This weekend my family and I enjoyed an outing at this cute, pottery painting place. We each selected the pieces that most interested us, picked out our colors, and went to town on our DIY pottery projects. I happened to pick a large serving platter. I soon found myself wrapped up in the brainstorming process, as I settled on my plans for the piece. It was soothing and relaxing to bring it to life. And though it didn’t turn out exactly as I initially imagined, I left there really pleased with the outcome, and more than that, really energized by the creative process.
This got me thinking. I REALLY should be trying to inject more creativity into my day-to-day work life. From full-time moms and homemakers, to corporate CEOs, everybody needs the benefits that come from creative problem solving. But, with deadlines, loads of loads of emails, and/or constant interruptions, are there some practical ways to get the creative juices flowing? After conducting some research and doing some creative thinking myself, I identified the following four tips that could help develop those creative problem-solving muscles.
1. Do Something Creative
Just as I experienced when working on the pottery, things like music, writing, photography, cooking, dancing, painting, scrapbooking, crafting, and etc. help you to get out of your daily rut and tap into your creativity. Commit yourself to doing at least one creative thing per week, and chances are you will feel more energized, inspired, and ready to take on work challenges.
2. Become a Collector of Ideas
With social media, even the way Google search operates, the things we are exposed to and our circles of influence are getting smaller and smaller. Many of the most well-respected, creative problem-solvers are those who pride themselves on considering new ideas and surrounding themselves with different types of people. Books, blogs, YouTube, TedX talks, and Pinterest are just some of the ways to expose yourself to new ideas. In addition, the science of creativity and productivity has become a popular area of research, so, there is a wide variety of books and blogs dedicated to studying how people can more readily tap into their creative abilities.*
3. Consider Things That Are Counter-Intuitive
Ever notice how ideas come to you during inopportune times? Like, while you are shampooing your hair, or, cooking dinner? Or, if you are having trouble solving a really difficult challenge, if you step away from your desk and take a walk, you will find yourself refreshed and ready to see solutions that didn’t occur to you when you first started? Sometimes doing things that would be counter intuitive really help to reset your mode of thinking and allow you to more readily tap into your creativity. If you are a morning person, try to tackle a problem during the evening. A change of scenery or getting your body moving can do wonders, too. Our inclination, especially when facing tough deadlines, is to knuckle down and muddle through it, but, in many cases taking a break and shifting gears ultimately can help us to get things done more quickly and with much better results.
4. Stop Being So Cynical
Maybe this one is mostly directed at me. I find myself shooting my own ideas down before I have even shared them with anyone. “That’s goofy.” or “That will never work.” or “People will think you are clueless or silly.” often crosses my mind. I’ve noticed that it is the people who are not afraid of what others will think and who are willing to really stand behind their ideas that have the best, most creative solutions. I experienced that with the some of my own colleagues. The creative people I work with would propose a messaging idea for a client, and I would immediately think “That is off base. The client is NOT going to like that.” But, these creative problem-solvers stood by their ideas, and were not afraid of taking the heat and starting over in the event I was right and their ideas didn’t fly. What I discovered was the majority of the time they were right and the client actually really LOVED their idea. Even though it was nothing along the lines of what was initially discussed, the client didn’t KNOW what they wanted/needed yet. As we used to say in group brainstorming sessions “There are no bad ideas.” Don’t be so quick to dismiss the silly or outlandish ideas you come up with…as they may lead you to the creative solutions that no one else has considered.
What do you do to plug into your creative side? When you have an especially difficult challenge, what do you do to come up with innovative solutions? Please share any tips you’d add to the list in the comments below.
*Some of the interesting books I ran across as I wrote this post (that I now plan to dig into a little further or resurrect from my dusty bookshelf), include:
- Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
- The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice by Todd Henry
- Creativity at Work: Supercharge Your Brain and Make Your Ideas Stick by Ros Taylor
- Creative You by Otto Kroeger and David B. Goldstein
- Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking and The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
Christy Schutz is a communications professional and freelance writer focused on topics like employer/personal branding, career management, personal development, women in the workplace, and female entrepreneurs. She enjoys putting 16+ years of experience in the advertising, recruitment marketing, employee/internal communications and special events industries to good use by helping others to discover, develop and market their own distinct calling or mission. This Tampa Bay, FL-based Mom also keeps herself busy by raising 4 kids, caring for her husband & doting on her dogs Petey and Daisy!
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