- Spend a day in nature
Creativity is directly connected to the ability to focus and find inspiration. Obviously this can happen in different ways and places, but one of the best places to find focus and inspiration is in the solitude of nature. The created world—the rivers and streams, the birds and trees, and the mountains and skies— are all things that tend to point us back to the creator and certainly have a stabilizing and balancing effect on our heart, mind and soul. Since many of us live in urban contexts, getting out into nature is also a way to escape our normal patterns and routines of distraction. Getting into nature allows us the time and space to reflect on life and ponder creative ideas and solutions.
- Keep a pen and pad of paper on your nightstand
Some of the best ideas I’ve had came to me after I laid down in bed at night while I was thinking through my day, reflecting on the priorities in my life, or simply laying in bed half asleep with my mind wandering freely through the various aspects of life. The mind only has so many hooks before it fills up so writing your ideas down not only makes sure they are captured, but allows your mind to continue on rather than sluggishly moving in circles to remember the various points that you’d already run across. I talk about this in my new book Create vs. Copy, but some of the greatest instances of inspiration have come when men and women jotted down things in the middle of the night that they would never have remembered in the morning light.
- Build creative people into your schedule
Whether you’re a verbal processor or not, often creativity requires some degree of back and forth with another person that can create synergy with your energy and passion on the subject you’re exploring. It’s true of love—that love begets love—and it’s true of creativity. Creativity and exposure to creative environments produces more creativity. One of my favorite things about Antioch is that it has been filled with highly creative individuals since its inception. This has been a big part of my creative thinking and strategizing over the last 10 years.
- Read books on creativity
Creativity can come in flashes but it is also a skill that can be developed over time. This second part is the more neglected aspect of creativity. Just like we learn to speak a language best by investing the time into studying it, being around those who speak it, and understanding its culture; likewise, creativity is a language we can learn, absorb, and rehearse. For a few initial thoughts on books to read, see my post on 3 Books Everyone Should Read on Creativity and Why
- Pick up art or another creative hobby
Much like the point above, we all know that there is a left side of the brain and a right side of the brain. The right side of the brain speaks more to our creativity. It’s valuable to read and study about creativity, but its equally important to engage the right side of your brain and develop your ability to think creatively and imaginatively. Doing adult coloring books, puzzles, drawing, painting, playing music, and cooking are all ways to not only reduce stress but also grow one’s ability to think creatively.
Just like getting into nature removes us from our routines and allows inspiration to seep into parts of our mind that otherwise would be preoccupied, travel removes us from our normal rhythms and exposes us to different sights, sounds and smells—all of which exercise the ability to think outside the boxes that we’ve created for ourselves. There’s a phrase called “social imagination” that describes the boundaries a given society or group of people have around them–beyond which its hard to imagine. In a literal sense, our social imagination is our box. Travel is a way of forcing yourself to escape the bounds of your social imagination and be able to think outside the box.
- Brainstorm (and then brainstorm again)
Writing is one of the best ways to force your mind to not only think creatively, but to refine your ideas. Additionally, writing, drawing and outlining with bullet points allow you to develop your ideas beyond your first pass, often leading to unexpected discoveries. Brainstorming is not something that has to wait for scheduled meetings. You can do it yourself, you can do it with someone else or your can call an impromptu meeting. It simply begins with trying to capture thoughts on a whiteboard. If you’re technological or visual, you may want to try downloading a mind node app that allows you to brainstorm in a more causal and three dimensional way than a typical outline.
- Use a whiteboard, seriously!
I don’t know if there is any scientific data to prove this, but the greater the whiteboard space in any environment, the more apt you are to draw or illustrate what you’re thinking as you talk to a group of people. And the more you write, draw or illustrate, the greater the clarity and the further the development of an idea. In my office I have a large pane of smoked glass that serves as my whiteboard. It was a friend’s idea, and not only does it serve as an art piece in my office, it’s also a practical way to capture ideas. Find your own creative surfaces whether an oil pan, a traditional whiteboard, or chalk paint—but no matter what, make sure you keep dry erase markers and chalk ready.
- Buy a set of headphones
Did I mention already that focus is a big part of creative thinking? One of the quickest and easiest ways to tune out distractions and prepare your mind for focus is to put on headphones that knock down background noise—and if chosen correctly, provide inspirational music for work. If you’re an introvert or don’t feel like being distracted by other people on an airplane, then this might just be the most important point of this list for you!
- Pursue your MA in Innovation & Leadership at Kilns College
There are lots of places to go and things you can do to learn more about creativity and innovation. One of those happens to be the MA in Innovation & Leadership at Kilns College. In this degree not only do we try and expose students to the best literature on creativity and innovation, but we also try to introduce them to some of the leading thinkers and practitioners on the topic. If you’ve ever thought about getting your masters or if you’ve wondered whether you can actually do a masters program with your current life demands, make sure to contact us to learn more.