Creative thinking is neither simple nor easy. Even though our minds are full with brilliant ideas its difficult to get them out on demand without the proper mental attitude and approach. In “How to be creative on demand” we discussed several ideas to help you do so. Today I would like to discuss methods to encourage your creativity and get the most from your brainstorming.
1. Identify your restrictions and constrains
Creativity at it’s core is a process of solving problems in a relevant and a novel way. So before start your brainstorming session set the restrictions and constrains of your specific problem. That will keep your mind inside the problem parameters and ensure that you will actually solve the correct problem. Thinking outside the box is great but overestimated. Instead of wasting time goose chasing outside the wrong box, embrace your restrictions and work harder and smarter inside your box!
2. Don’t mix idea generation with evaluation
Now that your mind has established the problem properly start generating as many ideas as you can but don’t consciously evaluate or over-analyze them. Creative problem solving requires both a divergent and convergent mindset. Generating ideas is divergent, and the more ideas you can get the merrier. Evaluating them is convergent. You need to narrow down the options and select the best possible solutions to your problem.
Effective problem solving requires these to activities to be separated. First generate as many ideas as you can and then evaluate and analyse them. Mixing those two processes together, in most cases, will yield you a few ideas you will probably be too fond and subjective about, and will also create a negative climate that will restrict your creativity. Save the analysis for after all the possible ideas have been generated.
3. Test your assumptions
Its natural for people to see what we think we see. And most of times people act without realizing or thinking of the consequences. Testing your assumptions is important because it can lead to new horizons and breakthroughs. To do that simply keep up questioning even things you take for granted, till you can no longer find questions. The more questions you ask, the better you will understand the problem. More importantly you’d be sure you try to solve the real problem!!
4. Minimize negative thinking
At the evaluation stage its not uncommon to reject some ideas out right. Be sure it’s for the right reasons and not an automatic rejection response. Think first and criticize later. And while this sounds reasonable we are conditioned to the exact opposite. Try to view your ideas as a raw material, and see how it could evolve. Always try to think at least one positive aspect even on ideas that appear completely useless.
If you are brainstorming in a bigger group make everyone in the group write down their ideas and then read them without connecting the idea to a person. Removing the identity from the idea, will help everyone approach the ideas objectively and without taking personal dislikes or preferences of someone into account.
5. Take prudent risks
Not all risks are equal. For example implementing an idea is much more risky than suggesting it. A bad idea might cost an organization much more than embarrassment. So always remember that ideas are raw material for a solution and not the final product. Not all your ideas have to be good, so don’t be afraid to examine them in different perspectives. A breakthrough might be hidden in seemingly stupid idea.
6. Divide and conquer
The whole is the sum of it’s parts. So if the problem seems vast and having difficulties analyzing it efficiently, you can break it down into it’s small problem components and then try to solve those instead. If you are working in a bigger brainstorming group, divide the group into small teams of 3 persons and then assign each team one of the problem components to focus on.
7. Avoid thinking with patterns or by habit
Most people have our own secure and comfortable way of doing things. Creative thinking though isn’t about being comfortable. To break out our patterns and habits we need to make a conscious effort first to become aware of them and then try to practice changing them. If you constantly use the same brainstorming techniques, differentiate and try out something different.
8. Create new perspectives
To produce something new, we must first see something new. That could be a previously overlooked element or a combination of previously unconnected elements. Becoming deeply involved with a problem even though gives you in some cases a better understanding of it. It can also narrow your perspective and cause you to lose sight of the big picture. Such times is always a good idea to take a big break and revisit later the problem with a renewed perspective and mindset. Do something you enjoy, take a walk or have a shower, you never know, that might be all it takes for your “Eureka!” moment.
Creative thinking is neither simple nor easy. But our minds are full with brilliant ideas and we can get them out on demand with the proper mental attitude and approach. So try out the above tips and feel free to suggest your own tricks & techniques as well!
What methods do you follow to encourage your creativity?
(Featured Image: Licensed Stock Photo from Photodune)