Would you label yourself a creative person? Do you think creativity is something we are born with? Creativity is more than the simple left versus right brain. It is more than your logical hemisphere compared to your creative hemisphere. Creativity and learning takes place when we are able to connect new knowledge with knowledge we were already familiar with. Creativity is something we can all develop. In fact, it has been scientifically proven that creativity can be cultivated.
Prior to the last couple of years, I used to think creativity was something you were born with. I believed one of the myths of creativity and used it as an excuse. Do you associate with any of these common myths about creativity? Common myths:
- You are born with it.
- You have to be right-brained.
- It falls into your lap.
- You’ve got to be a little mad.
Everyone has fell victim to at least one of these myths, but anyone can be creative, not just the privileged few. Let’s take a look at how some people embrace this mindset and become more creative than the rest.
They are good at making connections between different ideas.
“Part of creativity is picking the little bubbles that come up to your conscious mind, and picking which one to let grow and which one to give access to more of your mind.” – Nancy Andreasen
Yevgeniy Brikman has an interesting analogy for creativity. He looks at creative thinking as a deck of index cards. He remarks,
“Imagine you have a deck of index cards and that each card has a word or phrase on it. These cards represent the ideas and thoughts that are floating in your head.”
Try the following with index cards, where each card has a word or phrase on it:
- Shuffle the index cards.
- Drop them on the floor.
- Scan over the cards and see what sentences have formed from the random arrangement of words.
Brikman asserts, “Most of the time, the random permutations will be meaningless. You just have to pick up the cards and return to step 1. However, every now and then, a meaningful sentence or thought will emerge. Sometimes this will be a full solution to a problem – the ‘aha’ moment. Other times, this will be a mere stepping stone from which you gather enough info to add or remove index cards from your deck before returning to step 1.”
They are divergent thinkers.
“We are boxed in by the boundary conditions of our thinking” – Albert Einstein
Creative thinkers are not linear thinkers. In fact, they are divergent or lateral thinkers. They embrace a different way of thinking and attack problems from new angles. Creative people can literally remove their mind from the box. Typically, most people think that you must remain within the already known boundaries. However, when we move out of the box, we then extend our boundaries beyond the existing framework. This is critically important in cultivating creativity.
They act on the eureka moment.
“Seeing something that doesn’t exist and then making it so.” – Hugh Howey
Have you ever had that unbelievable epiphany or insight that just suddenly occurs in your mind? This is the eureka effect, our experience of suddenly comprehending something that was previously incomprehensible. The effect is named after a story about the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes. However, we will use a different example of this effect. Sidney Harris has a simple cartoon that visualizes this effect perfectly. In her cartoon, she draws an illustration of Albert Einstein standing before a chalkboard. On the board, Einstein has two different equations crossed out. The title of the cartoon is the “The Creative Moment” and is a fabulous caricature of one of the most important discoveries in history.
Creative thinkers endlessly search for their creative moment. So, the next time you have a eureka moment, use the following tips to act on it.
There are four stages of the creative process.
Let’s now discuss how you can activate your creative mind by following these four stages.
- Preparation. So, did you think this would start with an idea? Well, you would be wrong. Here we are gathering facts and existing ideas about our problem. In the first stage, start asking questions in order to start generating ideas.
- Incubation. This stage is important. Go for a jog or take a bath (Thank Archimedes for this idea!), but make sure you allow the problem to wander in your mind.
- Sudden Insight. Here is your eureka moment! This is where your connections overflow until that fantastic ‘aha’ moment hits.
- Manifestation. In this stage you carry out and apply the sudden insight.
We can cultivate creativity in numerous ways.
“Ask questions for which there are no answers.”
There are certain things we can all do in order to become more creative. Let’s look at some of them.
- Ask questions. “Successful creators don’t just like knowledge, they thirst for it. They can’t stop asking question, and they always go beyond what they’ve learned from teachers and books.” – Keith Sawyer
- Practice. When we practice a skill over and over again it will start to become a habit. Write about how to develop a creative mindset, blog about it, and even try to teach other people about it.
- Use an analogy. When we use analogies, we find similarity between two things. Think of the index card example earlier.
- Random word. If you have a problem and you need a completely outside-the-box approach to solving it… try this. Go to randomwordgenerator.com and generate a random word. Here the random word serves as a stimulus which will then serve as a bridge between the stimulus and the idea which will help you solve the problem.
- Leave your comfort zone. “But the essence of creativity is to be surprised, to come up with something you really didn’t know. That’s the nova in innovation. It’s the newness. And if you keep doing the same old thing, you won’t do the new thing. But when you suspend the old thing, the new thing doesn’t always automatically emerge.” – Michael Gelb
- Read poetry. Metacognition is when we think about what we are thinking about. This revelation recently hit me. The most powerful deep thinking approach is poetry.
- Mind mapping. This is a great way to take a topic down a rabbit hole. This is where you have your main idea in the center. The main idea branches out to second and third-level branches. This will help you see patterns that others fail to see.
So, are you now motivated to become a creative thinker? Do you believe you can? Well, you should. On your journey to become a more creative thinker, remember the four stages and don’t forget that you have to let your thoughts incubate for a while. Don’t try to force the ‘aha’ moment. Allow yourself the time to let your mind wander. Once you do this, you will find that you are able to create something out of nothing.
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