As you learned in part 1 of this two-part series of posts, becoming more creative involves eight incremental steps that aren’t necessarily linear order, reports Dr. Keith Sawyer, a research psychologist and author of “Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity.”
Sawyer believes that generating good ideas is a skill that can be practiced daily to solve problems and discover opportunities. His final four or eight steps for developing creativity and sample of tips:
1. Generate lots of ideas — Now you generate ideas galore.
- Try toppling. This is where you use free association to keep generating new words. The trick, though, is to use a different kind of connection between each one. For example, if you start with “carrot” you can’t free associate another vegetable; instead, you might pick “stick,” as in the phrase “carrot and a stick,” then “glue” because you’re thinking of a glue stick.
2 Fuse ideas — this involves combining things that don’t typically match. In a recent study, British neuroscientist Paul Howard-Jones asked people to create stories by giving them only three words. To one set of people the words were related, such as “brush,” “teeth,” and “shine.” Another set of people received unrelated words such as “cow,” “zip,” and “star.” The people who received the unrelated words made up more creative stories.
- Engage with people who are different from you. We hang out with people who are like us, and while doing so may be comforting, it’s not stretching. Also try imagining yourself as someone else–such as a chef, a foreign student, a building inspector. How would such people see the world?
3. Choose the best ideas — if you’ve followed the first six steps, you should have gobs of ideas. Now the trick is picking the best ones.
- Look past the good. Once you’ve decided an idea is a good one, identify its pros and cons, assign each one a number between one and 10 according to how important it is. The pro total should be significantly higher than your tally for cons.
4. Make something out of your great ideas — Sawyer salutes Silicon Valley design firm IDEO for its use of “design thinking,” which tries to get simple versions of an idea into the world fast –maybe in an hour or a day–by using simple materials such as clay or cardboard to give shape to a new concept. It’s a way of thinking through making, a process that often creates more ideas.
- Draw a picture. Even if you think you can’t draw, you can at least doodle and no one ever has to see what you put to paper. Abstract problems–such as your relationship with someone or a crushing workload–benefit most from turning them into sketches. Cartooning with exaggerated shapes or using simple symbols helps.
What is your favorite of these eight steps and what steps do you take to stimulate your creativity in business and content marketing?
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