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man and space

by ater

Think Creative

by ater

To be creative, you have to first believe you are creative.

A short time ago I received an email from a young entrepreneur asking me how he was suppose to compete in a marketplace where the competition was high and more established companies had big advertising bucks. I mentioned a few ideas to him but the one that concerned him the most was creativity. Give him numbers and he’ll work them, but tell him to come up with some creative idea, forget it.He said he doesn’t have a creative bone in his body.

People who tell themselves that have already lost unless they decide to do something about it.

The development of a creative thought process is no different than learning martial arts. At first, someone shows you how to stand, execute proper body movement, and teaches you a Kata (a.k.a form - a set of movements that help develop your technique).

Once these techniques are learned you must practice them to become a good fighter. When fighting, it is taught that the best place for your mind to be is no where at all, called Mushin (means “no mind”). The point of Mushin is to blank out your mind so that you are in a state of “openness.” In other words, it allows you to simply react and not worry about what might happen when fighting.

The same can be said when learning to be creative. You first learn what techniques help develop a creative thought process and then you have to practice them while keeping your mind open to endless possibilities no matter how ridiculous they may seem.

But how do you train your mind to become a well-oiled creative thinking machine?

Like the first sentence of this post says, you have to first believe you are a creative person. Following that you need to exercise your mind in various ways.

Let’s take a look at some creative mind-pumping ideas and activities that will help widen your mind’s creative eye.

I. Listen

Don’t Jump the Gun
It is important listen to everything and not judge or come to your own conclusion prematurely. This is vital if you are to create a product that wins in the eyes of your customers and employer. Remember, listening does not equal simply hearing.

Try listening to a different radio station (or TV channel). See if you can figure who the intended audience is. Who would be the dedicated listeners and who might be the occasional? What influential people might be listening to this station? What is it’s market?

II. Brainstorm

Brainstorming can be an effective way to generate creative ideas; however, before brainstorming about your subject at hand, try warming up the creative juices.

Warming Up
Grab a pencil and blank piece of paper and just start writing. If nothing comes to mind, write that, then write whatever comes to your mind next no matter what it is. Then expand.

In another example, grab yourself a pencil and paper and create something new and describe it, no matter how absurd it may seem. Try creating a new life form. Where does it come from? What is its goal? Or try creating a person. Who is she? Expand on the idea.

These are good exercises to get you in the mindset of thinking outside the box.

III. Counter the Negatives with Positives

This is probably one of the more important ones to do. Whenever you want to do something but your mind tells you that you can’t, write that thought down and then next to it write down 2 or 3 reasons why you can. Do this quickly and often. Soon you will notice that you have trained your mind to automatically react with a positive thought whenever you think of a negative one.

IV. Be Ready

If you’re searching for creative ideas, keep a pen and pad handy at all times, you never know when a thought might pop into your head - or maybe someone else’s thought spawns a new thought of your own that you can build off of.

For example, one of my favorite shows is Kitchen Nightmares. I was watching an episode one night and Gordon Ramsay was offering up business advice to the store owner. During the show, I kept getting up and jotting down a few ideas that he had mentioned that I wanted to expand on for my blog. The result was an article you can read here.

V. Learn

Obviously, the more you know about everything, the more you can come up with creative ideas by linking things together. You wouldn’t know how Physics and landscaping might go together unless you knew at least a little bit about both.

Therefore, the more you know, the more you can create.

Ideas to help you expand your horizons

  • read blogs
  • take classes
  • read books
  • try something you’ve never done before
  • teach something to someone
  • participate in a group or online community
  • talk to people you might not otherwise talk to

Can you add to the list?

VI. Evaluate

Often times I find when I’m stuck in a rut and can’t come up with a creative idea, I evaluate things.

If you’re stuck, try flipping through a magazine and evaluate the ads. Which ones catch your attention and why? Who is the target audience? What might you do differently if you were to write the ad? On the ones that catch your attention, how can you modify what they did to what you’re doing?

Your Competition
Get online or flip through the yellow pages and evaluate your competition. See if something they are doing spawns an idea for you. Is there something there you can build on that they could have but didn’t?

Grab a piece of paper and draw a line down the center. Label the left side “My Weaknesses” and the right side “My Strengths.” List all your weaknesses and then under the strengths side, combat those weaknesses with your strengths that might compensate.

You now have a blueprint of what you need to work on and what you have to build off of.

Ask Questions
When stuck on the problem of trying to be creative, ask a series of questions to gain a new perspective of your product or idea.

  • What can I substitute?
  • What can I add to it to make it a little better?
  • What is not needed?
  • What is the opposite of this?
  • Where did this come from?
  • How has something like this been used?
  • What else can it be used for?

Can you add any?

VII. Exercise Your Creative Thought Process

Try some of these activities from time-to-time.

  • Every day pick any topic and write it down; then create a flow chart and see where the flow takes you.
  • Think of a product. How could it have been invented in a different way but produce the same result?
  • After reading half a book, close it and write or think about how you would end the story.
  • Read non-fiction books and solve the problem before it’s answered.
  • Do crossword puzzles, it gets you thinking about all kinds of stuff.

After a while, by doing these exercises you’ll find that your mind approaches ideas in new creative ways.

VIII. Travel

One of the best ways to generate creative ideas is to go to new places or simply just get out and go for a walk. Don’t have the money to travel? No problem. Go where you need to go but get there in a different way.

New experiences and going to new destinations is a great way to gain new perceptions that can generate creativity.

So there you go, 8+ ways to to mold you into a creative thinking machine.

Do you consider yourself creative?