“I don’t have a creative bone in my body,” said the most foolish people ever. And lots of ’em say it.
Vegetables don’t have creativity. YOU, as a human, are hard-wired for creativity. How do you think everything around you appeared? As an idea somebody had.
But people love to talk about how unoriginal they are. Are you one of those people?
Do you think all your ideas are bad, so you don’t even consider letting them see the light of day? Or do you forget your ideas? I’m sure you’ve had an idea or two in the shower where you thought “huh…that’s pretty cool.” But by the time the last suds went down the drain, you’d forgotten your brilliant idea.
Well, I’ve got news for you. You’re creative! And you can be MORE creative, too.
Creativity isn’t a talent.
Yes, there are some people who have more creativity than others, but that doesn’t make it a talent. It’s a honed skill. And, like any skill, there are certain people who can learn it faster than others.
Whether you think you could be the next Einstein or not, you should still be honing your creative skills. Creativity is one of the most valuable skills on this planet.
That’s where all forward momentum for our species comes from. Finding unique solutions to everyday problems. Like the wheel, plumbing, the phone, and the internet.
The best part about it, though – it’s a learnable, teachable skill. And the more you use it, the more you have.
It’s an endless well of potential.
Imagine being the “Idea Guy/Girl.” The person that people come to for different perspectives. Think about how nice it would be to think outside the box, offer creative solutions, and be able to create real changes with your ideas.
All it takes is some mental exercise and diligence, and you can become the next idea machine.
Let’s start with diligence.
Write stuff down!
This one is so simple and easy that I feel bad for even suggesting it… But if you don’t record your ideas, you will forget them. I’ve had more brilliant ideas than I can count. Unfortunately, I didn’t write most of ’em down.
All you need to do is carry a little notebook and pen with you. Everywhere. Write down your random ideas so you can refer to them later. And don’t filter this list – you have to generate a ton of bad ideas for the good ones to come out.
If you don’t feel like carrying a notebook, I’m willing to bet you have a small, pocket-sized super-computer in your pocket. Yeah – your smartphone. Install an app like Evernote or OneNote and get to recording your thoughts.
Again – think of bad ideas.
Remember how I said you had to generate a ton of bad ideas to get to the good ones? James Altucher recommends writing a list of 10 ideas every day.
I can wholeheartedly support this solution. The trick is to completely remove your filter. Think of 10 ways you could surprise your wife for her birthday, and let it get wild. Cucumbers and a 9v battery? Probably not the best move, but leave it on the list.
Think of 10 ways you could get that promotion. And if killing Janet is on the list – leave it (but don’t share THAT list with anyone). While you might generate 10 horrible ideas, at least can shut off your filter for potential solutions.
Keep doing this for a month, and I can guarantee that you’ve come up with at least 1 good idea out of 300. That ratio will eventually start going up, and some of your good ideas could turn into great ideas.
If 10 ideas seem like too much…that means you should come up with 20 ideas. Lower your standards and let your brain crap on the page. Think of ANY problem you’re facing in life, and then generate every idea you can to solve it or make it a little better.
One of my personal favorite creative exercises is the SCAMPER method described in the book Thinkertoys.
Before I summarize SCAMPER, let me say – buy this damned book. It’s excellent.
Now, a disclaimer on the SCAMPER method – this is a bastardized, simplified version of the method in the book. For a full, detailed explanation, definitely check out Thinkertoys. Here we go…
SCAMPER is actually an acronym for the following:
Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify or Magnify, Put to other uses, Eliminate (or minimize), Rearrange.
Let’s start at the beginning. On your next big project, when looking for creative solutions, definitely go through this list.
What can you substitute to solve the problem? Is there some small piece of the puzzle that you can swap for something else, that would almost magically solve your problem? Can the rules be changed?
What objects or processes could be combined to create something new? The spork, anybody? Check ideas you come up with to see if they could be combined with other ideas to create something even better.
Adapting is tricky, as you’re trying to take other ideas and apply them to your situation. So you need to ask yourself questions about OTHER things or fields. What else is like this? Who or what could I copy or emulate? What other situations have similar problems that have already been solved?
Modify or Magnify
In order to modify, you’re looking for something to tweak in some way to make it better. What’s a twist on the product or idea? What’s
Magnifying is simpler, and sometimes more costly. But it’s a good way to generate ideas on what you could exaggerate about your product, solution, or problem. What could you blow way out of proportion? What could you add to this to make it better?
Put to other uses
Put your ideas to other uses. This one’s great for products. Hell, I could take tattooing and put it to other uses. Do you need a QR code tattooed on you to turn your alarm off in the morning? Do you have a bad memory and want to get reminders and clues about your mission to kill your wife’s attacker tattooed all over your body? Just think of ways that items or services could be used in another way. You get the point.
Eliminate or Minimize
Elimination could be extremely beneficial. What could you remove or reduce in your life to make a problem disappear? Sometimes “too much” is a major problem. Maybe your ideas need broken into smaller parts. Or maybe there’s a simpler solution than what’s already in place.
And, finally, rearranging. What workflows could you rearrange to be more efficient? Can you try things on a different schedule? What if the cause was actually the effect?
This brain teaser is a very, very thorough one, and if you come up with ONE idea for each SCAMPER step, you’re 8 ideas into your list of 10 every day.
Crazy shit, right?
Pardon my language. But you just got a crash course on creativity that I’m hoping will make a huge difference in your life.
I’m begging you – make creativity a part of your life, even if it’s for the simple things like your kid’s birthday party or minor home repairs. Do your best to come up with creative solutions, and you’ll find that creative solutions start coming to you from everywhere.
Believing that you CAN be creative is the first step to actually BEING creative. Be open to new ideas, no matter how good or bad they are. With enough bad ideas on the page, there’s bound to be a diamond or two. And the more diamond ideas you collect, the more they will start to pop up.
Here’s to a creative future for everyone. Why don’t you drop a comment with the last good idea you had? I’d love to hear it.