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Not Good At Creativity? You Will Be After Reading This.

Not Good At Creativity? You Will Be After Reading This.

Do you ever look at the work of your friends and colleagues and wish you were as creative as they are?  How about when you’re in the middle of a project and you run out of ideas?  You rack your brain trying to force the next great epiphany but nothing comes.

So you take a break for a while and move on to something else. You might even lose sleep over it. You return to it the next day and find that you’re not closer to any inspiration than you were when you left it. It takes you forever to come up with mediocre ideas while the people around you are producing masterpieces left and right.

The problem isn’t that you’re not creative. The problem is that you’re not tapping into your own resources. It takes intentionally developed mental strength to be creative.

1. Overcome any self-doubt.

Self-doubt is a mental block that wipes out creativity. If you are notorious for having self doubt, try this exercise to open up the flood gates of creativity.

Picture your finished project.  What does it feel like?  Whom has it inspired? Picture it well, smell it, taste it, feel it. Now take a mental picture. This is now your mental model that’s attached to this project. When the doubt creeps in, pull this picture and the feeling attached to it into your conscious mind. Your self-doubt should crumble away.

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“The worst enemy to creativity is self doubt.”  –Sylvia Plath

And by the way, you can write about anything in life if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.

2. Make time.

Set time aside to work on your project. Incorporate a creative environment that brings inspiration, motivation and comfort.

“One very important aspect of motivation is the willingness to stop and to look at things that no one else has bothered to look at. This simple process of focusing on things that are normally taken for granted is a powerful source of creativity.” –Edward de Bono

3. Keep an open mind.

The subconscious mind is always coming up with ideas. They come in phrases, pictures, and sometimes in pieces, like a puzzle. Stay open to little ideas that crop up.  Don’t dismiss them as stupid or ridiculous. Write these epiphanies down and stay open.  It might not be the entire picture, but it could, quite possibly be an important piece of the puzzle. Research, explore and broaden your horizons.

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“Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people” –Leo Burnett

4. Fight fear of failure and rejection.

Don’t ever be afraid of creating junk. The most beautiful masterpieces, in art and in life, begin as what appears as junk.

Your mistakes and rejections can be masterpieces for someone else.  When you make a mistake, or are rejected, learn from that experience to help someone else.  Most of the time, when you make a mistake, or try to help someone else from being turned down, you find new inspiration and ideas.

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” –Scott Adams

5. Build confidence with baby steps.

When a child learns to walk they begin by falling—a lot. They keep practicing, and falling (failing) until finally they can take big steps. One tiny step sets the foundation for a bigger step tomorrow. Start by working in small time increments.

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When you do short bursts, it opens up your subconscious to “marinate” the ideas you’ve already worked on and to combine those with new ones. It’s called the Incubation Process and it’s a powerful technique for creativity and productivity.

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” –Maya Angelou

6. Brainstorm.

Write down everything you can think of that might work or be something you will need at some point.  Look at it from different angles. For example, look at it from the customer’s view when considering value. Look at it from a child’s view when considering simplicity.  Keep writing until your brain is exhausted of ideas.

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try” –Dr. Seuss

7. Incubate.

Brainstorming is the conscious process; incubating is the subconscious process. This is where the majority of creativity comes from. If you really want to boost your creativity, take a break from your project after brainstorming so that your subconscious can bring forth ideas. Literally sleep on it if you have time and see what a huge difference this makes.

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“Creativity is one of the last remaining legal ways of gaining an unfair advantage over the competition.” –Ed Mc Cabe

Mastering the art of creativity simply means combining the mental strength to utilize both your conscious and unconscious mind. Use these tips every single day to increase your mental strength and you will find that the floodgates of creativity will burst open.

Go here for more ways to spur creativity.

Featured photo credit: http://www.morguefile.com/creative/jdurham via morguefile.com

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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