How to Become More Creative
The value of entrepreneurship is being widely recognized by business executives of large multinational companies as well as startups. It is becoming known that entrepreneurship is an effective way of making a company, product or service stand out in the confusion of choices that consumers are exposed to.
Entrepreneurship is the process that starts with conceptualization of novel ideas by individuals or companies (groups of individuals). This is followed by choosing the most promising idea, evaluation, validation and then implementation of the idea. As is evident, the most important and baseline factor of entrepreneurship is the creative thought that starts the whole process. Creativity is the pure essence of entrepreneurship and distinguishes it from traditional business techniques. However, this leads one to ask: Are there any practices that can spark or boost creative thought? Can an entrepreneur get help, inspiration or insight from any source?
This articles aims to find the answers to these questions. We will look at 1) an introduction to creativity, 2) why creativity matters, and 3) how to become more creative.
INTRODUCTION TO CREATIVITY
What is Creativity?
Creativity is the practice or art of converting imagination into reality. It is a two-step process, first thinking of a novel idea (imagination) and then putting it into practice. A creative person perceives the surrounding environment in a different way from others, finds hidden connections among unrelated objects or phenomena. The aim of all this is to ultimately find a solution for a problem.
Creativity is closely connected to the concept of “novelty”. It involves thinking of something that is different from otherwise available products or services, even if in the least possible way. This could be a new way of handling things, a new methodology, or even a new product. Creativity makes the unknown to be known, the non-existent to exist.
In today’s rapidly changing demographical, political, and economic state, no entrepreneur, as an individual or as a company, can succeed without recognizing that change and its associated problems and risk factors can be converted into opportunities. It is the job of an entrepreneur to recognize problems or opportunities and then to devise (create) a way valuable solutions.
Entrepreneurship – Creativity – Innovation
When we talk about the link between the three, we find that it is rather difficult to draw lines between these very closely related entities. Creativity, as discussed earlier, is the skill to perceive and develop a new solution to a problem. It is very important in an entrepreneurial endeavor in that it is the first step on the ladder. It is the prerequisite of innovation, which is the creation of a new venture. Creativity is a necessary part, but without innovation, it is just imagination. Innovation is taking those ideas to the next level: exploitation for gaining commercial profits. In a way, innovation is the successful implementation of creative imagination, and a combination of both is entrepreneurship.
WHY CREATIVITY MATTERS
Creativity gives a higher chance of success than intelligence.
Are you intelligent? Are you good at calculating, or you are a tech genius? But are you creative enough? Are you good at connecting dots that don’t usually align? Intelligence and technical skills definitely give you an edge in the workplace, helping you manage your business and doing the tasks faster and better. However, to be able to imagine and create, a new venture needs something more. In your entrepreneurial endeavor, your intelligence might help you at later stages of managing your business, but in order to create something new, innovation will come in handy.
You can rely on creativity on the uncertain path of entrepreneurship.
So many people waste their time and energy in trying to control outcomes. So many of them learn the hard way that it is an illusion, and the earlier it is realized the better. The core of entrepreneurship lies in taking risks and not knowing how things will turn out. Creative thought can “equip” an entrepreneur with the required flexibility and imagination. Uncertainties do not follow any rules, so the best way to tackle them is to find a rather “moldable” way to deal with them, like creativity. Not knowing the outcome can be frightening, but an entrepreneur embraces it and it becomes an opportunity for him to excel.
Creative thinking makes great entrepreneurs.
Creativity is not only an important ingredient of entrepreneurship; it is also associated with entrepreneurial success. It enables the entrepreneur to steer the company in the direction of growth. Creativity increases the ability to adapt to the unknown and embrace change in the form of technology, customer preferences and business trends. Today’s business success comes by tapping the untapped areas, be it new markets, introducing new products/services, or changing processes or methodologies. All of these come with risks, but offer equal opportunities for those who seek success.
Creativity is the principal function of three elements.
There are some basic factors that boost creative processes in an individual. People tend to be more creative mainly by internal forces like motivation, a direct interest, or the passion to take up challenges. The inherent wish to stand out among others or solve a problem that no one else has is a strong factor in creative thinking.
In summary, three constituent factors in creative process are expertise, the basic skill of creativity, and motivation.
- Expertise – Expertise includes the person’s ability that comes with specific knowledge or a specific technical skill. It is the basic education and learning that the person is equipped with that helps him in his creative endeavors. After all, more knowledge and expertise helps in a detailed observation of how things are done in an industry, ultimately allowing one to think in different creative ways.
- Skills of creative thinking – Creative thinking, the basic element of creativity, enables the person to approach a problem in different ways such that a viable and potentially beneficial solution comes out of it. Creative thinking in turn depends upon several other factors like personality, inherent creative skill, knowledge of creativity boosters, etc.
- Motivation – Motivation is the internal desire and drive to excel and do something different. If a person is motivated, he/she can endure the challenges and risks associated with it and the work pressure rather becomes enjoyable. The higher the motivation level, the higher the drive to create something substantial.
HOW TO BECOME MORE CREATIVE
It has been debated whether a person is inherently creative or whether creativity can be learned. Creativity should be perceived as a skill and not as a talent: a skill that can be learned, improved, worked upon and polished.
The Creativity Process
Although creativity could be a random activity, some definite steps have been reported in the literature for directing it, resulting in a better outcome. These steps are described below:
This stage involves identifying the problem and gathering as much information available in every dimension possible. It is the homework stage of the steps to follow. This is a very important stage as it is the first step of the creative process. There is no fruitful outcome if there is a misstep, so think again: Did you even choose the right problem to work on? Do you have enough information needed to solve it?
At this stage, the person’s mind directs all energy, consciously and subconsciously, toward the problem, gathering different ideas about how to fix them. This stage is like connecting the invisible dots and making a pathway that was previously non-existent.
The incubation stage is immensely affected by the hustle and bustle of daily life. The constantly buzzing mind, which is involved in daily chores, seldom finds the space to work up an idea. Peace of mind is definitely required in order to encourage the creative mind to keep working.
Illumination is that insightful moment when the creative idea leaves the subconscious mind and enters the realm of awareness. This stage is associated with solution finding and a clear picture of what a person intends to do. It is a reward for the time spent building an idea. When you find a jewel of a strong idea, you suddenly have a strong urge to bring it to life, and interestingly, this happens only if it was generated in the true essence of creativity.
This stage is meant to crosscheck the idea for its viability. What seems to be doable and profitable in the mind might not be so in real life. This requires verification, elaboration and then application. The idea should be appropriate and be able to connect to the target consumers. Verification could be done by asking some questions and by soliciting feedback from the team or trusted peers.
Put the Creativity Process to Work
As much as the innate “talent” of creativity can help a person, it can be enhanced as a skill, and there a variety of practices which help in doing so. As Sir Ken Robinson rightfully said, “Everybody has tremendous creative capacities”.
Creativity is more like a process and rarely comprises a single eureka moment. Everyone is innately capable to step up to that process. So we can actually “practice” creativity, or make ourselves more creative, by following these steps:
1. Establish a creative work environment.
Environment plays an important role in stimulating or inhibiting creative impulses. A creative environment acts like a support system; it promotesrelaxation and ultimately cushions creative thoughts. This is why huge companies like Google and Facebook are doing next-level investments in providing their employees with a very fun, relaxing environmental setting similar to a playground for grown-ups. The purpose is to provide a comfortable and relaxing zone where ideas can be easily vocalized. In such an environment, even unusual and bizarre ideas are appreciated because it is in the midst of those ideas that some really great ideas with potential for success are created and nurtured.
It has been proven through studies that an “untidy” or messy environment can help boost creativity. In such experiments, different groups were placed in messy as well can clean and tidy environments. It was observed that group performance in a messy room was significantly better than those in a clean room. A messy room promotes the formation of random, unstructured thoughts that ultimately lead to creative ideas, whereas a structured and tidy place rarely promotes going beyond structure and norm.
2. Merge different disciplines to generate wonderfully creative ideas.
Running out of ideas? Some really great output can be obtained by merging dots that are not generally connected. Combining fields that do not usually go together can be very innovative. This has also been proven by a study in which people provided with more related words were unable to make up creative stories than those who were assigned unrelated words. This technique is also known as fusing ideas. Some exercises that can help in fusing unrelated ideas are given below:
Connect remote things: For example, pick up two books, select a certain page and a certain word and then make up a story of how they are or can be connected.
Find an analogy: Pick up a product and keenly observe it for its properties. Explain in detail its attributes and characteristics. For example, a knife can be described as ‘sharp’ and ‘metallic’ or it can also be identified as something that requires downward pressure to cut a thing. The next step is to find out how these attributes can help in solving the problem.
Meet different people, try to imagine being in their place: Meeting or working with people who are like you, are in the same profession or are close to you can be comforting. Imagining yourself belonging to a different profession or switching places with someone you just met can help you to have a different perspective of problems and finding solutions.
3. Creativity needs both structure and flexibility.
It is questionable whether creativity flourishes in more structure or more flexibility. The truth is it takes a mixture of both to create an optimal environment.
Structure has both encouraging and discouraging impacts on creativity. On one hand, if someone adheres to structure, follows rules and routine, the brain cannot process the random thinking that helps in finding new solutions. However, some structure is important to give a sense of direction, goal and ambition. Knowing what someone wants to achieve helps in devising strategies to reach the goal.
4. Ask smart and appropriate questions.
Questions lead to answers, but asking a smarter question will give you an even more interesting answer. This is what led to the creation of Starbucks and Instagram. Their owners asked themselves simple yet intriguing questions, ultimately leading to the creation of amazing platforms.
Some techniques mentioned in literature for practicing asking smart questions are:
- Start with one question, do not overthink, and make 10 variations of it.
- Make up alternative questions to get to the right one.
- Tackling a problem in a different way needs a different perspective.
- Get your hands on all the information available to be able to think differently.
- Take one problem, and ask people from different origins or ethnicities what their take would be on that. Compare your perspective with theirs.
5. Test yourself with the 30 Circles Test.
This creativity exercise was designed by Bob McKim and explained by Tim Brown in his TED Talk Creativity and Play. In this playful exercise, you need to draw 30 circles on paper, and in one minute you need to assign objects to the circles. Most adults cannot assign more than a few circles. Children are good at such things because adults are self-critical and have a desire to be original. The goal of the exercise is to create more diverse connections among things that could ultimately help in the creation of ideas.
6. Learn something new regularly – sign up often for a course absolutely new to you.
Always being open to learning something new helps to keep you flexible and open to new ideas. Creativity also thrives best when a person leaves his comfort zone. There are plenty of courses both online and in evening education programs with the purpose of giving an informal education for beginners.
7. Expect to be creative at atypical times.
Everyone has optimal times, like morning or evening, for working out complicated cognitive assignments. However, these are not necessarily the best times for creative tasks. A study showed that creativity-related tasks are more easily performed when someone is least alert. This phenomenon has been explained by Professor Sian Beilock of the University of Cambridge. He says, “Sometimes people’s ability to think about information in new and unusual ways can actually be hampered when they wield too much brainpower”.
8. Walk when you need ideas.
A couple of things that could activate creative flair are going for a walk and getting yourself bored. Walking is one way of activating the creative stimuli by increasing the blood flow to the brain and increasing visual stimuli that cannot be achieved behind a desk. Like walking, boredom could possibly be linked with some creative boosts. Some studies have indeed shown that despite being mostly associated with some negative connotations, boredom has a positive impact on creative thinking.
9. Engage and encourage your team.
Nothing can replace the value of engaging the whole team in a task. It gives you multiple perspectives about a task or an idea, helping to refine the idea and crosschecking it before putting into practice. It also motivates the team by giving them a sense of ownership and by showing that their opinion is valued.
Creativity is the core of an entrepreneurial endeavor. Without a creative boost, an entrepreneur can only dream of success. This article helps in understanding how to enhance creative flair. If someone “thinks” that he or she is not creative, they can surely put creativity to work by following some simple routine tasks. You cannot just sit back at the desk and wait for the aha moment your whole life. It requires getting up and doing something. The good part is it is not rocket science, but involves activities like walking down the street or just cluttering your desk. However, you might have to try out different things, but at the end of the day you might hit the jack pot and build an idea that is worth putting into action.
You get to work on a Monday morning and as you prepare to get busy, a colleague passes by your desk, …