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Two Creativity Tips

The following tips suggest two of the dozens of basic questions you can ask to increase the creativeness of your thinking and problem solving. Use these questions these as you work on something, and you can see more creative results starting today.

1. Purpose

Certain questions lead to more creative ideas. As you might suspect, these questions don't include "How does everyone else do this?" or "What's the usual approach" A better one: "What is the important goal here, and how could that be accomplished in a different way?"

You want to look past the form to find new ways to achieve the function. When you consider your job, for example, the most creative approach is not to ask where you can find a better one. It is more creative to ask why you have one, and what alternatives there are. The primary purposes could be to make money, pay the bills, or work up to a better position.

Once you have these in mind, consider how you might accomplish each of them in new ways. For example, could you make a business of what you do? Write a book about the characters you work with? Get someone else to pay the bills (you might manage an apartment complex in exchange for rent and utilities)? Design the position you want and convince an employer to create it just for you?

2. "What If"

Basic "what if" questions are a fun way to have more creative thoughts. The idea is to ask crazy questions, and then find a way to make them not so crazy. Then you try to refine a few of your ideas into something practical and usable.

Suppose you run a college, for example, and you want to develop more creative ways to educate people and increase enrollment. You could start by asking, "What if we made a drive-though window for students, instead of another classroom?" It's a crazy enough question, but you start looking for ways to make sense of it, to create something useful from it - something not so crazy.

One thing that pops into your head is a drive through window for the bookstore. It seems like something which might work. The next thought - taking classes at such a window - just seems too crazy, until you consider the window as just the place the student gets his or her assignments for their classes. How do they get assignments there? This might be where you have your "breakthrough idea."

"Audio college" enters your mind, and you imagine classes on CDs. Students spend so many hours in their cars, so why not let them use that time to study? They could listen to class lectures while traveling or just driving to work. It may not be appropriate for all classes, and on-site testing might be necessary for many, but perhaps as much as a third of the student's credits could be accomplished in this form, and at a lower cost too. You might boost enrollment with a system that made studying that convenient.

Be sure to ask any "what if" question that comes to mind and play with it for a few minutes without criticizing any ideas that come up. The time for critical analysis is after this "brainstorming" session. In this way you don't discourage your creativity. Bad ideas will often lead to good ones if they're allowed to develop and change as you work with them.

There are dozens of creative thinking techniques you can use for better ideas. Fortunately knowing even just a few such methods can get you thinking in new ways. Try them out and see.

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