Becoming more creative comes in eight incremental steps. But those steps are not necessarily linear order, says Dr. Keith Sawyer, 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 first four of eight steps for developing creativity and sample of tips include these below and the final are in part 2 of this two-part series of posts:
1. Ask the right question — neither Starbucks nor Instagram would have realized its potential if their founders pursued the original questions. Rather than “How can I recreate the Italian espresso bar in the United States,” Howard Schultz studied what wasn’t working and asked “How can I create a comfortable, relaxing environment to enjoy great coffee?” Kevin Systrom originally considered how he could create a great location-sharing app, and a better question became “How can we create a simple photo-sharing app?”
- Debug your life. Brutally criticize an imperfect product or situation you come in contact with every day. Once you have a list, think of ways to eliminate the annoyances. This can amp creativity because little problems are often symptoms of bigger ones. Steve Jobs, a genius innovator, excelled at finding bugs that distracted from a user’s experience of a product.
2. Become an expert – you have to become a subject expert before you can be creative in it. “Successful creators don’t just like knowledge, they thirst for it. They can’t stop asking questions, and they always go beyond what they’ve learned from teachers and books,” Sawyer writes.
- Listen to TED talks. They’re free videos of inspiring, funny, or fascinating speeches made by brilliant people. You might review 6 TED Talks Every Entrepreneur Should Watch.
3. Be open and aware — creative people are always on the prowl for possible solutions. You can do this by becoming more aware and practicing mindfulness, meaning intentionally observing things and not pegging people you meet based on stereotyping.
- Don’t let accidents annoy you. Plenty of inventions–such as Penicillin, The Slinky and chewing gum–came into being because someone didn’t brush past an accident, but studied it instead.
4. Play and pretend — when you play, your mind can explore and your subconscious can be busy. This is why time off from work is necessary for creativity to bloom.
- Explore the future. Imagine yourself being wildly successful five years from now. Write down as many details about what this success looks like. Then write the history of how you got there asking yourself questions such as, “What was the first step you took to move toward your goal?” or “What was one early obstacle and how did you move past it?”
What is your favorite of these four steps and what steps do you take to stimulate your creativity in business and your content marketing?
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