There’s more demand for creativity today than ever before. Whether delivering a presentation, publicizing a new product, or making a sales pitch, competition is fierce, and only those who make an impression have a chance at success. However, creativity doesn’t work like checking off items on a to-do list or reciting facts – hardly anyone can be creative at a moment's notice.
That said, with the right creativity techniques, you can increase your productivity and be sure to utilize your full potential.
Among the classic methods for getting started, brainstorming is useful when it's necessary to develop a creative concept. While brainstorming, lots of ideas are collected and sorted and only later evaluated for feasibility. It's important not to worry about possible restrictions or limitations at this stage, instead letting ideas percolate so the creative mind can think freely. A classic form of brainstorming is Mind Mapping, which helps to expand upon clusters of ideas. This method can be used when you're on your own, but it’s much more effective in a group, as different thought processes influence each other. When mind mapping, an initial idea or question is visualized and related thoughts are seen as condensing around it. This is not about detailed elaboration, but rather about first thoughts. The so-called Meta-plan Technique is similar: here all participants write their ideas down on notes, which are then put into idea clusters – ideally under the leadership of a moderator.
In the 635 Method, six team members work on three ideas and pass them on five times. Only a short window is allotted for elaborating on each idea – it’s not about thorough elaboration, just initial food for thought. Each subsequent participant can build upon the ideas of his or her predecessor. The advantage of this process is that within a short amount of time, one has 90 ideas, which can be analyzed more thoroughly later.
Scientific studies from Stanford University (carried out by Marily Oppezzo and Daniel L. Schwartz) show that human beings have more creative ideas when they're moving. This insight is utilized by the brainwalking method. Here various stations with flip charts or white boards are set up in one or several rooms on which the participants (or small groups) working with the question can let their imaginations run wild. Here it’s important that the environment is generally calm so that focus can be maintained and participants can concentrate entirely on their ideas without being influenced by other statements.
Walt Disney Method
This creativity technique, named after the American film producer and supposedly a part of his working habits, emphasizes taking on different roles. This role play contains three significant characters: the dreamer, the realist, and the critic. All three roles are common in most companies with several employees. With this method, everyone has a chance to explore new perspectives. The potential of this exercise lies in its ability to disrupt fixed thinking processes and structures that have been growing for years in order to develop and advance new ideas.
During this role play, participants each take on different roles one after the other. The dreamer is allowed to think big and visionary, while the realist tests ideas with an eye towards feasibility and questions them to see how ideas could be realized. Then the critic enters the stage, asking constructive questions and elaborating and testing the results of the realists. The revised solution is then given back to the dreamer, who once again considers the newly developed idea. The arrangement has met its goal when the three participants find a solution that satisfies each character.
We rarely have the best ideas when we sit at our desks, frantically grasping for creative solutions. Lightning strikes much more often right before we fall asleep, during a shower, or on a Sunday walk. But since we can’t always rely on everyday situations, creating an innovative environment is an important part of the creativity process. There's a reason companies like Google – and young start-ups as well – offer their employees variety in their work stations. Whether it be a ball pit, a ping pong table, or a cozy corner with cushions to sit on, an escape from one's usual environment can help generate new ideas. For all those who do not work in such innovative environments, it can be helpful to leave the desk often. Even walking to the cafeteria or other parts of the office or stepping outside can provide enough of a change of scenery to stimulate creativity.
In general, it's true that creativity cannot be forced. But the methods discussed above help spur new ideas. When you want to overcome small creativity blockades in your everyday working life and don’t have much time, you should always remember that even a small change can make big things happen – even turning on a favorite song or spending a few moments looking at the sea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qREKP9oijWI
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