Do you want to be more creative? Creativity has led to innovations that have transformed the world and made some individuals and organisations hugely successful. Recognising this, many businesses place creativity at the top of the list of qualities that they look for in new employees.
Sources of Creativity
Many of us have been told that we are not creative and have grown up lacking confidence in our creative potential. We might fear criticism if we attempt new and innovative ways of doing things. Rather than allowing such concerns to hold you back, you could find greater success and happiness in your life and work, by developing and applying your own creativity.
Creativity is a skill that anyone can develop, but many people believe it is an innate gift, rather than a way of thinking that can be learned. Centuries ago creativity was thought to spring from a mystical source, but we now have more rational explanations for the process. We understand that through our senses we continuously receive a great variety of information, some we are aware of, but most we are not.
The information received and processed by our brain leads to the formation of new ideas, as connections are made between bits of data. We might be prompted to react to events in our environment, follow a course of action or store memories. We might form thoughts, that enable us to find innovative solutions to a problem, develop new concepts or create something original.
Seven Stages of Creativity
Some people have described practical steps that they have taken to stimulate their own creativity, which others might benefit from following. One approach to the creative process involves breaking it down into seven stages, which would begin with an objective, followed by research, then a period of distraction, formulation of ideas and then evaluation, decision making and taking action. Having determined an objective, such as developing a new product or business strategy, make it easier to manage by trying to reduce the problem to its constituent parts.
The research stage might involve you reading relevant literature on the subject, surveying representative samples of the target audience and developing an understanding of work done by others, possibly by immersing yourself in work that inspires you. This stage might continue for a considerable amount of time, but at some point you should stop and do something else, such as socialising, watching a movie, going to a show or playing games.
To an outside observer, this period might appear to be a waste of your time, as you do not appear to be working on the problem. However, having a clear understanding of your objective, you can now allow your subconscious to begin integrating this information and working on the problem for you. As you take a step back, do not consciously seek solutions, but instead enjoy stimulating or inspiring activities that distract your conscious mind, allowing connections to form within your subconscious.
Patterns and relationships can begin to take shape between previously unrelated pieces of information and original ideas could begin to emerge. Although many of them might not be relevant to what you are working on, when your subconscious finds something that connects with your objective, the idea could float to the surface of your conscious mind. As you become aware of these ideas, you should make a note of them, rather than risk forgetting them.
At this stage you should avoid analysing the ideas, but keep a record of them, even if they initially seem unconventional or unrealistic. Rather than looking for a finished solution, enjoy receiving the ideas generated by your earlier work. When you subsequently begin to evaluate your ideas and share them with other people, remain open to how they might be interpreted or applied and do not become too fixed on one answer, as something better could come along.
An individual might evaluate the ideas that emerge and find a solution on their own, or seek the opinion of other people, who will perceive things from their own perspective. Whether working alone, or as part of a team, at some point a decision will need to be made and appropriate actions taken. It might be necessary to repeat each stage of the creative process a number of times, until a solution is found that meets the objective.
Overcoming Creative Blocks
An idea might seem to appear in your mind from nowhere, but will typically follow a period of immersion in relevant information, followed by time to allow ideas to gestate. When experiencing a creative block, you could work on something else for a while, or take a break, allowing time for your creative energies to be restored. Rather than expecting instant solutions to complex problems, you should allow time to complete each stage of the creative process.
Although creativity does not happen to order and cannot be forced, the seeds can be sown by beginning to work on a problem and a limited time scale can focus your efforts during stages such as research and evaluation. When working on a project with a number of objectives, they could each be at different stages of the creative process and you should track the progress of each of them.
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