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10 tips to improve creativity skills

10 tips to improve creativity skills 1. Learn to pitch your ideas (in an elevator) There is simple truth in the fact that Steve Jobs of A...

10 tips to improve creativity skills

1. Learn to pitch your ideas (in an elevator)

There is simple truth in the fact that Steve Jobs of Apple was great at exploring and explaining innovations based on existing products – laptops, cell phones, music players. He didn’t invent those products, but he made them better and he was great at explaining why his version was superior to other competing goods.

On many occasions I hear from my students, “But I had that idea first” or “I proposed something like that just recently and nobody listened to me.” In this situation I always highlight the bottom line – probably you did have a wonderful idea, but you didn’t express yourself clearly and excitingly enough to grab people’s attention, or help others to grasp the nature of your innovation or project.

There is an old saying, “If you cannot express your idea in three sentences – you don’t have an idea!” One of the most important innovation skills is the ability to present a very short and clear description of a new idea (two to three sentences – like shouting through the closing door of an elevator) and to make a short presentation (two to three minutes – what is called an “elevator pitch”). Like any other skill, the ability to articulate in this way can only come through much practice.

2. Do something you can’t

I can’t remember where I read this story about Arnold Schwarzenegger. I think in his autobiography, Total Recall. But the story goes like this:

Before Arnold was known as a movie star, he was a successful bodybuilder. During this period, he had a hard time getting a decent role in a movie. So when he auditioned for Conan The Barbarian, he did everything to get the part.

When they asked him, “can you ride a horse?” He confidently said, “yes.”

The truth was that Arnold had never ridden a horse. But because he told the producers that he could, he worked his ass off to learn horse-riding before they started filming the movie.
I’m probably butchering this story, but it comes down to this: Just say yes. And figure out how you can do it later

3. Create your own “Three Ifs”

Many good innovators take an existing object and ask clever questions to twist the very concept of it and make it new. Steve Jobs didn’t start with the idea of a smartphone. He just took an existing cell phone and asked a very simple question: how can we improve it to make it better – or the best?

Let’s be clear about this – there are no universal recipes for innovation, and each person should develop her or his own approach depending on specialty, interest, type of thinking, or even the type of team s/he is participating in.

That said, I usually suggest my students build creative thinking around three “ifs”:

(1) What would happen if I change it (the object/ system/ social relationship, etc)? 
(2) What would I change or improve about this object if I wanted to use it in 10 years?
(3) What would I do if I had a one-million-dollar investment to improve it?

These questions can become powerful tools that can help you to think differently. It is important to exercise these skills by repeatedly using the “three ifs” formula (or designing your own set of questions) about all sorts of things. And many new ideas will pop up.

For example, for several semesters I kept asking my students, let us take a bicycle, think about it and ask the “three if” questions, so we can come up with a new idea. Initially the students strongly resisted and were very skeptical. However, after several rounds of discussions and brainstorming they began to come up with many new creative ideas. We narrowed down those innovations into small course projects and my students’ teams won several cash awards to implement their creative ideas.

4. Soundboard your ideas off a critical person

I have a few pessimistic friends and mentors. Every time I talk to them about a project or idea, their answer starts with, “Hmm… I don’t know about that.”

When people question your ideas, it’s for a reason. Nothing is perfect. And everything can be done better. Always.

But you need someone to point you in the right direction. Also, you need someone to do it in the right way. You don’t want to ask someone who doesn’t wish you well for their opinion. Because they get satisfaction from shooting down ideas and people.

Find someone who cares. If you can’t, get a coach or mentor who can serve as your soundboard. It’s worth it to have someone second guess your ideas and not say, “this is the best thing ever!”

5. Consume content that's way outside your comfort zone.

We all love reading about stuff in our industry, but typically this doesn't boost creativity. If you're lucky, it might help with motivation or inspiration. If you want to get your creative juices flowing, start consuming content you wouldn't normally consume. Read blogs outside of your industry. Read books outside of your normal genre of choice. Heck, grab lunch with a complete stranger (just make sure they're not a bad stranger).

6. Approach creativity like a professional

Usually, when business people want to improve a skill—like public speaking, for example—they practice it. Guess what? Creativity is no different.

The only way to become more creative is to practice being creative. Throw out suggestions in team meetings. Draw up a diagram or a flow chart that shows the different possibilities. Try to think of a solution that no one else has thought of yet—even if it's bad. Stretch yourself.

7. Try to create something every day

Create something every day, even if it’s only for 5 or 10 minutes. I try to write articles, I draw mind maps in meetings, develop business models, concepts and I also collect and develop hundreds of ideas. I always have 3 projects in the pipeline, lots of them are not developed but they inspire me. My core business is digital transformation consulting and Lean Six Sigma training, but I work on projects that are not related to my expertise.

Here are some examples:
  • In 2010, I was in the Himalayas to produce and direct a long featured documentary called Introspectus. I was also working on a collaborative filmmaking platform, an innovation benchmarking software, Fab Lab project…
  • In May 2013, I was breeding insects to develop food protein solutions. I stopped because it was not profitable.
  • In June 2013, I didn’t know how to develop and manage a blog, here you are reading this article.
  • In July 2013,  I created the Startup Shelter ( web site in french) to help people or start-ups launch and fund their ideas.
  • In February 2014 with 3 partners I launched Lean Six Sigma Belgium  and Lean Six Sigma France to use Lean Management principles in order to identify waste and design faster and responsive processes. We also use Six Sigma principles to improve customer satisfaction by delivering perfect products and services on a consistent basis.
  • In July 2014  I co-founded a training and team building project related to agility and happiness at work : Agile & Scrum Belgium  & Team Building Spirit
  • In May 2015 I launched I copywriting and ghostwriting agency called Ghost Writer Hub.
  • In September 2016, with one partner and ADNEOM we launched World of Digits a company specialised in Digital Transformation.

8. Limit the possibilities

Sometimes, we when try to think outside the box or imagine every possibility we can overwhelm ourselves with options. It's like we're standing in an open field and the answer could be in any direction. Without any sense of where to go, we often end up staying put and making no progress at all.

Instead, give yourself some boundaries. For example, telling an engineer to simply build a bridge is very different from telling her to build a bridge out of steel. You can develop creative solutions for either problem, but the limitation gives the engineer a place to start, which is the most critical part of any creative problem-solving session.

9. Forget talent

We tend to think we either have it or we don’t. Talent is an overloaded word, don’t focus on what you can do, just do it. Learn by doing. Show up, work hard and support yourself. It’s how you’ll make thing happen every day.

To develop your creative thinking, you need to know how to get your creative juices out. You can do this by:

  • Build inspirational rituals
  • Try to create something every day
  • Instead of discipline, think devotion.
  • Taking a break and find creative inspirations.
  • Make a list and select your ideas.
  • Ask the right questions.
  • Have fun with your colleagues or friends.
  • Working on your most productive hours.
  • Building a network.
  • Taking risks.
  • Forget talent.

10. DIM LIGHTING MAKES US FEEL MORE FREE

I like a lot of natural light in my workspace, and I get quite frustrated in dark rooms when I need to focus. However, I was surprised to find this research that proved dim lighting can improve creative performance.

The researchers completed six different studies, which all showed that dim lighting increased creativity. They found that even without noticing a difference in visibility, if the lighting around them was dim, participants were likely to be more creative. The reasoning came from the subconscious feeling of being more free to explore:

“…darkness elicits a feeling of being free from constraints and triggers a risky, explorative processing style.”

For times when you don’t have control over the lighting around you, you can just think about being in the dark and it could have an effect:

“Other experiments found that merely priming the idea of darkness–such as by taking five minutes to describe an experience of literally being in the dark, and recalling how it felt–was sufficient to boost creativity.”

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