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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 November 23, 2020

How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

Your neighbors downstairs are playing loud music. Again. How do they not get tired of partying? And why do they choose songs with such a heavy downbeat that the glass in your cupboard is vibrating every two seconds? What can you do to get some peace that you deserve? What should you?

Human mind tends to go in circles whenever faced with a problem without a clear solution. It becomes easy to forget the big picture and get lost in anger and self-pity, wasting our precious time, energy and enthusiasm.

Would it not be nice if we always remembered to put things in perspective?

Would it not be more efficient to face all kinds of problems, from tiny annoyances to life-changing emergencies, with a calm demeanor, sharp focus and fearless determination to promptly take the most efficient action possible?

Alas, humans are not like that. All too often we let anxiety or greed get the best of us and make a rushed or shortsighted decision that we quickly come to regret. Other times, we spend weeks or months at an impasse, rehashing the exact same arguments, unable to accept the compromise required to move forward with any of the available options.

Buddhists talk about getting lost in the “small self.” In this state of mind, we literally forget the big picture and focus on the small one. We start taking our daily problems too personally and, paradoxically, becomes less capable of solving them in an efficient manner. And this is the opposite of big picture thinking.

Let me share with you a story related to big picture thinking…

In 1812, the French army of Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia.[1] After a decisive Battle of Borodino, the capture of Moscow and therefore Napoleon’s victory in the war seemed inevitable.

Unexpectedly, the Russian Commander-in-Chief Mikhail Kutuzov made a highly controversial decision of retreating and allowing the French to capture Moscow. Much of the population had been evacuated taking supplies with them. The city itself was set on fire and large parts of it burned into the ground.

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After waiting in vain for Russia to capitulate, Napoleon had to retreat in the middle of a bitterly cold winter. He won the battle but lost the war. The campaign ended in a disaster and the near destruction of the French army.

What can we learn from this historical lesson?

1. Focus on the Consequences

Napoleon focused on the important part: capturing Moscow. Nobody could accuse him of thinking small. Yet he overlooked that the Russian army could still fight even after giving up the country’s most important city.

So was Moscow not an important target after all?

Success expert Brian Tracy has a litmus test: things are important to the extent that they have important consequences. Things are unimportant to the extent that they have no important consequences.[2]

When faced with a choice, ask yourself, what would be the consequences of each option?

  • Want to spend an hour studying or watching the new series on Netflix? What would be the consequences of each option? Netflix can sometimes be a better choice, but it helps to put things in perspective.
  • Want to maintain your apartment by yourself or to pay a cleaning service? Would would be the consequences of each option?
  • Want to meet up for coffee with this acquaintance of yours or catch up on your work instead? What would be the consequences of each option?

The choice can be different for different people. An aspiring filmmaker may have a legitimate reason for choosing Netflix. Personally, cleaning your own apartment can be relaxing and nourishing even if the economics of hiring a cleaner looks compelling because you are earning a high hourly rate.

This is where you will need a basic idea of who you are — what are your goals, values and aspirations.

2. Flip Defeat Into Victory

Kutuzov managed to turn Russia’s defeat into a historic victory by recasting the problem in a wider context: losing Moscow need not mean losing the war.

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Despite the symbolic meaning attached to the Kremlin, the churches, the priceless treasures that had been stored in the city for centuries, the outcome of the campaign was ultimately determined by the strength of the remaining armies.

If you can adopt this result-oriented perspective, many of your personal defeats may be flipped into victories as well. Few events in a human life are absolutely good or absolutely bad, and it usually takes many years to recognize in retrospect, what role a particular encounter did play in your story.

Therefore we have every reason to look for the good in the things that happen to us.

This is a very practical attitude, far from baseless “positive thinking.” After all, if something unfortunate has happened to you and you find good sides in this circumstance, you will then be better positioned to take advantage of those good sides.

Say your noisy neighbors are affecting your productivity. What if it is a blessing in disguise? How can you turn this defeat into a victory?

  • Perhaps you are too serious about life and could learn how to have more fun. Join your neighbors or go out for a walk instead of working;
  • Perhaps you only wanted to be productive while instead procrastinated on social media. Now that your procrastination has been interrupted, stop and acknowledge this much greater obstacle to your productivity;
  • Perhaps you are too sensitive to interference. Take this opportunity to practice ignoring the noise and doing your best anyway;
  • Perhaps you have a victim mentality and the feeling of unfairness drains you more than any actual nuisance your neighbors might have caused. Try accepting this lapse in your productivity the way you would accept bad weather.

Get used to finding opportunities in your problems. This is the quintessential big picture thinking.

3. Ask for Advice

Both Napoleon and Kutuzov had trusted advisers to discuss their affairs with. In general, getting a different perspective — or several — can only help inform your understanding and lead to better decisions. Just ensure that the people giving you advice are competent in the particular area where experience is needed.

Paying money for advice can also be a wise investment. Lawyers, tax accountants, medical doctors spend years learning how to assist people like yourself in living more successful, more fulfilling lives.

A quick legal consultation can save you a fortune down the line or even keep you out of big trouble. A medical check-up can uncover potential issues and help keep you healthy and active for years to come.

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Even big, complex dilemmas at your job or in your romantic relationship can be tackled more effectively by partnering up with a coach or a therapist or, of course, with the help of a wise friend.

4. Beware of Biased Advice

Many imperfect decisions occur in response to an imperfect piece of advice that you choose to act on. This advice often comes from a biased party.

For example, we are often encouraged to buy something that we supposedly need:

  • Protect your skin from harmful UV rays by using a special lotion.
  • Fortify your health by taking multivitamins.
  • Connect with your friends by sending them elaborate gifts.
  • Brighten your weekend by consuming a delicious pastry.
  • Become more productive by getting a faster computer.

However, most purchases are unnecessary.

Some, such as the sunscreen, do have legitimate benefits when used properly.[3] Others, such as multivitamins, only make a difference for a small group of people.[4]

Advertisers of those benefits inevitably want to narrow your focus in order to overstate the importance of their product. They frequently present it as the only solution to your problem, whether real or imaginary.

After all,

  • Skin can also be protected from the sun by wearing appropriate clothing.
  • Health can be better fortified by consuming a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
  • Spending time or talking on the phone with your friends is the foremost way of connecting with them, and it is virtually free.
  • Your weekend can be brightened by doing something that you love.
  • You can become more productive by focusing on the tasks that have the most important consequences. A faster computer can, in fact, decrease productivity by making it easier to multitask and by enabling your favorite distractions.

There are other sources of imperfect advice. Politicians also frequently want us to focus on a particular “big picture,” to the exclusion of the alternatives.

Even loving parents can be guilty of the same. They can advise their children to pick a career path that is safe and respectable, based on their “big picture” that in life one has to make a living. A child may disagree, however, based on another “big picture” that one’s life has to have meaning and fulfillment.

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Bottom Line

It is human nature to make rushed, emotional decisions based on incomplete information, then regret those decisions later on.

You can protect yourself from poor judgment by striving to attain the big picture when careful consideration is called for.

Focus on the consequences of your decision before considering how you feel about it.

Play with the cards you’ve been dealt, but look for opportunities in each situation and you will find them.

Ask knowledgeable mentors for advice, but beware of biased people who have an opinion, but do not necessarily have your best interest in mind.

Yet remember, true big picture thinking comes from hard-won experience. Legendary military commanders Napoleon Bonaparte and Mikhail Kutuzov were both injured on the battlefield.

Clear thinking comes from putting your big picture to the test of reality.

More Tips on Thinking Clearly

Featured photo credit: Haneen Krimly via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Wikipedia: French invasion of Russia
[2] Brian Tracy: No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline
[3] American Academy of Dermatology: Say Yes to Sun Protection
[4] Harvard Medical School: Do multivitamins make you healthier?

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