5 Ways for You to Become a More Creative Person
Creativity is often thought of as a natural gift or talent, but the latest scientific research tells us that creativity is a skill that can be learned, practiced and developed.
Creativity can be defined as “the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality.” The dictionary defines being creative as, “having or showing an ability to make new things or think of new ideas.” Synonymous with “divergent thinking,” creativity is characterized by the ability to bring together disparate ideas in new and useful combinations.
While recent research also suggests that our DNA determines our creative ability, it’s still possible to “learn” to be creative. It’s even possible to even trick ourselves into being more creative through cultivating new habits and exposing ourselves to different ideas. Some people think of creativity as a muscle that can be built up and worked out. Courage, intuition, play, and challenging assumptions are traits that help work this muscle on a regular basis.
You may be thinking, I’m an entrepreneur, not an artist – how will creativity help my business? Or perhaps you leave the creative thinking up to the designers and developers. But a team of Swiss ethnologists tracked a group of artists and a group of entrepreneurs, and discovered similar patterns in the creative processes of both camps.
Creative thinking for your business can help you solve problems more effectively and better respond to challenges. If you’re looking for ways to take your startup to the next level, you might want to start “thinking outside of the box.” Yes. We went there!
Nurture your creativity with these five practices.
You’ve probably been told to “Sleep on it” when trying to solve a problem or come up with new ideas. But it turns out that there is scientific backing for this. Studies are now discovering that sleep is essential for learning and creativity. Current neuroscience research reveals that while we’re sleeping, our brains continue working, actively making sense of what we’ve been doing in waking life and allowing new insights to emerge. Simply put, when we’re well-rested, we’re able to learn better and be more creative.
Sleep has the power to foster unusual connections, and helps your mind become more creative. While there is some research that supports sleep deprivation to enhance creativity, we suggest that you forget about all-nighters. Next time you find yourself stuck, take a nap. You’ll wake up with fresh insights, or at the very least, a mind that’s receptive to a burst of creative inspiration.
Carry a Notebook
It’s good to keep a notebook by your bed, so you can write down those early morning thoughts as you wake from your slumber. And it’s even better to carry this notebook with you all the time. Keeping a pocket notebook nearby means you always have a place to write lists and remember important details, resulting in developing the habit of documenting ideas as soon as they arise, no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
Creativity isn’t something that can be forced or contained. It’s a matter of capturing flashes of insight. As we catch them, they’re more likely to happen. Leonardo DaVinci famously wrote down ideas for his art and inventions in notebooks that he kept throughout his life.
You don’t even have to write down words in your notebook – you can draw in it. If you’re the type of person who scribbles during meetings of phone calls, you’ll be pleased to know that the act of doodling actually promotes focus and helps stimulate creativity. Scribbling lights up the networks of the mind, helping us find new solutions and look at things from a different angle.
Move Your Body
If you’re stuck on a problem or feeling uninspired, get up from your desk and go for a walk. Recent studies prove that exercise positively impacts creative potential.
“Sweat is like WD-40 for your mind-–it lubricates the rusty hinges of your brain and makes your thinking more fluid,” writes Christopher Bergland on the Psychology Today blog. “Exercise allows your conscious mind to access fresh ideas that are buried in the subconscious.” While he’s speaking in metaphors, Bergland’s poetic statement is based in scientific fact: exercise releases neurotransmitters in the brain and generates new neurons, strengthening the ability to make connections and generate ideas.
A study out of Stanford University revealed that a person’s creative output is increased by 60% when walking, as opposed to sitting. It doesn’t matter if you go for a walk outside or pace around your office, as it’s the act of walking, not the environment it happens in.
Many people think that lots of excitement and activity stimulates creativity, but scientists are learning how the experience of boredom encourages the mind to produce new thinking. A study that examined the relationship between boredom and creativity found that doing repetitive and tedius tasks (like data entry) before undertaking creative tasks results in more creative thinking.
Another study on boredom – this one focused on the work environment – unveiled that a lack of external stimulation and activity allows the mind to daydream. “Being bored actually signals to the mind that you're in need of fresh ideas and spurs creative thinking,” an Inc.com article declared. Bosses are even encouraged to welcome a little downtime in the office, rather than pressuring employees to be busy all the time.
David Lynch does it. So does Oprah Winfrey, Russell Simmons and former director of Google, Larry Brilliant.
In addition to combatting stress and anxiety, a regular meditation practice can help our creativity by increasing calmness, clarity and insight.
You don’t want to do just any old meditation, however. A Leiden University study noted that certain kinds of meditation promoted creative thinking. Different styles of meditation affect the brain in different ways, and the style that impacts creativity is open monitoring meditation (in which the meditator focuses on internal and external experience). One of the three major categories of meditation, open monitoring is the basis of Vipassana and Zen techniques.
Entrepreneurs Who Nurture Their Creativity
Creativity isn’t only for artists and writers. It can be harnassed in a startup setting and useful for all employees. Phoebe Cade Mills, founder of The Cade Museum of Creativity and Innovation, and the daughter of the inventor of Gatorade, believes that creativity is the key to business success and suggests that startups build in ample time for the creative tension between new ideas and revising ideas until they work.
Steve Jobs was famously known for believing “creativity is just connecting things.” He used the power of association to encourage creative thinking and innovation. Jobs was also known to be a doodler, a walker and a meditator.
The process of developing creativity can also benefit a business. Mark Lesser, CEO of SIYLI, Zen priest, and author of Know Yourself, Forget Yourself, did not think of himself as naturally creative, so he developed six steps to change and reframe his habits to nurture creativity.
Creative practices are a way to learn lessons applicable to business leadership. CEO of BeyondCore, Arijit Sengupta, studied dance to exercise his mind as well as his body. In a social dance class, he learned that a strong dancer doesn’t push his partner, but instead “creates conditions” that feel natural and make sense. He’s taken a similar approach with his employees, and has seen their productivity and inspiration increase.
Creativity: Nature or Nurture?
Creativity is a paradox: to get more of it you need to move or become still, be consistent but don’t force things, be spontaneous but habitual. Even the simple practice of meditation has specifics on what does and doesn’t work. The most important thing is to find what works for you, whether it’s sleeping or running, and do it as much as possible.
It’s never too late to cultivate creativity, and right now is the perfect time to begin. Creative thinking is essential for startups, as it encourages growth, flexibility and responsiveness. Your problem-solving abilities will be enhanced. You’ll see things from a new perspective. Try some of these tips and practices (or be like Steve Jobs and experiment with each of them), and note the differences in your company.
Do you consider yourself a creative person? Did you learn or develop this skill? How has it helped your business?
Photo Credit: Startup Stock Photos