My favourite definition of creativity is from the writer Tom Wujec who says it has three ingredients: novelty, value and passion. When we are at our most creative we are doing something new, it benefits others and it deeply interests us.
As you’re reading this you’re probably still under lock down due to the COVID-19 virus. Being in such a challenging situation might be a perfect time to develop your creativity. All of us need to be more creative in how we use our time, make meals, shop, and interact with our family, friends and neighbours. So here’s some tips for becoming more creative. Try them out now and when this lock down is over you’ll be able to use your new skills to benefit many more aspects of your life.
TIP 1: Build Your Knowledge
Creative thinking is based on knowledge. If you think about the most accomplished inventors, scientists and artists to have lived on this planet, they were able to make breakthroughs in their field – to create something novel, because they had knowledge of other people’s knowledge.
The scientist Isaac Newton once famously wrote: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulder of giants.” In other words his knowledge progressed by building on earlier discoveries by others.
As you’re reading this, many of the world’s finest virologists (people who study viruses) are working hard to create a vaccine for COVID-19. They will need to be creative. They will need to share their knowledge and build on their existing knowledge and that of other virologists to be successful.
There’s a lesson for us all here. If you’re passionate about something – sport, music, social issues, climate change, art – whatever, read about it and ‘read around it’. Love football? Don’t just watch it. Read about the origins of the game. Read about past players. Read about historic moments in the sport. Love music? Don’t just listen to it. Read about the lives of the musicians and who influenced them. Then read about them. Listen to other types of music from other countries and challenge yourself to build up your knowledge through reading. Musicians such as David Bryne and Paul Simon became particularly successful later in their careers by fusing their own knowledge of music with music from other cultures.
Here’s the video of the song Lazy from David Byrne, which a prime example of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qB_I1YBAozE
Similarly, Paul Simon worked with African musicians,such as Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba. He experimented with blending his knowledge with theirs which enabled him to make the iconic Graceland album. Here’s the opening track: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uy5T6s25XK4
When I was growing up I was fortunate that there were always books in my house. My Mum valued knowledge. She bought us encyclopaedias and novels (often from charity shops) and we were always borrowing books from the local library.
So perhaps it’s the love reading, the love of finding out new things that will enable you to be really creative. The more knowledge you have, the better-equipped you are to tackle any challenge you’ll ever face. What could you experiment with? What extra reading can you do? Ask people to borrow their books and if you have access to the internet google articles about things and people. Wikipedia is especially good for this.
Build your knowledge and you’ll build your creativity.
TIP 2: Prepare For Your Dream Job
Suppose you are applying for your dream job – whatever that might be. If an employer likes the look of your CV and letter of application they might invite you for an interview. An interview is the perfect place for employers to ask questions like these to test how creative you are:
“If you could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be and why?”
"If you were a box of cereal, what cereal would you be and why?"
"How can you tell if the fridge light works without opening the door?"
How would you answer each question? There are no perfect answers to these questions, but some are better than others. A future employer wants to see is how your mind works. Do you seem to be the sort of person who has interesting ideas and can look at a problem from different angles? Or are you the sort of person who comes up with typical, obvious answers or worst of all says, “Err … I don’t know?”.
So how can you prepare for your dream job future interview? Do some research on other challenging interview questions and, as employers will often also test how well you work with others, try to get into the habit of developing the ideas of others. Listening to the answers your classmates give in class is a good way to do this. Although this interview could be many years away, starting to prepare for it now will enable you to do better than those who don’t practice.
TIP 3: Play With Ideas
The philosopher, Émile Auguste Chartier, once said, “Nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when it’s the only one we have.”
Here are a few exercises you can try to improve the quantity and quality of the ideas you get. Think of them as workouts, but instead of going to the gym to improve your body, these exercises will improve your creativity.Here’s an example of few different workouts you could try:
20 IDEAS - In a short time period such as next 3 minutes, try to generate as many different ideas as you can. For example, create at least ‘20 different uses of a bank card’ other than it’s normal use which is to pay for something. Don’t worry if you don’t get to 20 but try to test yourself each day to do better. Mix up the examples by using things such as a paperclip, brush, saucepan, can of deodorant, candle – any object will do, just think about how it can be used differently. Remember when it comes to creativity, practice makes perfect so try a little 3 minute workout each day if you can.
BRUTETHINK - is a technique that forces us to see relationships between dissimilar things.When you use this, you’ll generate lots more ideas that you thought possible.
You’ll need to start with a specific problem or question. A good one at the moment might be: “How can I keep/get fit during the lock down due to the spread of COVID-19?”
First, choose a random word or object and think about its attributes. For example: When is it used? Where is it used? Who uses it? Write these attributes down. Focus on the random word and your problem. List all ideas that come to mind. Then build up a list of other random words. You can get these by going through a dictionary or simply looking around you, or even out of your window. When you have exhausted the list and the attributes of each item ask yourself how they might help you to solve your problem.
SCAMPER - The SCAMPER thinking technique can be used to generate creative solutions for problems. SCAMPER is an acronym for Substitute (use or do instead?); Combine (join or put together?); Adapt (change or do differently?); Magnify/Minify (make larger or smaller?); Put to other uses (another way/purpose?); Eliminate (take away or do without?); Reverse/rearrange (different order or view?).
SCAMPER can be also applied to looking for a solution to a problem such as the exercise one referred to earlier or for redesigning things.
Getting used to generating ideas helps you to become what is called an ‘Option Thinker’.
Options Thinkers realise that there are always more solutions than there first might appear.
Generating ideas is a great habit to get into. If you use a notebook, use this to write problems and apply some of these techniques to them. Although you might initially use these techniques on your own try also using them with others. Collaboration is often the best way to generate and improve ideas.
· Build Your Knowledge
· Prepare For Your Dream Job
· Play With Ideas
A final thought from the writer Maya Angelou:
You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.
Remember all of these methods take time. But now might be the perfect time to try out one or two of them. If you’re an adult reading this article you can try these ideas alongside a young person. If you are interested in more tips about studying away from school click the links below.
No.1: Time Management
No.3: Note Taking
No.4: Anxiety Management
This resource was created by Andy Griffith, director of Malit in the Community.