Creativity is the performance drugs of corporations, writers, and artists alike. Both in hiring talent and in squeezing the most value out of that talent. As individuals and teams.
The most popular creative process in the world is brainstorming, and unfortunately brainstorming is broken. Most businesses, artists, and writers work very hard to be more creative with limited results.
A lot of that energy is misplaced. The research and science behind creativity has come very far in the last 10 years. Becoming more creative, as an individual, group, or organization, can be accomplished through some very actionable steps.
Consider this your recipe for better ideas. Like any skill, creativity takes planning and practice.
With these steps your ideas, or your organization’s ideas, will improve. Your brainstorming will get better. And you might find your friends and coworkers calling you “creative.”
1. Spend More Time With Firestarters
I don’t know how precise the estimate is, but Jim Rohn is famous for saying that ‘you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”
Examine your 5 people. See the influence? Where we spend our time, with whom we spend our time, builds — to a large degree — our future selves.
So if you want to be more creative, you should be spending more time with other creative people.
Instead of simply spending time with people you might label as “creatives,” I challenge you to spend more time with firestarters. Hanging out with pop culture “creatives” like painters, writers, or the neighborhood hipsters might look interesting, but your brain needs more substance. It needs more than a semblance of creativity. It needs the actual meat, the substance of thinkers.
A firestarter is a doer. A maker. An eccentric. A problem solver. A thinker. [Tweet this]
Your brain needs to be challenged. It needs to be surprised. It needs to be tipped on its edge, poured into a raging fire of passion, evaporated into a sky full of wonder, and rained down again. Softly. Soaking you with curiosity and drive and the devastating, unquenchable need to sew flowers of inspiration into the earth.
And by that, what I mean to say is, your brain needs to be surrounded by interesting thinkers. If those thinkers happen to be writers or painters…
Take stock of how many firestarters you have around you. In your circle of friends. Spend more time with them. Seek out new firestarters. And strive to be a firestarter for those around you.
2. Brush Up Against Life
Great ideas happen when expertise brushes up against life experience. [Tweet this]
I call these moments happy collisions.
Let’s assume you already have the expertise. Because you do NEED to be an expert in something to maximize your creative abilities. You need to develop a deep knowledge of a subject matter, skill-set, industry. That is your toolbox. That is yourarmory of weapons at the ready. Ready for you to wield at incoming enemy charges.
Life experience is what makes that arsenal of expertise really useful. It is what takes your awareness of a problem and matches it with new directions for solutions.
The likelihood of finding a new solution to a problem increases exponentially with each unique points of view you can bring to that problem.
So how do you increase your life experience? The sexy answer to that question is – the wild living of artists in history – drinking, drugs, danger.
These activities do not expand our thinking.
To truly evolve your life experience, your perspective, you need to take in the world. This falls into two categories: consuming and creating. Here are a few easy examples:
- Read more
Read fiction. Read topics outside your industry. Read interesting magazines on topics you would not normally spend time on. Read poetry. Read plays. Read opinion articles from writers that challenge your existing point of view. Read deeply.
- Write more
Write daily. Write notes as you read. Write love letters. Write thank you cards. Write original pieces of small observations from the world around you. Write down your dreams. Write out your future. Write on the train, on a plane. Write about strangers you see and characters that have never been.
- Travel more
Explore the city you live in, from the corners and alleys and fields near your home to the museums and history and landmarks close by. Travel to see family and spend time with them. Travel to see friends. Travel to see cities. Travel the world. Live abroad. Watch documentaries. Talk to friends about where they have been. About the most interesting places they have seen. Travel both with your feet and with your mind.
- Challenge your mind
This is the big one. There are plenty of examples that show when we put our brain to a challenge, something it has not done or learned before, it gets better at meeting other challenges. Think of this as halfway between our comfort zone (where we learn nothing) and our panic zone (where we are overwhelmed). You do not need to take up nuclear engineering, but look for opportunities that match your passions and interests. Learn to speak a foreign language. Sign up for an improv group. Learn to play a musical instrument. Learn to be a better public speaker. Lead a team or organization. Take a class in nutrition, photography, or programming.
3. Do Not Subscribe To False Creative Idols
You do not need to become Andy Warhol or JK Rowling or Steve Jobs in order to become a creative person.
As my smart friend Tom Webster said the other night “most people do not need to break out of the box to become more creative, they can simply focus on making the box better.”
Becoming more creative does not mean you need to become an eccentric, bi-polar painter. Creativity is not an excuse to escape responsibility or a means of restarting your life.
It is ownership over ideas.
Within every task, company, team, and organization — creativity — or really just better problem solving — can be a powerful tool for improving life for everyone. For making everyone happier. For making a better product, a better work environment, a better ecosystem for all.
Look at your world. Your work, your hobbies, your passions. Discover where you can do the most good and focus there. If you end up leaving your company and starting the next world-changing startup, so be it. But, don’t set bars according to someone else’s expectations. Maybe what you really want is become a better 3rd grade teacher, a better writer, or a better friend.
When we rely on the expectations of others, we build unnecessary walls of creative repression.
Discover where you can do the most good and focus your creativity there. [Tweet this]
Remember, more times than not, the most creative person in the room, the best problem solver, is the person who is willing to put in the most time. Persistence is a key secret to creativity.
Creativity can be taught. Anyone can be more creative, but it is still a process. And any process requires work. These three rules, if subscribed to, will make you more creative. But you still have to put in the time to come up with amazing ideas.
To big ideas.