Words by Renae Spinks
Creativity is a useful quality in business – it can lead to innovation, inspire problem-solving, enhance adaptability, avoid stagnation, and foster leadership. And the good news is we’re all creative, even if we don’t think we are.
In fact, simply believing you are creative can improve your creativity. But most of us forget to try, weighed down by routine and the busy-ness of life. So schedule some time for creativity in your day and watch the benefits unfold. Here are some simple ways to get the juices flowing – alone or in a group – even when you are on the road.
One way to inspire your creativity is to beautify your environment. So go outside – studies have shown that creativity and problem-solving ability receive a boost of up to 50 per cent after immersion in nature. Other studies have found that the colours blue and green can boost creativity, so pick a hotel with a view of the sea or decorate your workspace in cool hues. Surround yourself with things that inspire you – play a favourite piece of music (better yet, learn to play an instrument), hang a favourite piece of art on the wall, or leaf through your favourite book of poetry.
Clear your head. Creative coach Mark McGuinness writes that daily meditation allows him to be a better writer, providing focus, patience, calmness, clarity, insight and perspective – all key elements of creativity. But there are plenty of other ways to clear your head.
Busy work with the hands – such as cleaning your home or workspace, knitting or collage making – frees up the mind to wander and make creative connections. Cleaning and clearing clutter (as feng shui practitioners will attest) also provides room for you to create. You can also get out of your head by getting into your body – yet more studies have shown that moving your body can exorcise mental blocks.
Exercise your imagination. Einstein said: "Imagination is more important than knowledge." But it’s not something we consciously exercise amid the daily grind.
So go ahead and daydream – researchers from the University of California have found a link between daydreaming and creative problem solving. Stuck for ideas? Start with imagining your perfect day.
Author and blogger Deborah Shouse suggests creating a visual image for your week of how you want to feel or be (creative, perhaps?), such as roller-skating through the week. Buddhists and yogis set great store by motivation or intention, so make a practice each morning of setting your intention to be creative.
Write it down. There are endless ways to inspire creativity with the pen. Keep an ideas journal for those little creative pings throughout the day and make a point of acting on them – you’ll get better at noticing them, too.
Document your dreams each morning to unravel your unconscious mind. Or try Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages exercises, from her best-selling book The Artist’s Way – cover three sides of paper with stream-of-consciousness words on waking. The practice is said to calm anxieties, produce insights and solve dilemmas.
Or how about Luciano Passuello’s List of 100 technique? The man behind the Litemind website, which explores ways to use our minds efficiently, says to state your issue at the top of a blank sheet of paper, and then write 100 solutions in one sitting (the last 30 will be the gems). You can begin with: 100 Ways To Be More Creative.
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It’s a puzzlement. Puzzles and riddles that inspire lateral thinking are a great way to warm up your brain for a creative day. They’ll take your mind off your troubles and boost team-building. Apple and Google are known for asking prospective employees some curly brain-teasers. And puzzles call on different properties of your brain, such as logical thinking or pattern recognition, stimulating new neural pathways, and opening you up to new ways of thinking.
Get out and play. Plenty of team-building games can spark your creativity – why not head to the beach and reconnect with your inner child with a sandcastle competition? Product design company Zurb has developed the Friday 15 – creative challenges for teams to do every Friday for 15 minutes to recharge those creative batteries. They include things like What If scenarios that team members must act out; designing a paper helicopter; or recreating the zombie apocalypse. In his TED Talk, designer Tim Brown emphasised the link between creativity and play, saying that playful exploration, playful building and role-play are key elements of design.
Brainstorming. This technique has had a bit of bad press lately – the key is to brainstorm effectively. At its best, brainstorming can combine the creative talents of all team members, taking ideas to the next stage when one member of the group gets stuck. At its worst, criticism creeps in, and members can block each other’s ideas. The best brainstorming comes when the group is comfortable enough to embrace the ridiculous, and the group contains people from different fields for a true exchange of ideas.
Find an artistic group. If you really don’t believe you have a creative bone in your body, try your hand at art. Pick up the charcoal in a life-drawing class; join a ukulele jam; get crafty with a crochet gang; or leap into a dance class (as dancer and choreographer Martha Graham said: “Dance is the hidden language of the soul.”). You might be surprised at just how creative you are.
The Last Word
The good news for business travellers is that they’re already doing one of the most creative practices there is – travel. Writers such as Ernest Hemingway and Henry Miller found their muses in far-flung lands.
Doing things you’ve never done before, visiting places you’ve never been, and engaging with people from different backgrounds can cause different synapses in the brain to spark, increasing cognitive flexibility and boosting the creative brain. For example, a study of fashion houses by Columbia Business School’s Professor Adam Galinsky, published in the Academy of Management Journal last year, found the brands whose creative directors had lived and worked in other countries produced more creative fashion lines than those whose directors had not.
Seeing how things are done in other parts of the world also provides a creative cross-pollination of ideas. So get out there – a whole new creative world awaits.
* Pictures courtesy of Getty Images