The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away –Linus Pauling
Artists have made it their profession to be creative. They live and breathe creativity and some even manage to get paid well for it. But where does that leave the rest of us, who will not generally say that they are very creative?
The reality is that when we are born, everything is new, and everything is possible, because we do not know of limitations and rules yet. Over time, we get shaped by the experiences me make and stick more and more to the tried and tested.
I would like to invite you to listen to the (18 minute) TED talk on how education kills creativity, I felt it complements this article quite well, before reading and find out how to foster creativity again to come up with new ideas and solutions when you need them.
The brain needs newness
The main take-away from the TED talk is that, for educational systems all over the world, knowledge is more important than creativity. When we were children a simple chair was a mountain that had to be climbed, as an adult this same chair is just a chair to sit or stand on with the risk to fall and break your neck. Where is the fun in that?
We need to see things around us differently again and recognize the possibilities we have. To achieve this, we must start with recognizing our daily routines and then break them. I am not saying to give them all up, because routines give us comfort and control. And of course a chair can still be a chair, and you can still break your neck, which is still no fun, but what else can you do with that chair?
To be creative, the brain needs newness. The brain needs new inputs, new stimuli in order to make new associations and to be able to connect the dots differently.
Start to make small changes today in your daily routine to spice up your life and make it more fun again.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- If you always drink coffee in the morning, drink tea instead or try your coffee with/without milk/sugar;
- If you use make-up and particularly like red nail polish, go buy another color, or try a new color tie, dare to make some changes;
- If there is a longer route to work, get up a little bit earlier and try that route;
- Have lunch at a new place or if you always eat pepperoni pizza, try the Hawaiian pizza (yes, that’s the one with pineapple topping);
- If you shower in the evening, try taking a shower in the morning;
- Talk to a colleague you have never talked to before;
- Phone your friend instead of texting or swipe right instead of left when you hesitate on Tinder;
- Walk to your next meeting instead of taking an UBER or BIRD;
- If you always listen to one type of music, try to find the best of a style you would not usually listen to.
As benign as these actions may seem, the key is to start making a few little things differently in your daily routine to give your brain new food for thoughts. It does not matter what you change in one given day, as long as you get out of your comfort zone doing so.
*** BONUS ***
When you are thinking about ways to experience new things, try to look for experiences that stimulate your 5 senses (vision, smell, taste, touch and hearing). Experiences are stored much more deeply into our mind when we can associate them with more than one sense.
Your subconscious mind to the rescue, your partner in crime
Even if you do not feel a change in creativity in your conscious mind immediately, giving your brain new input will gradually improve your ability to think and look at problems differently. And it is your subconscious mind that will help you do so.
Because your subconscious mind will be processing new inputs and storing them with all the other memories you already have, allowing you to make new connections.
One technique to tap into your subconscious mind, is to make the problem at hand your mind’s main priority or thought. Initially, this will feel like looping around a problem without a solution, but what you are actually doing, is prepping your brain to process the problem through the subconscious mind when your main brain activity is at rest or going to standby.
Many people say that the best ideas come when they lay down to go to bed, for some others they come during the night and for even others it’s in the shower. Usually any place where you feel relaxed and can let your mind wander a bit, so that your subconscious mind can create new associations that you may not have thought of before.
*** 3 EXTRA TIPS ***
- Write down ideas immediately. Keep pen & paper or an app ready in arms reach. The trick here is to write down new ideas when they come, otherwise you risk forgetting them.
- Identify the moment during your day when you feel particularly creative and try to take an extra 5 minutes to remain in that creative state of mind just a little longer.
- If you now feel that you can take your creativity to the next level, I recommend you look at the technique of the SCAMPER tool. You can look it up yourself or have a look at this simple article explaining the methodology.
Few ideas are truly revolutionary, and you do not need to be an artist in order to be creative. Because most ideas are created by looking at a problem from a different angle, you can solve it with experiences and input from other areas by making new associations through your subconscious mind.
Unfortunately, the older we get, the more we tend to think about and do things in the same way again and again, and this limits our capacity to think outside of the box. We go to the same restaurants, we order the same food, we talk to the same people, we find comfort in routine. This post has explored why we should make it our routine to break our routine daily and how we can help our subconscious mind to do the heavy-lifting coming up with new ideas.
Now, let’s put breaking our routine into practice by reading our next-level post on the importance of validating ideas. It will give you valuable insights into acting upon your new business ideas and separating the good from the bad ones, once you are ready for it.