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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 May 26, 2020

7 Most Effective Problem Solving Techniques That Smart People Use

7 Most Effective Problem Solving Techniques That Smart People Use

Problems are, by their very nature, problematic. There are life problems, work problems, creative problems, and relationship problems. When we’re lucky, intuition takes over, and we solve a problem right away. When we’re not so lucky, we get stuck.

We might spend weeks or even months obsessing over how to write that term paper, get out of debt, or win back the love of our life. But instead of obsessing, let’s look at some effective problem solving techniques that people in the know rely on.

Ideation Vs Evaluation

It’s important to first understand and separate two stages of creativity before we look at effective problem solving techniques. Ideation is like brainstorming. It’s the stage of creativity where we’re looking for as many possible solutions as we can think of. There’s no judgment or evaluation of ideas at this stage. More is more.

After we’ve come up with as many solutions as possible, only then can we move onto the evaluation stage. This is when we analyze each possible solution and think about what works and what doesn’t. Here’s when all those good ideas from ideation rise to the top and the outlandish and impractical ones are abandoned.

7 Problem Solving Techniques That Work

Everyone has different ways of solving problems. Some are more creative, some are more organized. Some prefer to work on problems alone, others with a group. Check out the problem solving techniques below and find one that works for you.

1. Lean on Your Squad

The first of our seven problem solving techniques is to surround yourself with people you trust. Sometimes problems can be solved alone, but other times, you need some help.

There’s a concept called emergence that begins to explain why groups may be better for certain kinds of problem solving. Steven Johnson describes emergence as bottom up system organization.[1] My favorite example is an ant colony. Ants don’t have a president or boss telling them what to do. Instead, the complicated organization of the ant colony comes out of each individual ant just fulfilling their biological destiny.

Group creativity can also take on an emergent quality. When individuals really listen to, support, and add onto each other’s ideas, the sum of that group creativity can be much more than what any individual could have created on their own.

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Therefore, if you are struggling to solve a problem, you may want to find a group of people with whom you can collaborate, so you can start riffing with them about possible solutions.

2. Regulate Your Emotions

The next of the problem solving techniques is to be honest about how you’re feeling. We can’t solve problems as efficiently when we’re stressed out or upset, so starting with some emotional self-awareness goes a long way in helping us problem solve.

Dr. Daniel Siegel famously tells us to “Name it to tame it.” [2] He’s talking about naming our feelings, which offers us a better chance of regulating ourselves. I have to know that I’m stressed or upset if I want to calm down quickly in order to get back to a more optimal problem-solving state.

After you know how you’re feeling, you can take steps to regulate that feeling. If you’re feeling stressed out or upset, you can take a walk or try breathing exercises. Mindfulness exercises can also help you regain your sense of presence.

3. Listen

One thing that good problem solvers do is listen. They collect all the information they can and process it carefully before even attempting to solve the problem.

It’s tempting to jump right in and start problem solving before the scope of the problem is clear. But that’s a mistake.

Smart problem solvers listen carefully in order to get as many points of view and perspectives as possible. This allows them to gain a better understanding of the problem, which gives them a huge advantage in solving that problem.

4. Don’t Label Ideas as Bad…Yet

The fourth of the seven problem solving techniques is to gather as many possible solutions as you can. There are no bad ideas…yet.

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Think back to the two stages of creativity. When we are in the ideation stage, we shouldn’t be evaluating each other’s ideas, input, and possible solutions.

When we evaluate, judge, and criticize during the ideation stage, we inadvertently hamper creativity. One possible outcome of evaluating during ideation is creative suppression.[3]

When someone responds to someone else’s creative input with judgment or criticism, creative suppression can occur if the person who had the idea shuts down because of that judgment or criticism.

Imagine you’re at a meeting brainstorming ways to boost your sales numbers. You suggest hiring a new team member, but your colleague rolls their eyes and says that can’t happen since the numbers are already down.

Now, your colleague may be 100% correct. However, their comment might make you shut down for the rest of the meeting, which means your team won’t be getting any more possible solutions from you.

If your colleague had waited to evaluate the merits of your idea until after the brainstorming session, your team could have come up with more possible solutions to their current problem.

During the ideation stage, more is more. We want as many ideas as possible, so reserve the evaluation until there’s no more ideating left to do.

Another trick for better ideating is to “Yes And” each other’s ideas[4] In improvisation, there’s a principle known as “Yes And.” It means that one improviser should agree with the other’s idea for the scene and then add a new detail onto that reality.

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For example, if someone says, “I can’t hear over your loud music,” the other person needs to go along with that idea and then add onto it. They might say, “Sorry, I’ll turn it down, but I don’t think everyone else here at the club will appreciate it.”

Now the scene is getting interesting. We’re in a club, and the DJ is going to turn the music down. Playing “Yes And” with each other made the scene better by filling in details about who and where the improvisers are.

Yes Anding also works well during ideation sessions. Since we’ve already established that we shouldn’t be evaluating each other’s ideas yet, Yes Anding gives us something we can do. We can see the merits of each other’s ideas and try to build on them. This will make all of our possible solutions more fully realized than a simple laundry list.

5. Approach Problems With Playfulness

Approaching problem solving too seriously can exacerbate the problem. Sometimes we get too fixated on finding solutions and lose a sense of playfulness and fun.

It makes sense. When there are deadlines and people counting on us, we can try to force solutions, but stepping back and approaching problems from a more playful perspective can lead to more innovative solutions.

Think about how children approach problem solving. They don’t have the wealth of wisdom that decades on this planet give. Instead, they play around and try out imaginative and sometimes unpractical approaches.

That’s great for problem solving. Instead of limiting ourselves to how things have always been done, a sense of play and playfulness can lead us to truly innovative, out-of-the-box solutions.

6. Let the Unconscious Mind Roam

This may seem counterintuitive, but another technique to try when you become too fixated on a problem is to take a break to let the unconscious mind take over for a bit.

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Our conscious brain can only handle a limited amount of information at a time. Plus, it’s energetically exhausting to use our conscious brain for problem solving. Think about a time when you were studying for a test. It’s draining.[5]

But we’re in luck. There’s another part of our brain that isn’t draining and can integrate tons more information at a time—our unconscious.

This is why you come up with your best ideas in the shower or on your way to work or while you’re jogging. When you give your conscious brain a break, your unconscious has a chance to sift through mounds of information to arrive at solutions.

It’s how I write my articles. With my conscious brain, I think about which article I’m going to write. My problem is how to write it, so once I think carefully about the topic, I take a break. Then, the structure, sources, content, and sometimes phrasing happens in fits and starts while I’m not thinking about the article at all. It happens when I’m lying in bed, showering, and walking in the woods.

The key is to get in the habit of practicing this alternation between conscious and unconscious problem solving and to absolutely not force solutions. Sometimes, you just need to take a little break.

7. Be Candid

The last of the problem solving techniques happens during the evaluation stage. If we’re going to land on the best possible solution to our problems, we have to be able to openly and honestly evaluate ideas.

During the evaluating stage, criticism and feedback need to be delivered honestly and respectfully. If an idea doesn’t work, that needs to be made clear. The goal is that everyone should care about and challenge each other. This creates an environment where people take risks and collaborate because they trust that everyone has their best interest in mind and isn’t going to pull any punches.

Final Thoughts

In order to come up with the best solutions for problems, ideation and evaluation have to be two distinct steps in the creative process. Then, you should tap into some of the above techniques to get your ideas organized and your problems solved.

Hopefully, these seven problem solving techniques will help your problems be less…problematic.

More Tips for Problem Solving

Featured photo credit: Daria Nepriakhina via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Steven Johnson: Emergence
[2] Dr. Dan Siegel: The whole-brain child
[3] American Psychological Association: Creative mortification
[4] Play Your Way Sane: And What?: Yes And
[5] Daniel Kahneman: Thinking, Fast and Slow

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