In his podcast series The Art of Adventure, US entrepreneur and coach Derek Loudermilk delves into the creative minds of successful people. Here’s his advice for unlocking your own ingenuity
You might think that creativity is the preserve of “creative types” – artists, musicians, dancers etc. Or you might think that only professionals such as architects are paid to be creative thinkers. You might also think that it’s a fixed trait – ie, that creative people are born, not made. In fact, everyone is creative. What’s more, there are some simple things that we can all do to improve our ability in this respect. Number one is GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO BE CREATIVE. Here are six more of my favourite exercises:
2. WRITE FREELY
Pick a problem you’re working on for which you would like to generate some solutions. Set a timer for 10 minutes and write about the issue as quickly and freely as you can. Don’t allow yourself to slow down, let alone stop. The idea is to rush past your internal editor. Everyone has one of these – it tries to prevent us from sounding foolish, but it also quashes some of our best ideas.
3. RUN WILD
The more ideas you come up with, the more likely you are to find something unique. If you aim to produce 100 ideas for solving a creative problem, the first 10 to 20 will often come easily. Then you have to start generating less obvious solutions, which can result in breakthrough thinking.
4. DELAY EVALUATION
Generate all your ideas first and then go back to see how good they are. Our natural tendency is to assess each idea when we say it, often pointing out why it won’t work. This only hampers the creative process.
5. COMPARTMENTALISE YOUR THINKING
It can be easier to get started on a broad topic by setting up a series of constraints. For example, consider which ideas would: incur the most cost, most appeal to women/men/children, be illegal, be deadly dull, be dangerous etc. From here you have a variety of places from which to jump off and generate more conventional ideas.
6. SHARE THE LOAD
It may sound obvious, but it’s remarkable how many leaders take on the burden of idea-generation alone. When you have a group of people brainstorming, you really can benefit from a wider range of thought patterns and creative styles. People can piggyback on others’ ideas and generate more than they would come up with alone. If one person can produce 50 ideas, a team of six should be able to achieve 600.
7. TAKE A WALK
Some of history’s greatest creative minds – Aristotle, Dickens and Einstein, for instance – did their best thinking on their feet. A relaxing walk helps to increase the supply of blood to the brain, enabling your thoughts to flow more freely. Walking also stimulates the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with creativity.
Superconductors: Revolutionize your career and make big things happen, by Derek Loudermilk, is out now, published by Kogan Page