“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.” – Henry Ford
That quotation sums up why many of us struggle with creativity.
We find it hard to concentrate our minds on the type of thinking we need to do.
We think of the process instead of the outcome we are trying to create. That creates a wall, it stops the flow of creative juices as effectively as the Kariba dam does the Zambezi river.
We try to stimulate our minds to create something entirely new, forgetting that some of the most dazzling creations or successful inventions – like the post it note – are innovations or extensions of something already in existence or even the result of a failed experiment in a different field.
We lost the art of imagination when we turned 10 years old.
Here are a few ideas to stimulate creativity.
Association – If we associated two different ideas, could we create something better than the sum of either?
Extension – if we made something longer, bigger, heavier or added more words would it give us the solution we seek?
Reduction – if we took something out of, or away from?
Modification – if we changed the form or function of an existing product, service, idea or content?
Innovation – if we radically changed the purpose for which something is currently used or the way in which an activity is done?
Continually asking the questions: Why and What if.
We all need to be more creative. Not only those in careers or businesses traditionally deemed to need creative people. In all but the most routine jobs, there could be a better, easier, more efficient way of doing something. If you are in that position, the quickest way for both career advancement and improved self-esteem is to be creative. To think of better ways to do the job or ways you can do a better job.
Exposing your mind to new ideas by being a good reader helps creativity. Many experts suggest a deeper involvement in the arts. Learning to play a musical instrument, painting or learning a new language will stimulate the creative juices.
From personal experience, I can attest to the benefits of learning to play music and becoming involved in new activities, meeting new people with different interests.
Practising impromptu speaking is another good stimulant, particularly for creative story telling both verbal and written. As a member of Toastmasters International, it is enlightening to see how new members grow from being timid mumblers unable to make a one minute impromptu speech to confidently telling an entertaining one minute story in just a few weeks.
Our regimented society with its explicit and implicit taboos is partly to blame. We are forced to comply with so many regulations and laws that creativity in many areas of our daily lives would be a dangerous and costly luxury. Political correctness makes it worse, we are told what we can think. To be creatively different invites the wrath of the hordes of moral crusaders on social media.
Unsophisticated people in developing countries are not handicapped by these constraints. That is one reason why some of their economies have been growing at rates five or more times faster than in the West.
I lived in Africa most of my life and have witnessed at first hand many creative solutions – and excuses – that would put the tv hero McGuiver to shame.
Here is a creative solution to transporting three steers when only a Honda civic was available.
This incident was discovered after the vehicle was involved in a minor accident in South Africa. The animals were uninjured as is shown in the next photo.
I am not condoning cruelty to animals and would certainly not recommend this as an acceptable method of transport for even one small bovine. The point is that between the owners of the cattle and the Honda, a solution was created that most of us with our Western conditioned thinking would never have dreamed of.
What should we do to make ourselves more creative?
- Look from a different perspective
- Read about a wide range of topics.
- Ask questions
- Exercise our minds with different interests
- Get comfortable with new activities
- Take the blinkers off
photo of The Thinker statue by Rodin courtesy of Wikipedia creative commons.