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Published on November 25, 2019

How to Train Your Brain to Be Creative

How to Train Your Brain to Be Creative

Have you ever looked down on yourself or even think you can never achieve anything significant in life? This belittling thought pattern will prevent you from attaining peak performance and becoming productive in life and your relationships. It will also hinder you from being opened to greater possibilities that can change your life.

This is the more reason you need to learn how to be creative.

What Is Creativity?

Creativity is the ability or tendency to recognize and curate ideas, possibilities, alternatives that are crucial to solving issues, connect others, and entertain one another.

When we talk about creativity, some names readily come to mind.

It’s interesting to know that most of these creative people from Beethoven to Steve Jobs are ordinary people who exceptionally perform ordinary things. Therefore, it will not be an understatement to add your name to the list if you think you are creative.

You may disqualify yourself because you have not created anything new. This has been found out to be a great misconception when discussing how creativity works. Creativity is not only about inventing something new. There is nothing ever new or original. Every genius that has ever worked the face of the earth has only learned how to connect ideas and things to generate meaningful value.

Why Is Creativity Important?

People aspire to learn how to be creative for the following reasons:

The Need to Impact Meaningful Values

We are here to change the world. If you want to make a significant difference in life, there is a likely chance you are tapping the innate creative ability on your inside.

The Need to Address Problems

The world will become short of creative people once we stop having issues that threaten our existence like global warming.

Is there darkness in the world? A genius will invent light. Is the light not eco-friendly? Another creative person will design how to leverage solar power to light up the world, and the chain becomes endless.

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The Need for Complex, Varied and Novel Stimulation

If you hate the status quo like me, there is a chance you will end up with an innovative idea. Creative individuals learn how to look at life from other perspectives. They don’t go with the flow. They test a series of alternatives that can contribute meaningful value to life.

10 Creative Thinking Methods

So how can you be creative on demand? Here’re 10 thinking methods you should know:

1. Creative Problem Solving

This is a means of addressing issues or identifying opportunities when conventional thought processes have failed to yield results. The method encourages you to discover fresh perspectives and devise innovative ideas or solutions to surmount a daunting challenge.

2. Brainstorming

This technique is deployed to tackle a design problem. It usually comprises a group that is guided by a facilitator. The capability of each session is inherent in the ability of the participants to draw a connection between their novel ideas in the outside world.

Alex Osborn, the inventor of brainstorming in his book, Applied Imagination written in 1953, affirmed that,

“We aim squarely at a particular design problem and generate an arsenal of possible solutions. By not just harvesting our ideas but putting into consideration our colleagues’ concept, we cover the issue from all angles imaginable.”

3. Charette

It is a thorough planning session that connects designers, citizens, and other polymaths to collaborate on a developmental cause. It offers an opportunity for sharing ideas and provides a rare privilege of communicating feedbacks instantly to the designers. It facilitates inclusion and makes everyone a mutual author of the development.

4. Critical Thinking

This is an objective analysis of facts to generate a conclusion. It is self-disciplined, self-directed, self-corrective thinking and self-guided. It incorporates problem-solving abilities, practical communication skills, and the tenacity to surmount your native sociocentrism (a tendency of viewing the world from your cultural or social perspective) and egocentrism( failure to differentiate yourself from others).

You can take a look at my other article to learn more: How to Develop Critical Thinking Skills and Think Clearer

5. Interactive Planning

Russell L. Ackoff defined it as establishing a future by creating a desirable present. Interacting Planning or IAP is a technique employed by project managers to engage relevant stakeholders, as well as subject matter experts.

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The engagement process includes a collective discussion of the project plan and the strategy to design a dependable, holistic, and an active project schedule. It is often called Participative Planning(PP).

A notable benefit of this method is it helps everyone to understand the project scope and design a realistic schedule. It is also a conduit pipe for effective communication to flow. It is relevant in identifying critical milestones, constraints, and assumptions.

6. Force-Field Analysis

This analysis pinpoints the competing forces that surround an issue and employs brainstorming to discover the solutions. It was invented in the 1940s by Kurt Lewin. He initially utilized the technique in his project as a social psychologist. However, it has found relevance in the business environment. It is useful in establishing, sharing go, or no-go decisions.

The concept of this technique is that circumstances are established via a balance between forces that drive disruption or change and the ones that resist it. The driving actors must be empowered to cause change, or the negating forces must be weakened. [1]

7. K-J Method

It is a technique that derived its name from its inventor, Jiro Kawakita. It is a facilitated session where participants highlight their priorities on a card, collate them collectively, and arrange them by relationship via individual voting.

The objective of the method is to arrive at a consensus of valid information, especially in a group where individuals are bound to disagree.

Here I’ll just briefly describe how to implement it:[2]

  1. Gather five or more individuals together in a conducive room for 90 minutes. Give them markers and sticky notes.
  2. Establish a focused question that bothers on the project’s requirement and assign a facilitator to oversee the exercise
  3. Allocate 5 minutes for writing three answers to the items on the notes.
  4. Allocate 15 minutes to participants to stick their answers on the board, read others’ responses, and add to it. Guide them to cluster similar solutions without discussing them.
  5. Request participants to label each cluster individually. Make this mandatory. They can also segregate clusters.
  6. Put each name on the board cluster-by-cluster. Isolate duplicate words.
  7. Combine duplicate responses as long as the group agrees they are similar.
  8. Three or four teams will typically rank higher compared to others-those responses are relevant for the question.

8. Lateral Thinking

This technique is all about looking at a concept from different angles. It is a deliberate and systematic process.

Check out the article Think Laterally to learn more.

10. Play to Innovate Method

Individuals and teams unlock their innate potentialities by going through a fascinating, play-like technique. This method harnesses the creative power of the brain using playfulness.

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Several people believe we work to sustain a living outside of work. We go through work and life without locating a means of staying happy. Play to innovate methods changes the ball game. It asks, ” What if we adjust the work culture and provide reasons for people to work without monetary incentives. This hack examines making work playful while enjoying the benefits of creativity and innovation. [3]

10. SWOT Analysis

SWOT is an acronym that stands for Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats. You can find out more about this in How SWOT Analysis Turns Risks Into Opportunities.

How To Be More Creative If You’re Not Naturally Creative

Besides the above thinking methods, start trying the following ways to be more creative:

1. Distinguish Between Problem-Solving and Ruminating

It is helpful to think about approaches that will aid you in surmounting a challenge, but it is less productive to picture yourself unable to accommodate the pain. Anytime you are deliberating on a matter, take time out to see if you are problem-solving, or just ruminating.

If the former, sustain the process. But if you are thinking about things you cannot control or that have occurred, it is a mere waste of time. Declutter your mind and allow your brain to focus on meaningful and productive activities.

2. Implement the Same Advice You Will Give a Confidant.

A lot of people find it easy to criticize themselves. Do you know that magnifying your weak points will only limit and drag you down?

Research has linked self-compassion to emotional well-being. The NCBI research indicated that self-compassion affects every dimension of well-being. It enhances your self-esteem and activates your can-do spirit. [4]

Therefore, speak to yourself as you would talk to a friend.

3. Name-Tag Your Emotion

Most people, especially men, rarely talk about their feelings. Thus, a lot of people have created a gap between themselves and their feelings. This will only make it difficult for you to detect how you feel at any point in time.

Most times, when you name-tag your feelings as adults, you do so using an indirect approach. You say something like, “I have butterflies in my stomach,” when you are nervous.

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It is not a sin to acknowledge your feeling. Give those emotions names and identify how they can impact your decisions.

Spend time each day to perform emotional acknowledgment exercise. If something bothers you, note it down instead of transferring aggression (the consequence of not taking charge of your emotion) on others.

4. Balance Your Feelings with Logic

Peradventure you are battling with a chronic disease or facing a difficult financial situation, you will make informed decisions when you can establish an equilibrium between your emotion and logic. Allow the rational part of you to lead when your emotion is attaining its peak.

Another approach to step down your emotions is to identify the consequences of your actions. Perusing the list will enable you to minimize the influence of your emotions on your decision.

5. Practice Gratitude

Research has found out that gratitude-oriented people exhibit increased wellness. A deliberate focus on the good side of life will produce interpersonal and emotional benefits, including happiness. [5]

Negative people can never be creative. Make a habit of listing what you are grateful for- the morning breakfast, the sunny weather, the green pasture, and many more. Practice journaling before retiring to bed. Allow your brain to reflect on the right things happening within and around you. Focusing on the sunny aspect of life will impact your wellness.

Get more inspirations with these 32 Things You Should Be Grateful For.

6. Develop a Healthy Mentality

If you desire to attain a peak in life, educate your brain now and then. You need to train your brain for success by speaking positive and meaningful words.

Bonus: Crack Your Cocoon!

According to Bill Stainton, isolating ourselves from weird people, or what he called ‘staying inside our cocoon’ robs us of creative ideas that possess the highest capability to address our biggest challenges. It is by cracking your cocoon or embracing individuals and weird experiences that you will discover the link that leads to breakthrough ideas. [6]

Bottom Line

Creativity is a seed of greatness. You can become great and significant only if you take the responsibility to train your brain for breakthrough ideas.

There are many techniques to adapt to nurture your innate creativity to fruition. Find what works for you, and do not forget to crack your cocoon! Creativity can rub on you when you associate with creative people.

More to Boost Your Creativity

Featured photo credit: Jessica Lewis via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on July 29, 2020

How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership

How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership

Have you been thinking of how you can be a more strategic leader during these uncertain times? Has the pandemic thrown a wrench at all your carefully laid out plans and initiatives?

You’re not alone. The truth is, we all want some stability in our careers and teams during this disruptive pandemic.

However, this now requires a bit more effort than before and making the leap from merely surviving to thriving means buckling down to some serious strategic thinking and maintaining a determined mindset.

Is There a Way to Thrive Despite These Disruptions?

Essentially – yes, although you need to be willing to put in the work. Every leader wants to develop strategic thinking skills so that they can enhance overall team performance and boost their company’s success, but what exactly does it mean to be strategic in the context of the times we live in?

If you happen to be in a leadership position in your organization right now, you are most probably navigating precarious waters given the disruptions caused by the pandemic. There’s a lot more pressure than before because your actions and decisions will have a much greater impact these days not just on you, but also to the people who are part of your team.

Companies often bring me in to coach executives on strategic thinking and planning. And while pre-pandemic I would usually start by highlighting the advantages of strategic thinking, nowadays, I always begin these Zoom coaching sessions by driving home the point that this pandemic has now made strategic thinking not just an option but an absolute must.

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Assessing and making plans through the lens of a good strategy might require significant work at first. Nevertheless, you can take comfort in the fact that the rewards will far outweigh the effort, as you’ll soon see after following the 8 strategic steps I have outlined below.

8 Steps to Strategic Thinking

As events unfold during these strange times, you’re bound to feel wrong-footed every now and then. Being a leader during this pandemic means preparing for more change not just for you, but for your whole team as well.

As states and cities go through a cycle of lockdowns and reopening, employees will experience the full gamut of human emotions in dizzying speed, and you will often be called on to provide insight and stability to your team and workplace.

Strategic thinking is all about anticipation and preparation. Rather than expending your energy merely helping your company put out fires and survive, you can put the time to better use by charting out a solid plan that can protect and help you and your company thrive.

Take the following steps to build solid initiatives and roll out successful projects:

Step 1: Step Back, Then Set the Scope

One of the things that leaders get wrong during their first attempt at strategic thinking is expecting that it is just another item on a checklist. The truth is, you need to take a good, long look at the bigger picture before anything else. This means decisively prioritizing and stepping away from tasks that can be delegated to others. Free up your schedule so you can focus on this crucial task at hand.

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Then, proceed with setting the scope and the strategic goals of the project or initiative you plan to build or execute. Ask yourself the bigger question of why you need to embark on a particular project and when would be the right time to do so.

You need to set a timeline as well, anywhere from 6 months to 5 years. Keep in mind that your projections will deteriorate the further out you go as you make longer-term plans.

For this reason, add extra resources, flexibility, and resilience if you have a longer timeline. You should also be making the goals less specific if you’re charting it out for the longer term.

Step 2: Make a List of Experts

Make and keep a list of credible people who can contribute solid insight and feedback to your initiative. This could range from key stakeholders to industry experts, mentors, and even colleagues who previously planned and rolled out similar projects.

Reach out to the people on this list regularly while you work through the steps to bring diverse insight into your planning process. This way, you will be able to approach any problem from every angle.

Bringing key stakeholders into this initial process will also display your willingness to listen and empathize with their issues. In return, this will build trust and potentially pave the way for smoother buy-in down the line.

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Step 3: Anticipate the Future

After identifying your goals and gathering feedback, it’s time to consider what the future would look like if everything goes as you intuitively anticipate. Then, lay out the kind and amount of resources (money, time, social capital) that might be needed to keep this anticipated future running.

Step 4: Brainstorm on Potential Internal and External Problems

Next, think of how the future would look if you encountered unexpected problems internal and external to the business activity that seriously jeopardize your expected vision of the future. Write out what kind of potential problems you might encounter, including low-probability ones.

Assess the likelihood that you will run into each problem. To gauge, multiply the likelihood by the number of resources needed to address the problem. Try to convert the resources into money if possible so that you can have a single unit of measurement.

Then, think of what steps you can take to address these internal and external problems before they even happen. Write out how much you expect these steps might cost. Lastly, add up all the extra resources that may be needed because of the different possible problems and all the steps you committed to taking to address them in advance.

Step 5: Identify Potential Opportunities, Internal and External

Imagine how your expected plan would look if unexpected opportunities came up. Most of these will be external but consider internal ones as well. Then, gauge the likelihood of each scenario and the number of resources you would need to take advantage of each opportunity. Convert the resources into money if possible.

Then, think of what steps you can take in advance to take advantage of unexpected opportunities and write out how much you expect these steps might cost. Finally, add up all the extra resources that may be needed because of the different unexpected opportunities and all the steps you committed to taking to address them in advance.

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Step 6: Check for Cognitive Biases

Check for potential cognitive biases that are relevant to you personally or to the organization as a whole, and adjust the resources and plans to address such errors.[1] Make sure to at least check for loss aversion, status quo bias, confirmation bias, attentional bias, overconfidence, optimism bias, pessimism bias, and halo and horns effects.

Step 7: Account for Unknown Unknowns (Black Swans)

To have a more effective strategy, account for black swans as well. These are unknown unknowns -unpredictable events that have potentially severe consequences.

To account for these black swans, add 40 percent to the resources you anticipate. Also, consider ways to make your plans more flexible and secure than you intuitively feel is needed.

Step 8: Communicate and Take the Next Steps

Communicate the plan to your stakeholders, and give them a heads up about the additional resources needed. Then, take the next steps to address the unanticipated problems and take advantage of the opportunities you identified by improving your plans, as well as allocating and reserving resources.

Finally, take note that there will be cases when you’ll need to go back and forth these steps to make improvements, (a fix here, an improvement there) so be comfortable with revisiting your strategy and reaching out to your list of experts.

Conclusion

A great way to deal with feelings of uncertainty during this pandemic is to anticipate obstacles with a good plan – and a sure road to that is practicing strategic thinking.

In the coming months and years, you’ll need to continue navigating uncharted territory so that you can lead your team to safe waters. Regularly doing these 8 steps to strategic thinking will ensure that you can prepare for and adapt  to the coming changes with increasing clarity, perspective, and efficiency.[2]

More on Thinking Smarter

Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

Reference

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