of your leadership skills set. Doing more of the same, no matter how well-proven your approach is, won’t help you survive, let alone thrive, in a world where digitalisation, AI and technology are transforming one industry after another. Uber, and soon driverless cars, for example, have significantly transformed the personal transportation industry, and machine learning is disrupting the legal and professional services industries. These are only a few of many examples. In response to these rapid transformations you must to be ready to innovate and help both yourself and your organisations adapt.
The good news is that you are more creative than you think you are. Here are four ways to boost your creativity.
1. Develop a creative mindset
Creativity is not something we are born with. Creativity is a mindset and unfortunately, our ability to generate unusual or novel solutions is often hampered by our own belief that we are not creative. A statistic that we use in our High-Performance Mindset workshops also applies to creativity: self-belief increases task performance by as much as 28%. This is significantly higher than the 10% boost we get from setting clear goals and the 13% increase we get from feedback. Seeing ourselves as creative opens new doors. Develop your own creativity mantra and repeat it frequently.
2. Collaborate with a diverse group of people
Diversity fosters creativity. The most creative and innovative ideas do not happen when we shut ourselves away in a lab or meeting room; they happen when we work with others, around a table, generating ideas. To allow us to go beyond the obvious and synthesise ideas from different disciplines, we benefit from working with people from diverse backgrounds.
3. Let your unconscious mind do the work
We often hear about the light bulb moment, the Eureka moment. Very rarely does it come out of nowhere. It is often the result of our minds having worked on a problem for some time in the background. Research shows that our brains are better at solving complex problems when left to its own devices. Rather than focusing on a problem exclusively, we may be better off to prime our brain with all the information that we can find on the issue we are trying to resolve and then to occupy ourselves just enough so that we more or less forget about the problem. Going for a walk or run, having a conversation with friends, making dinner. After our brain has had the opportunity to work through the issues, we are likely to have a Eureka moment. So, go ahead, define your problem, get all the information you can get about your problem, and then forget about it. Your subconscious will do the rest.
4. Go beyond the obvious
The secret to creativity is to look beyond the obvious, to not let our assumptions hold us back and to keep coming up with more solutions to a problem than those around us. When the seemingly uncreative have found a solution, most probably one that is very similar to previous solutions, the creative keep going and keep asking ‘how else can this problem be solved?’ To further increase their creativity, they challenge their own assumptions. Ready to boost your creativity a little bit more? Here is one of our participants’ favourite techniques from our Creative Thinking workshop: Reversing Assumptions.
I love Michel Mikalko’s restaurant example. His Thinkertoys book is a great read. Let’s look at his example.
Step 1: Define your problem
Developing a new concept for a restaurant
Step 2: State all your assumptions
a) Restaurants have menus
b) Restaurants charge for food c) Restaurants serve food
Step 3: Reverse each assumption
a) Restaurants do not have menus
b) Restaurants give food away free of charge c) Restaurants do not serve food
Step 4: How can each of these reversals be accomplished?
a) Restaurants that do not have menus
Idea: Customers select from a list of ingredients that are available in the restaurant that day and ask the chef to cook a bespoke meal.
b) Restaurants give food away free of charge
Idea: Customers pay for their time in the restaurant. Food is given away free of charge
c) Restaurants do not serve food
Idea: Create a beautiful space which can be rented by the hour and customers bring their own food
Step 5: Pick the most promising idea and develop it into a concrete concept.
Up for a challenge? Try to generate as many ideas as possible within 48 hours of reading this post.