Creativity Boost – How to Really Think Out-of-the-Box
An entrepreneur is someone who is more than just a business owner. If one is considered an entrepreneur, he/she continuously develops new ideas (niches) for the market. Creativity, that is defined as a process which results in a both original and worthwhile product or a service of a sort, is somewhat synonymous to entrepreneurial endeavors. The competition increases (both in numbers and in innovativeness) as the market broadens and complexities. It is crucial for an entrepreneur to step up the game so as to achieve full potential of his /her business.
Creativity spurs new ideas, and new ideas bring new products/services. Additionally, an innovative approach can decrease one’s costs and/or improve the quality of the business as a whole. All these add to the competitiveness on the market. However, it is not always easy to be creative or to ‘think outside the box’, especially when one’s livelihood depends on it. We believe that, by an encircled understanding of the creativity process and its building blocks, any (and every) entrepreneur can improve his/her creative skills and become less dependent on the occasional ‘A-ha!’ moments – that is, once an entrepreneur apprehends the elements of creativity, the process and its results will be more easily obtained in the future (and will rather be consciously and continuously instigated than accidental and sporadic).
In the following article, we will go through the most important elements of the creativity boost process and discuss the question of thinking out-of-the-box. Conclusively, we will present some guidelines that might help a (future) entrepreneur on his/her journey of creation. Read through sections 1) Elements of Creativity, 2) The ‘Box’ and how to Transcend It and 3) Tips for a Creativity Boost – and leap forward!
ELEMENTS OF CREATIVITY
Restriction is important for the creativity process because if one does not set some parameters within which ideas will be looked for, the endless opportunities will diminish the quality of creative work. If some self-imposed focus is made, the ideas will be more detailed and fruitful as well as more applicable.
Numerous studies show that re-conceptualization is common among creative minds. It is a creative process in itself because it generates an innovative attitude towards the project one is working on. Basically, re-conceptualization is a step back from the project and its re-evaluation. It provides a wider yet more specified view of the theme and shapes the future stages of the process.
For example, an entrepreneur is working in the niche of chair-production and wants to start a new project. He/she does not have any ideas on what kind of project he/she intends to start working on except that a new model of a chair is to be made – and that the end purpose is for it to bring customer satisfaction and profit to the business. Before starting on the idea forming process, he/she will re-conceptualize the project itself. Rather than naming the general results he/she wants to achieve (customer satisfaction and profit), one asks himself/herself: “Do I want this chair to bring customer satisfaction solely by its design/comfortableness? Do I want to try to balance these two elements? What kind of design would people find enjoyable? Which specter of people do I want to target with this product?” If an entrepreneur asks oneself these questions, creativity process has begun. Moreover, a solid base is made for some guidelines to head already towards the focus of the project.
Distribution and Arrangement
Many creative minds agree on the fact that separation between research and the actual work is unavoidable if quality results are in mind. It is advisable to spend some time just observing and collecting impressions regarding a theme – or just noticing consciously everything around us. After some time, one should begin to formulate ideas. Lastly, upon deciding on the specific project that is to be followed through, one should get to work. All these things should be done separately because if done simultaneously they cause chaos – or at least an idea not formed to its full capacity. The mind must be focused on the objectives of each stage to generate beneficial results.
Imagination is what is (especially in the business world) referred to as the ‘thinking outside the box’ approach to idea formulation and project realization. As it is an extremely important element of the creativity process, we will address it separately and in more detail in the following section.
Surpassing a Creative Block
Even the most creative (and fruitful) individuals occasionally experience the dreaded ‘Block’. It manifests in the complete incapability to produce ideas. The feeling of being stuck can be difficult to surpass if one does not take time to evaluate what are its causes. Sometimes the mind is too closed to a particular idea while at other times a person is simply tired, and the environment does not support the type of work that needs to be done. It is best to differentiate sources primarily on whether they are external or internal. Bearing this in mind, one should try to deduct what might be the essence of the problem so the appropriate solution can be applied.
- External ‘Blockers’: If the problem is recognized as external, one should simply re-organize. Mostly the external sources have something to do with the workplace and/or ambiance. It is important to work and create a productive environment. These are dependent on individual inclinations and should be addressed as such. Factors such as temperature and the amount of light can be extremely important for a creative process. Make sure that the temperature is not too cold or too warm and adjust the lighting to your preferences. Most people, however, find slightly dimmed lighting to work best for creative brainstorming. Moreover, it is important to exclude interruptions while in the process. Ideas that are yet to be completely formed can quickly evaporate from the mind (you have to be able to focus on what you are doing).
- Internal ‘Blockers’: On the other hand, some sources of the creative block are of internal origin. Sometimes the mind just does not work the way we want it to. It is important to evaluate the issue. However, one of the things that prove to be most successful in treating mind block is the physical (and psychological) detachment for a certain time interval. If you are not capable of starting your creative engines, you should try to focus on something else, or rest. Your mind will continue to work on the project subconsciously which will result in a better starting state to work with later. A thought (any thought) suffices to bring forward a great idea. However, thoughts that are not left to grow independently rarely reach their potentials and become the idea. Your sub-consciousness is what deals with these thoughts. After some work has already been done, one should turn to daydreaming and naps as an incubator for what was achieved so far – this way the project will grow in its natural course.
THE ‘BOX’ AND HOW TO TRANSCEND IT
‘Think outside the box’ is an expression used in marketing, management, engineering, psychology and creative arts as well as an approach to self-growth since 1970s. It originates from the ‘nine dots’ puzzle that was used at the time as a creativity test in management. In order to solve the puzzle, one has to employ lateral thinking skills (or develop them). Such skills can be immensely beneficial in the creative process because they generate original (and quality) solutions (ideas).
What is the ‘Box’?
The assignment that was given to the examinees was constituted out of nine dots on a white surface. The dots were arranged as three in a horizontal and vertical row. The directions stated that all dots must be connected by four consecutive lines without lifting the pencil from the paper.
Experience showed that most people view non-existing boundaries around the dots and thus will not search for a solution beyond them. It so happens that these boundaries form the simplest encirclement of the external dots, that is, these imaginary boundaries form the geometrical shape of the box.
It has been proved that, once the boundaries are surpassed, most people find the solution easily – because in order to fulfill the assignment, lines must be drawn from the ‘external’ space (which is not external in itself, only viewed as such by the human brain).
In the psychological sense, the imaginary ‘box’ in the puzzle is immensely symbolic. It is almost as if we can visualize the box within which our thinking is confined. Moreover, it can be felt that beyond these lines lay endless opportunities.
The ability to transcend the norms of conventional thought is something that makes all the difference in regard to the market. As we stated in the introduction, competitiveness is stronger than ever, and entrepreneurs must come up with new and strong ideas in order to secure their place on the market. The process must be ongoing because it is not easy to keep that position once it has been obtained.
We are using the term ‘transcend’ because we feel it incorporates in itself a connection between what is (that is, the box) and what could be (the world of ideas outside of it). The ‘box’ is a solid structure from which the transcendence occurs. However, implementation of the ideas which can be obtained must include a structure of a sort. Hence, ‘the box’ is not viewed as something pejorative, rather a constructing element (as is the world of ideas outside of it) of a balanced whole
Transcending the ‘Box’!
The process of learning how to ‘think outside the box’ is actually pretty simple. People tend to find it difficult because they view creativity as something abstract. However, all people are equally capable of being creative, some by nature, other by experience (practice). In this section, we will present basic principles of thinking which stimulate inventiveness.
Lateral thinking refers to an approach to problem solving which differs from standard ones (solving problems in a step by step pattern – vertical logic; having a large amount of ideas without intent on their implementation – horizontal imagination). It uses creative and indirect ways to produce new ideas from existing ones.
A process of lateral thinking can look something like this: The entrepreneur we have mentioned in the paragraph on re-conceptualization could have approached his project in the manner of lateral thinking. His/her starting point could have been to extract a random object or a word and try to associate it with the term of a chair. For example, a word could be ‘magistrate’. The image that might come in mind as a bridge between the two words might be a comfortable black chair in an office filled with books. The entrepreneur would examine if that would be one of the ways to steer his/her project. If not, he would focus on other images, or other words and/or objects.
Exposure to absurd patterns causes the mind to work in overdrive – in the attempt of understanding something so far from the ‘normal’. With sufficient amount of experiences the mind will in itself become broadened and more creative (it has witnessed how wide the specter of imagination can be and thus expands towards what is possible to imagine).
View of the Other
Expanding imagination can be obtained through observation of other. By other we mean other realities, experiences and emotions of people who actually exist or fictional characters. It is important to develop awareness of the diversity which surrounds us in order to create something original yet usable.
View for the Other
People tend to come up with more creative and complex ideas if they are assigned to come up with something as if they were someone else (or for someone else). This happens because a psychological detachment occurs, and one’s mind becomes instantly more innovative.
Everyone can make at least some amount of changes in their life so as to broaden experience. The result of it is like with all of the other elements we have stated above: a mind that experiences, observes and is frequently surprised, begins to operate on these patterns. Consequently, more creative ideas are born.
TIPS FOR A CREATIVITY BOOST
In addition to thinking patterns we have stated above, in this section we will present some guidelines on how to enhance creativity in practice.
- Risk Taking: Entrepreneurs must come to terms with the possibility that their endeavor might not work. More importantly, they must try nonetheless (if it is something that they truly believe in). The risk they are willing to take might fail but also might bring enormous success. For example, Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, and one of the wealthiest people in the world, built his business on risks. When he was starting his business, he promised potential customers features that did not exist and demand their incorporation from developers afterward. Moreover, he hired unqualified staff and educated them during the process. His creative approach not only to his customers but also towards his team resulted in wealth of over 50 billion dollars.
- Walking: Numerous studies show that walking stimulates the brain for creative productivity. During the physical activity, the mind produces more diverse and innovative solutions to problems (Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, had a practice of the so-called ‘walking meetings’). Moreover, exercise, in general, enhances cognitive abilities.
- Learning: Acquiring knowledge not only related to one’s own field but from many other and different angles skyrockets creativity productivity. Moreover, it can result in creation of a separate niche in the market. Entrepreneurs who combine their work with their passions tend to create exceptional products and services.
- Innovation in everyday life: Implementing new things ever so often will not only prevent an entrepreneur (and his/her employees) from falling into a rut (which is the dead end street of management) but will subtly instigate the spark of creation. If a manager of a business decides that every week there will be a workplace informal thematic gathering and that ever employee will be in charge of organization of such a party at some point (however, no one knows when will it be, or even where will it be), he simultaneously improves the atmosphere at the workplace (and increases the connection between employees) and induces a creative process in all of his workers. Continuous inducement of innovation on a informal level will produce results in the formal ones as well.
Creativity should try to find its channels in self-growth and passion, in confidence in one’s abilities to create something exceptional and with acceptance of the uncertainty of the future. The least thing that can be obtained is a lifetime of creation – and that is not little at all. In the end we have to keep on trying and believe that the reward we are looking for is close by (while other rewards will be acknowledged retrospectively).
In Munich, we meet Jochen Schweizer, the founder and CEO of Jochen Schweizer Group, as well as one …