• Rowan Norrie

10 ways to spark your creativity

Thinking creatively is a prerequisite to innovation. You need creativity to look at situations differently, come up with new ways of working, to brainstorm new concepts to solve customer problems.

For some people, creativity is a natural state, something they have had since childhood; they are natural artists, thinkers, explorers. Others struggle and believe that they could never be creative.

If you are in the latter group or are looking for ways to augment your levels of creativity, here are ten tips for boosting your creativity.

1. Be curious.

Children are naturally curious. ‘Why?’ ‘How does that work?’ ‘Where does that come from?’ Somewhere along the way, our natural curiosity is lost.

Be aware of this and find ways to be more curious. Be prepared to ask dumb questions, speak to people you meet (when travelling, standing in queues, when you re out and about), look at the world with fresh eyes.

2. Go on a microadventure.

Nothing stifles creativity like routine. When we don’t have time for a big adventure or break, then a microadventure is just what we need to stimulate the creative mind.

Microadventures could be as simple as taking a picnic lunch to the local park, going for a swim in nature, camp out for the night (even in your back garden), take a long walk around your neighbourhood, go star gazing, let the dog take you for your next walk…

Check out #microadventure for inspiration for your own microadventure.

3. Do something outside your comfort zone.

“The comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing grows there.” Step outside your routine and find the unexpected. This might be challenge your fears (for me it is heights), go out for a meal / cinema / holiday on your own, learn a new skill or present to an audience. The thrill of achievement can build the adrenaline and jump start creativity.

4. Read or watch something different.

Exposure to different ideas can often lead to more creative thinking. How many of us buy books that Amazon recommends, or watches films the Netflix has suggested for us? The more we follow that path, the narrower exposure we have to new ideas.

By making a decision to find something new, we learn new stories about other people and cultures. I used to have a habit of buying the magazine that was in the bottom row, third from left, whatever that might be (better not to select the top row!). Some of my favourite books for learning the stories behind famous innovators or introducing new ideas:

· Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character)

· Sleights of Mind: What the neuroscience of magic reveals about our brains

· The Doctors' Plague: Germs, Childbed Fever, and the Strange Story of Ignaz Semmelweis

· American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

· Any science fiction book, but Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is a favourite.

Films that introduce a different perspective on life are:

· The Big Fish

· Gravity

· Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

· Amadeus

· Sideways

· 127 Hours

· One of Us (Netflix)

5. Embrace lifelong learning.

Learning needn’t stop when you finish school. Being open to learning new skills, facts and ideas is important for developing a naturally enquiring, innovative mind. Learn a new skill (a new language for example), acquire new knowledge, learn how to play an instrument or find a new hobby.

Learning new skills keeps the mind sharp, can help with wellness and sense of self-confidence and motivation. The resources available to you are endless – try YouTube, LinkedIn Learning, Udemy or any number of apps.

6. Watch a TED talk.

TED talks are a series of short, powerful talks on huge range of topics. You can take short time out (coffee break), select a time and topic and be prepared to be motivated, amazed or inspired. Learn from the best!

7. Do exercise.

The physical benefits of exercise are evident. Mental benefits are equally important. Exercise increases energy levels, helps you relax and improve your sleep quality and reduces stress. What you do depends on your inclination and time available – yoga, swimming, golf or tennis, whatever takes your fancy.

A short brisk walk is the best solution for the creative equivalent of writers’ block. Get some fresh air, change of scenery, clear the mind and return to your task with increased enthusiasm.

8. Meditate.

Meditation has been shown to promote creative thinking. Meditation methods can release pathways of thinking, create a lighter, more open frame of mind for divergent thinking. Then focusing on breathing or a mantra can bring the attention back for brainstorming on a topic.

Try one of the many meditation apps available, such as Headspace.

9. Give yourself time to think.

Switch off your phone. Give yourself time each day to sit, think and dream. Best ideas often come when our brain is in freethinking mode.

10. Keep an open mind.

Most importantly, start each day with an open mind, untrammelled by what has gone before. Listen, consider and keep your mind open to new ideas from unexpected directions.

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