January is the month of setting goals to get a head start into the new year. If one of your resolutions for 2017 is to be more creative then we thought we’d help you out. This month, we have teamed up with Claire Bridges, creativity expert and author of a new book on creativity in business, In Your Creative Element, to give you 13 ways to shake up your thinking this year. Claire has helped over 10,000 people in companies like Sky, Pret a Manger and Vodafone in how to be more creative and argues that imagination, grit and practice are all key to unleashing your ideas.
1. Channel your inner punk.
Rebellion is not just for musicians, it’s useful for business. Successful creative people often go against the grain; they question everything and have no problem arguing a different point of view. So find your inner Johnny Rotten and throw a curveball into the mix.
2. Think inside the box.
The rules in any given situation – known as constraints – are often viewed as negative, but like Twitter or Haiku poetry they provide structure. List every barrier or rule you have to your problem – be specific -then explore the opposite and challenge how that rule could be broken.
3. Fall off the wagon.
If you’re off booze for January think again – have a tipple to get the ideas flowing but only until your blood alcohol level gets to precisely 0.075, the creative hot zone (a couple of beers).
4. Make mine a macchiato.
Research shows that low-level background noise, like the hum of a café, can aid creative ideas rather than complete quiet.
5. Make like Jay Z.
U.S. researchers teamed up with twelve professional rappers and using a brain scanner asked them to improvise to an 8-bar beat. As the lyrics started to flow, the part of the brain that drives analytical thought and self-control switched off. The rappers had taught themselves to silence their inner critic and give free reign to their stream of consciousness. Try to switch off the judging voice in your head when you’re generating ideas.
6. Think like a scientist.
Their mindset is one of experimentation, which implies trial and error are part of the process, not failure, but learning. If you don’t succeed first time, assess and try another way.
If there is one thing that all truly successful creative people have in spades, it’s grit. When as little as one in 3,000 crude ideas makes it to ‘the real world’, you need to be able to deal with rejection, setbacks, difficulties and fatigue. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
8. Be two-faced.
Researcher Albert Rothenberg analysed the process of creative geniuses like Einstein. He coined the term ‘Janusian thinking’ to describe the ability to hold completely opposing views at the same time. When you’ve generated a number of options you like, choose one and deliberately find an opposing point of view to your position.
To connect with your creativity – we’ve been coined the ‘look down generation’. Step away from your device for at least an hour a day.
10. Ideas do grow on trees.
Take a ‘forest bath’ – the Japanese practice ‘Shinrin-yoku’ – heading to a forest for its ‘medicine’, to walk slowly and breathe deeply, deliberately focusing on all your senses. Getting outside in nature is proven to aid creative thought.
11. Grab the scissors.
Vision boards come from the same school of thought as those mood boards that fashion types and designers love, and they’re a great way to help you get a feeling for what it is you’re looking for. Grab a stack of magazines and flick through, cutting out anything that seems to fit or inspire. It’s an obvious way to seek inspiration for re-designing a bedroom, but it can also be useful for tackling such everyday problems as “What could we do together as a family?” or “how could I make my journey to work more enjoyable?”
12. Step in someone else’s shoes.
When searching for the answer to a problem, we often become stuck in a mental groove. Each new thought often has roots in ones we’ve had before, which can make new solutions hard to come by. So be someone else. Pick out a random stranger on the train to work and imagine how he or she might tackle your conundrum. You can also try famous people: what would Simon Cowell or The Queen do? Come at a problem from a completely new angle.
13. Get yourself fired.
Ok maybe not – but think up an answer to the problem you’re wrestling that would be so wide of the mark that it would get you kicked out of the office faster than a cocky team leader on week one of The Apprentice. Then look at why it’s so wrong and see if there’s something mischievous in it that you can adapt in a way that would actually get you promoted. Claire Bridges is founder of Now Go Create and author of In Your Creative Element published by Kogan Page – highly practical and packed with case studies from creative experts and organisations including the NHS, United Nations, Twitter, Punchdrunk, Sky Media and Paddy Power as well as some of the world’s most successful advertising and PR agencies. Available here .