Creativity as Self-Improvement
- Part Two -
In order for you to become more creative, you must
first realize you are a little bit creative already. In fact, the
mere fact that you recognize creativity when you see it reveals that
you have within you an understanding of the creative process... and
nearly every science has shown that in order for there to be
understanding, there must first be a corollary somewhere within you.
In other words: It takes one to know one. All we’re going to do is
help you increase it.
Still don't believe me? Maybe if I jostle your
memory a bit. Do you remember the time you used a ruler to reach
something under the bed? Or what about the time you couldn't find
the light switch so you opened your cell phone to illuminate the
area? Or when you gave your toddler a boost with a stack of books?
Or carried your dirty laundry downstairs in another piece of dirty
laundry, like a pillow case? These are all examples of a form of
creativity called lateral thinking; applying an object to something
other than its original design.
So, you're creative already. And at one point you
began to wonder, “Is there a way to practice creative thinking so
that it comes more naturally to me? Are there techniques I can
adopt, just like I did when I was first trying to walk, or address
an envelope, or make love, that will give me a creative boost?” The
answer is yes, and below I will summarize the techniques which are
common to method of creative improvement. Do yourself a favor and
experiment with them by bringing each one into practice every day,
even in the smallest of circumstances, just to give your mind a
"feeling" of how it is to be more creative.
Improving Creativity, Rule 1: Postpone Judgment
The most important rule for creativity as
self-improvement is to listen and observe without placing the
object, the situation, or the person in quick judgment. In other
words, hold off on any concrete categorization that might inhibit
you from seeing the various angles and decreasing your options. For
example, instead of saying to that old throw pillow, "you do not go
with my drapes,” leave the possibility open that maybe it really
does. Perhaps it just needs something else in the mix... a tassel, a
companion pillow, or a slightly different bulb in the lamp to bring
out the yellows. This same system works for relationships. Maybe
it's not that the other person wrong, but that their current needs
are simply in conflict with your needs. Therefore, perhaps you can
each find your own tassel to ease the conflict, or bring in a
companion to intermediate, or do something to change the tone in the
room and see what becomes of it. But regardless of what you do,
there will be no creative solution unless you commit to POSTPONING
JUDGMENT and permitting yourself to see options.
Improving Creativity, Rule 2: Ask Better Questions
Now that your inner judge has set down its gavel
until further notice, you can really have fun exploring your
creative options. The best way to do this is to ask a series of
What-if or What-else questions. What if I substituted something
here? What if I combined some things? What if I put this object or
person to another use entirely? What if I re-arranged something?
What else can I add, get rid of, alternate, or ignore entirely? What
else might be lying at the heart of the problem? What can be
connected, interchanged, or overlapped? And my personal favorite,
What can I do to create an entirely different problem, but one that
might be more solvable? This phase can also be called
Brainstorming, but all good brainstorming is comprised of nothing
more than ASKING INTERESTING QUESTIONS of the situation.
Improving Creativity, Rule 3: Test a New Point of
A story is coming to mind about a man who was
changing a flat tire in a strange town. After removing the punctured
tire, he stood up to grab the replacement tire and accidentally
kicked the loose set of lug nuts into a rain sewer, forever out of
reach. After unleashing a stream of invectives at his own stupidity,
he sucked it up and started walking in hopes to find a garage or an
auto parts store where he could buy a new set of lug nuts.
Practically speaking, this was probably the only solution, right? Of
course... IF you bought into his point of view that he no longer had
any lug nuts. But the truth is however, he had lots of lug nuts. He
had 15 other lug nuts on his other three wheels, five on each.
Realizing that he was operating from a rather limited point of view,
he flipped it 180 degrees, then tested it. Wait a minute. Maybe I
already have what I need. And as a result, he saw the solution right
before him. He removed one lug nut off each, installed his tire, and
drove to the next garage with no more problems. This required no
heady questions, no genius, no special skills... only a shift in his
POINT OF VIEW.
Is there something in your life, your work, your
relationship that would benefit from a simple modification of your
point of view? Test it. Flip it upside down. Take the opposite
stance, or one of several views in between. Having trouble finding
an alternate point of view? Ask a colleague for their opinion on the
matter, all of us have one-- and then test it out on yourself,
starting with Rule 1, Postponing Judgment!
If it's not obvious by now, improving your
creativity as a means to self-improvement is less about technique
than about overcoming certain habits and emotional reflexes. At the
core of these is permitting yourself a little bit of mobility in
your mental processes, doing it without fear, without prejudice, and
without giving into the obvious. If you can do this on a daily
basis, in challenges large and small, you will have the discovered
the personal power and allure of being more creative. And who knows…
maybe cool besides.