“Creativity is just connecting things.” — Steve Jobs
Does your thinking about creativity go something like this: Creativity seems to be a lucky gift bestowed upon just a few souls. Creative people swoop in and save the day when a fresh idea is needed to overcome a product’s or a company’s current weakness. But you’ll never be Steve Jobs or Don Draper, instead you mill away with your uncreative life, resigned to the knowledge that you just don’t have that gift. Meanwhile the ‘idea guys’ (or girls) move ahead and wow their superiors.
This view is erroneous in many ways. The most important way in which it’s wrong is its complete misunderstanding of what creativity is. Creativity isn’t just the ability to brainstorm, or come up with fanciful artistic concepts. Creativity is about making connections between ideas in a unique way. And that’s something that we can all do, because the connections we make are all unique to us.
Maybe you’re the only salsa dancer in your corporation. Or, while everyone in your office loves Duck Dynasty, you’re the only adult that can honestly say you still watch Scooby-Doo cartoons on the weekends. These traits are unique to you and the connections you make with them will be the key to creating unique ideas.
What follows are 10 tips and tools for drawing those unique connections out and using them to become the most creative you possible:
1. Realize The Connections You Make Are Unique
You are the only one who has your life experience, and it’s the connections this experience generates that lead to creativity. Realizing that the ideas you’re having are unique to you as an individual lends them credence, they’re not to be taken lightly because they are ideas only you could have developed.
2. Learn About The Subject
Learning fertilizes new ideas. When you learn about a subject your brain is firing at full speed, making new connections to aid your understanding; these new connections are the ‘creativity’ you seek. Pick up a book about the subject you’re trying to tackle. I guarantee by the end of the first chapter you’ll notice all the new connections your mind is generating as you learn the subject matter.
3. Talk To Someone Else
Ideally it would be someone who knows more about the subject than you do. For instance emailing an advertising blogger and asking for a few minutes to chat on the phone about a marketing strategy your company is looking to develop. Or, on the other hand, someone totally unlike yourself — your cousin’s boyfriend who manages a coffee shop, or your friend’s cousin who is an aspiring country music star. Take the them and your common friend out for coffee and talk about the project, then listen to what they think. And really listen, they see the world differently from you and the connections they make will be unlike any connections made by you or your co-workers.
4. Come Up With Bad Ideas
Take a piece of paper and resolve to fill it up with ideas, even if you need just one. Then write the ideas you have down, not just the good ones, but the bad ones, too. Fill that sheet of paper up and pare down the bad ideas after you finish. But get the bad ideas onto the paper because oftentimes bad ideas lead to great ones later on.
5. Write Your Ideas Down
Your brain is making unique connections all day long, you can’t help it. When you go to the grocery store and see a new display, when you read a book, or when you watch a movie your brain is making connections. You simply don’t notice them, so start writing these connections down. Keep a notepad on you and write down these creative (sometimes silly) ideas. This will get you used to noticing these connections and will make it easier for you to generate new ideas when you’re called upon to do so.
6. Learn New Things
This differs from tip number 2 because it doesn’t have to pertain to a specific subject. Even if something doesn’t relate directly to your life or your work, learn about it. New things create new connections. It’s completely possible that the documentary you watched on Leonardo da Vinci could create a connection that seems like creativity gold to your manager at work. So, anything you want to learn about — art, music, anything — can lead to new connections and fresh ideas.
7. Do Creative Things
Whether it’s sketching, painting, writing short stories, or woodworking, nurse your creative gene if you want your creativity to become more reliable. The more creative you allow your life to be, the more creative you can be at work, where your creativity will count.
8. Travel More
It doesn’t have to be a weekend in the Caribbean, but a short drive to the country to hit up the rural fruit stands will create new experiences for you. New experiences are the foundation for new connections, so start collecting new experiences with weekend drives to the other side of town where you can go for a short walk or try a new restaurant.
9. Join A Club
This is like a steroid shot for boosting creativity. You gain a wealth of new knowledge, new experiences, and new interactions in a short period of time. Your brain is racing to create new connections and your creativity level shoots through the roof. In addition to this, clubs are a great place to network. Meetup.com is a great place to find all kinds of clubs for a variety of interests.
10. Be Present
When you’re thinking about what you want for dinner tonight your brain is ignoring the stimuli around it and is instead taking a predictable, uncreative route. Instead, try and be present more often, allow your brain to take note of what is being said around you, what you’re seeing, and even what you’re thinking, let these connections flow and use them to get comfortable generating new ideas.