Creativity is essential for innovation–be that in the form of entrepreneurship or “intrapreneurship.” The ability to look at what everyone else sees and form a different conclusion requires a unique paradigm. Sometimes, it can be hard to know how to shift one’s paradigm if it is too similar to those in your environment.
@Nadiagoodman wrote for Entrepreneur recently an article entitled “How to Train Your Creative Mind.” An excerpt follows below:
As Louis Pasteur once famously said, “Chance favors only the prepared mind.” To be an innovative entrepreneur, you want to foster creativity in your daily life so that your mind is ready when opportunity arises.
“Creative ideas often come from unusual combinations,” explains Steven Smith, professor of cognitive psychology at Texas A&M University. “The best solution is not going to be the thing everyone thinks of. It’s going to be something unusual.”
These unusual combinations, called “remote associations,” are related ideas that may seem unrelated at first glance. They are the essence of creative thinking. To cultivate creativity, you want to increase your chances of stumbling on an unexpected link.
Years ago, I was on a quest to understand why some people seemed to be creative and others were not. Additionally, I searched for tools to help inspire creativity. My favorite read on the subject–then and now–is Roger Von Oech’s classic work, A Whack on the Side of the Head: How to Unlock Your Mind for Innovation.
In the book, Von Oech lists 10 “mental locks” that have to be overcome in order to spur creativity. He offers tips to unlock one’s mind–
1. “The Right Answer” –
Tip #1: A good way to be more creative is to look for the second right answer. There are many ways to pursue this answer, but the important thing is to do it.
Tip #2: The answer you get depends on the questions you ask. Play with your wording to get different answers. One technique is to solicit plural answers. Another is asking questions that whack people’s thinking.
2. “That’s not logical!” –
Tip #1: For more and better ideas, I prescribe a good dose of soft thinking in the germinal phase, and a hearty helping of hard thinking in the practical phase.
3. “Follow the Rules” –
Tip #1: Play the revolutionary and challenge the rules – especially the ones you use to govern your day-today activities.
Tip #2: Remember that playing the revolutionary also has its dangers. Looking back on the decision, sometimes it goes too far.
Tip#3 : Have rule -inspecting and rule-discarding sessions within your organization. You may even find some motivational side benefits in this activity – finding and eliminating outmoded rules can be a lot of fun.
4. “Be Practical” –
Tip #1: Each of you has an “artist” and a “judge” within you. The open-minded attitude of the artist typifies the kind of thinking you use in the germinal phase when you are generating ideas. The evaluative outlook of the judge represents the kind of thinking you use in the practical phase when preparing ideas for execution.
Tip #2: Be a magician. Ask “what if” questions and use the provocative answers you find as stepping-stones to new ideas.
Tip #3: Cultivate your imagination. Set aside time everyday to ask yourself what-if questions. Although the likelihood that any given “what-if” question will lead to a practical idea is not high, the more often you practice this activity the more productive you’ll become.
5. “Avoid Ambiguity” –
Tip #1: Take advantage of the ambiguity on earth. Look at something and think about what else it might be.
Tip #2: Try to use humour to put you or your group in a creative state of mind.
6. “To Err is Wrong” –
Tip#1: If you make an error, use it as a stepping-stone to some new idea you might not have otherwise discovered.
Tip #2: Strengthen your “risk muscle”. Everyone has one, but you have to exercise it or else it will atrophy. Make it appoint to take at least one risk every twenty-four hours.
Tip #3: Remember these two benefits of failure: First, if you do fail, you learn what doesn’t work. And second, the failure gives you an opportunity to try a new approach.
7. “Play is Frivolous” –
Tip #1: The next time you have a problem – play with it.
Tip #2: If you don’t have a problem, take the time to play anyway. You may find some new ideas.
Tip #3: Make your work place a fun place to be.
8. “That’s not my area ” –
Tip #1: Develop the hunter’s attitude, the outlook that wherever you go, there are ideas waiting to be discovered.
Tip #2: Don’t get so busy that you lose the free time necessary for idea hunting. Schedule hunting time into your day and week. Little side excursions can lead to new hunting grounds.
Tip #3: Look for analogous situations. Often problems similar to yours have been solved in other areas.
9. “Don’t be Foolish” –
Tip #1: Occasionally, let your “stupid monitor” down, play the fool, and see what crazy ideas you can come up with.
Tip #2: Recognize when you or others are conforming or putting down the fool. Otherwise, you may be setting up a “groupthink” situation.
Tip #3: May the FARCE be with you.
10. “I’m not creative!” –
Tip #1: Whack yourself into trying new things and building on what you find – especially the small ideas. The creative person has the self –faith that these ideas will lead somewhere.