Seven sparks to ignite creativitiy

“Think Different” was one of the most successful ad campaigns for Apple. Thinking radically different paid off for the company, and it would’ve for me if I’d purchased Apple stock when I was considering it at $8 a share (it’s now $650 a share)! Not only did the phrase “Think Different” represent Apple’s unique platform that helped propel it to greatness, but it also defined the process of being creative. Here’s a thought from one of the most creative writers of all time:

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

At the core of creative ideas is originality. In our rapidly changing world, all organizations need creative people with creative ideas, from leadership to the front line.

When I asked Tamara Kleinberg, founder and serial innovator at The Shuuk, how someone can be more creative, she replied, “Give yourself permission. We tend to put a lot of layers on our own ideas before we even put them into the world. We label them as bad, dumb, not good enough or it will never work before our creativity even has a chance to breathe life. It’s the foundation of creativity.”

Seven ways to spark creative ideas

1. Stop thinking. After you gather the best information, focus on something else and let your supercomputer — your subconscious mind — go to work. It can process about 500 times more information than your conscious mind can. That’s the difference between the top speed of a tortoise at 2.4 mph and a fighter jet at 1,200 mph. These techniques allow your subconscious to work:

  • Meditate. Meditation can slow down your conscious thoughts and open your subconscious mind.
  • Daydream. The founder and CEO of a high-tech firm once shared with me: “I earn my paycheck about once a quarter for an idea I have or decision I make that significantly improves the company. It’s usually an idea that comes to me as I’m staring out the window or playing my guitar.”
  • Work out. Working out flushes all the stress hormones, such as cortisol, from your body. It allows your body and mind to relax. A new study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition found that people generate more creative ideas when they walk than when they sit, and this benefit lasts for a period afterward. A director of global sales and a Fortune 100 company I coach told me that some of his most creative ideas come to him when mowing the lawn.
  • Take a shower. Without realizing it, I learned to meditate in the shower. As a child, I loved standing in the shower and zoning out until the hot water ran out. It creates a state of mind much like meditation. This may be TMI, but once while in the shower I wrote the outline of a two-day presentation that had baffled me for weeks. The unifying concept that would tie together the program had eluded me, but it came to me in the shower. So I jumped out, wrote it down and got back in. After the unifying concept formed, the program pieces kept coming to me. So I went back and forth from the shower to my notes until the outline was complete — and I’d run out of hot water.

I’ve taught Harry Truman’s eloquent three-step decision-making process to leaders I coach for decades. It relies on this ability to stop thinking and access the subconscious mind to develop true intuition in decision-making.

2. Embrace your introversion. Many famously creative people are introverts, including Warren Buffett, Steven Spielberg, Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt and Mahatma Gandhi. Introverts are most creative when alone.

3. Express your extroversion. Extroverts are often very creative in group brainstorming processes. Famous extroverts include, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and Muhammad Ali.

4. Laugh. Laughter releases hormones and endorphins that support creative thinking.

5. Realize the impossible is possible. Decide that the solution you seek is not solvable with anything you’ve done before or with knowledge you have, then you’ll have to be very creative. I was once asked to do what I thought impossible: to turn around a slumping professional sports team into a playoff team in two weeks. I found a way.

6. Avoid creativity killers. Some creativity killers are within you, such as being satisfied with the status quo or being afraid to try new things. Other creativity killers include people who always squash your ideas. Avoid them if you can, or ask them to build on your ideas so they don’t have the opportunity to shoot them down.

7. Have the courage to fail … in order to succeed. This is a Success Secret in my soon-to-be-released book, Fearless Leaders. Here’s a quote from it:

“The road to success is paved with the potholes of failure.”

Creativity requires the willingness to fail. Without this, you won’t be truly creative.

In my interview with Tamara Kleinberg, she also said, “Creativity is about connecting the dots in new and meaningful ways. It’s the way we think, solve problems and use our knowledge to reach more innovative solutions. If you can believe you are creative, you will be. The best way to enhance your creativity is to do small, creative things daily. For example, ask one more question when you think you know the answer, or map your thoughts instead of writing them.”

Anyone can be creative. Fearless Leaders are creative thinkers; they have to be. If you want to know how creative and innovative you are, take the Innovation Quotient test.

CoBiz readers are smart people and some of you are creative. I wonder if you’d share what you do to ignite your creativity?

Categories: Management & Leadership