Creative thinking skills come when you create the space—physically, emotionally and mentally—for them. Here’s how to do just that!
Recently, I had the opportunity to lead a workshop on Guided Creativity for the brilliant women at Procter and Gamble. They’re the scientists who formulate your skin creams and make the stains come out of your favorite blouse. Even though they’re solving world problems every day (or at least lessening the blow of mini-catastrophes), like many women, they knew that there was something more—something more powerful within them that they could tap into.
That’s where I came in. In my workshop, we talked about the concept of an “Every-day Creative,” a person who integrates creativity and play into their daily rhythms. Most of us can’t escape to an artist retreat, which is why I brought the artist retreat to them and shared these tools for tapping into their life purpose by cultivating creative thinking skills:
1. Let Go of Originality
Creativity is not creating something out of nothing—instead, creativity builds upon other things that have already been created. Think about it: it’s not possible to invent something totally new, only to improve something that already exists or to put your own expression into something. All ideas have been done before—they just haven’t been done by you!
Steve Jobs once said,
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, the just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.”
What’s one thing you could improve or two things could you combine to create something new?
2. Repeat after me: I AM CREATIVE.
To be human is to have creative power. Creativity isn’t a nebulous talent reserved for artists.
Creativity is a renewable resource, innate and immediately accessible to all. Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel once called the brain a “creativity machine!”
I’ll prove it to you: As an exercise, I had everyone in the workshop think back to their very first creative moment. What’s yours? I guarantee you have one. Children have this tremendous creative competence and confidence. As children, we all used curiosity and imagination to make sense of our world. But slowly, we began to trade imagination for implementation and playing for production.
Not only do the demands of adult life get in the way of our creativity, but also our brain’s capability for self-monitoring increases as we grow up. Neuroscience research proves that among creatives there is lower self-monitoring brain activity when they’re creating.
I think this is great news! This isn’t a talent—it’s a practice. In your creative endeavors, it just means you’ll have to consciously turn off your judging brain to unleash your imaginative brain, offering yourself more self-compassion instead. Creativity starts from the inside out. It’s so much easier to uncover your natural inventiveness if you believe it’s there.
3. Go on a treasure hunt for time and space.
Creativity also comes to us from the outside in, which means that our environment matters, and we have to create the right conditions for our imagination to flourish.
One of the problems I hear most is that people don’t have time to be creative. If you identify with this, start watching the words you say to yourself: you’re not really “running out of time,” “wasting time,” or “low on time”—you just have to use it in the right way.
Where can you find an hour in your day for your creative passion? On your lunch break? By waking up an hour earlier? By shutting off your phone and closing your laptop an hour before you go to bed? Lack of space can also prevent creativity—which is why I recommend shifting things around in your home and at work to make way for the perfect creative space.
4. Loosen up.
During one of the imagination exercises we did in the Guided Creativity workshop, I noticed that a table of women was stuck and stopped generating ideas. I told them to get up from their seat, jog in place or walk around the table and loosen up. And guess what? That table ended up creating more ideas than any other! Why? Because movement produces endorphins and endorphins change your energy and elevate your mood.
Play and positivity promote creativity more than anything else. Neuroscience research shows that individuals are more likely to solve complex problems when in a positive mood.
5. Limit your resources.
Let’s be real: An empty page, a blank canvas and a bare wall can be totally intimidating. If you’re feeling stuck, limit the possibilities! Give yourself a specific amount of time or allow yourself to only use one kind of resource.
Maybe that means decorating a room entirely with things you buy at a local antique shop. Maybe you trying writing a poem only using words from one page of a novel. Maybe you’re doing mixed-media art like me, and you use only magazines and words from books to create your masterpiece.
It’s amazing how much more inspiration comes when you set parameters around your creativity!
6. Get curious.
“It is only in walks that are a little too long that one has any truly good ideas.”
This quote from one of my favorite voices on creativity, Brenda Ueland, speaks to the power of observation in creative thinking. The best inspiration comes from the natural world, which means it’s time for you to open your eyes and start observing! True observation is active using all senses, which increases your ability to see opportunities.
Start small: On your drive to work, turn off autopilot and practice noticing everything you see.
7. Reframe it.
If you have a problem that you need to confront creatively, try looking at it through a new lens.
See potential, not problems.
See opportunities, not obstacles.
See chances to create, not challenges.
Try getting out of your normal realm of experience. I call this “detribalization.” Go to places and connect with people outside of your normal circle. This doesn’t have to mean traveling to a different country, but it can! I learned so much and left inspired after a trip to Bali.
Don’t be afraid of collaboration, either. Cross-pollination is a powerful tool. Ask for feedback from trusted mentors and work around people doing great work. Why do you think so many tech start-ups are next door to each other in Silicon Valley?
8. Challenge Assumptions
I didn’t use a powerpoint for my presentation at P&G, and there were no name tags. Why? I say why not? Who says I have to use a powerpoint? Just because we always have is not a good answer. I wanted to challenge the paradigms of the corporate women to see possibilities in their own environment.
I’d love to share the quick example of how Paula, the P&G leader who made the workshop happen took on this challenge: she created stickers to fill in the blanks on a piece of paper about me and the workshop!
When you’re faced with a challenge, challenge it! What are you assuming about the challenge itself and the ways that you can surmount it? You don’t have to do it the way it’s always been done.
9. Embrace failure (privately)
Successful innovations result from trying different approaches and keeping what works—which means throwing LOTS away. Embrace failure as part of the process, and if you can, fail privately.
As an actress, I auditioned for my family members countless times before I auditioned in front of directors. I also had to become okay with being told “no.” The result? I got more professional contracts because I auditioned more. Your talent and your good ideas will prevail, but only if you’re willing to hear a thousand “no’s” before you hear one yes.
10. Believe that creativity is vital.
Tapping into your creative power leads to confidence, awareness and happiness. Based on a study by the APA, happiness and creativity go hand-in-hand. Not just that—60% of CEOs polled say that creativity is the most important quality to have in a leadership role! (Fast Company)
At work, every-day creatives are more self-directing, confident and aware. In life, every-day creatives solve problems with ease, view the world through a richer lens and truly enjoy life more.
If you’re ready to uncover your creative purpose or if you have a great idea that you want to bring to life, let’s spend a day together! I love doing Creative Strategy Days with people to create a plan for executing brilliance. Email me to learn more!