Employers value employees that think out of the box, are able to find unconventional solutions, and don’t settle for a standard. They look for creativity. We know that some individuals have a more creative personality than others. But is it possible to improve creativity in you?
Creativity – what is it?
You don’t have to be the next Pablo Picasso or sing like Beyonce. Creativity is the use of imagination or original ideas to create something. According to Sternberg ‘Creativity is the ability to produce work that is both novel (i.e., original, unexpected) and appropriate (i.e., useful, adaptive concerning task constrains).’ It’s inventiveness and courage, however it can be expressed in an artistic way too.
How to improve your creativity?
Even if you don’t think of yourself as a creative person, there are simple steps you can take to put yourself in a more receptive, open state of mind. Research shows that creative imagination can be boosted through our environment or simply putting in lots of hard work. Creativity involves two processes: THINKING and PRODUCING and here are some tips on how to improve and awake the creativity in you:
1. Surround yourself with inspiring people
Spending time with people that are passionate about their hobby, have an unconventional way of work or some inspiring story to share, will boost your creativity. Experimental studies have found that when children engage with other highly creative people, they become more creative themselves. Inspiring people can give you courage, and push you into the right direction, but remember that the creative work needs to be done by you. Where to look for them? Everywhere! Look around – do your friends inspire you? Join some networking events in your area; participate in a course or training in the field of your interests; mine for some online inspirations, e.g. TED Talks are a great source of inspiring people.
2. Create brainstorming sessions at work
It will suit nearly every work placement. If you are working on a project or looking for a solution to a problem organise a 20 minutes brainstorming session with your colleagues. The best outcomes come from diverse teams not from individuals. Moreover, such a brainstorming session can reinforce your relationships with your colleagues.
3. Look out for inspiration
Travelling to new places, watching beautiful movies or live performances, visiting exhibitions and festivals – these are just some ideas on how to get inspired. Try it out. Check what kind of event is happening near you that you never attended before and find out how you will feel afterwards. Is the wave of new ideas hitting you?
I regularly check out the websites of cities and towns around Munich to find some valuable events. Recently, we visited a village located at the Schlier lake in Bayern and spontaneously decided to go for a ‘Waldfest’, a local festival. How refreshing and inspiring it was to see a totally different type of celebration, cost local dainties and watch traditional dances and rituals. A slow-life experience – an inspiration and a reminder to me, that sometimes I just need to slow down a bit.
4. Reset your brain
Scientists proofed already that the standard working hours from 9 to 5 do not support your productivity nor creativity. We tend to have times during the day when we are more productive and creative. Try to figure these times out and work on your creative projects just then.
Moreover, breaks keep you away from getting bored. In practice it means you will be able to stay focus on a particular task. If you don’t have a flexible working time, you can start with 70 minutes work and 15 minutes break. Observe yourself. See if it works for you and if after 70 minutes you still have the energy to work on your task. If so, you can extend the working time to 90 minutes for example and then take a 20 minutes break. Check out what’s best for you, your body and mind.
5. Don’t be afraid to fail
The more you practise the better you will become. Creativity is not about waiting for a muse that will enlighten you. It’s about practicing and experimenting. The truth is that the talent is 10%, and hard work 90%. The longer you have worked and thought in a field and studied about a matter – and first and foremost, dared to make many mistakes – the better you are at intuitively coming up with ideas and analytically selecting the right one. So don’t settle for day dreaming only: Visualization of an outcome can help, but you need to include the process of getting there in your thoughts too.
6. Listen to music without lyrics
Studies shows that instrumental music enhances your ability to concentrate. Simone Ritter, at Radboud University in the Netherlands, and Sam Ferguson, at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, have been studying the effect of silence and different types of music on how we think. Ritter and Ferguson found that people were more creative when listening to music they thought was positive, coming up with more unique ideas than the people who worked in silence. However, be careful there, since Ritter and Ferguson found out that no type of music helped convergent thinking, suggesting that it’s better to solve problems in silence. Read more about influence of music on our productivity in our article Stay tuned @ Work.
Do you consider yourself a creative person? Do you have any other tips on how to boost creativity? We would like to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments section below!