Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Creative thinking hacks

Today I’m back to Scott Berkun’s The Myths of Innovation. If his chapter on creative thinking hacks is “a high-speed, condensed version of a course [he] taught at the University of Washington,” this post is the warp-speed, ultra condensed version.

An idea, he contends, is a combination of other ideas. Let’s simply accept this definition on faith because, whether or not it’s true, it gets us on the road to creativity. “Over time, creative masters learn to find, evaluate, and explore more combinations than other people. They get better at guessing which combinations will be more interesting, so their odds improve. They also learn there are reusable combinations, or patterns, that can be used again and again to develop new ideas or modify existing ones.” (p. 169)

Standing in the way of creativity is inhibition: “We don’t want to do anything that could yield an unexpected result. We seek external validation … , but creativity usually depends on internal validation. … Creativity has more to do with being fearless than intelligent.” (pp. 170-71)

So how do we go about becoming creative?

Start an idea journal. “You will never have to show anyone else this journal, so there should be no filters—it’s safe from judgment.”

Give your subconscious a chance. “Find time to turn your mind off.”

Use your body to help your mind. “If your body is active, your mind will follow.”

Inversion. “If you’re stuck, come up with ideas for the opposite of what you want.”

Switch modes. “Everyone has a dominant way of expressing ideas: sketching, writing, talking. If you switch the mode you’re working in, different ideas are easier to find, and your understanding of a particular problem will change.”

Take an improvisational comedy class. [You can be creative here and try to figure out why this would be helpful.]

Find a partner. “Some people are most creative when they’re with creative friends.”

Stop reading and start doing. “The word create is a verb. Be active. … If all your attempts at being creative consist of passive consuming, no matter how brilliant what you consume is, you’ll always be a consumer, not a creator.” (pp. 173-74) Yes, I hear you!

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