How to Unlock Your Creativity
Unlocking creativity is a good way to put it, because it seems
that though we are all creative as children, we lock away our
imagination and playfulness as adults. Here's a look at how to
reverse that, using examples from my own life.
If you've been a reader of my newsletter, you know that I
believe in being "systematically" creative. In other
words, I often recommend that to regularly have new ideas and
solutions you learn a technique or two or ten, and then use them
repeatedly. I usually also demonstrate the different techniques
with examples that I invent as I am writing.
Some of you have written and asked that I have more "real
life" examples of creativity. Specifically, it seems that
you want real examples of creative solutions to everyday problems,
and the techniques that lead to them. That's what I'll try to
do here. It's time to unlock your creativity.
Technique: Ask "What If"
Get in the habit of asking "what if" questions.
It's a great way to get new ideas. When I worked as a manager
of a fast food restaurant in the 1980's I asked "What if
we had bus loads of customers coming in?" Of course that
got me thinking about how to make that happen. In a minute or
two I realized that bus loads of hungry teenagers passed through
town all the time. They came to play basketball or other sports
against local teams. How could I get them to visit our restaurant?
My idea: I got a schedule of games and sent a letter to the
coaches of each of the next four teams that would be coming to
town. I invited him to bring his team to our restaurant, and
offered him a free meal if he did. It costs just four stamps
and envelopes. Two took me up on my offer, bringing a bus load
of hungry kids each time. The profit from dozens of meals made
it worth a giving the coach a free meal.
Technique: Look for Essentials
Always try to get at the essential qualities of things and
systems. A natural question for this is "What's important
here?" That was my thinking process years ago as I looked
at how to make a super-lightweight insulating layer to wear backpacking.
Looking at at winter vests, I saw that the filling was the
most important part. Could I get rid of the shell material, which
was most of the weight? I cut a piece of polyester batting (used
for filling pillows and blankets normally) to wear as a tunic,
with a hole for my head. My outer shell blocked the wind and
held the batting in place, so there was no reason for other materials.
At four ounces, it was probably the lightest insulating vest
to ever go across the glaciers to the top of Mount Chimborazo
in Ecuador (20,610 feet high and far below freezing - I went
Technique: Create a Problem to Solve It
Think of ways to cause a problem or make it worse in order
to solve it. That is roughly the mental process that cured my
insomnia as a young man. I realized that I could stay awake all
night if I kept thinking about interesting things. What if I
thought about things that were tedious and boring?
More specifically, I invented a technique for stopping any
rational thought. If in my mind I saw a car, I would see it go
into a tree. If a sentence started to make sense, I inserted
random words. I essentially short-circuited any linear or logical
thought, and soon my mind shut down. I fell asleep.
To apply that creativity in everyday
life and your job, see the Creative
Work section on EveryWayToMakeMoney.com
Technique: Play With Words
Playing with words is another great creativity technique.
That's how I coined the term "metaphorology," which
I defined as "The study and conscious use of metaphors as
a "thinking technology," as well as a kind of "science
of personal transformation." It resulted in my website Metaphorology.com.
Others had used the term before, but it was new to me (and not
yet in dictionaries). Not much of a money maker yet, but I enjoy
writing the pages.
Perhaps you've heard of "viral marketing." This
great metaphor describes marketing that spreads from person to
person automatically. You might write an ebook that promotes
your website, for example, and allow business websites to use
it as a bonus with their products, and their customers can give
it away as well, so it is spread around without any additional
effort on your part. Playing with that metaphor, I plan to find
the most "infectious" qualities involved, to see if
I can make this work even better (I'll let you know).
Unlock Your Creativity Systematically
Those are just a few examples of how I have applied creative
thinking techniques to my own life. Most of these methods were
"programmed" into me on an unconscious level after
using them consciously for a while. As a result I often don't
know where an idea came from. But not being able to identify
the process in my mind doesn't mean there isn't one operating
Try this: consciously use one of the techniques discussed
on the pages of this website, or in my ebook "Problem Solving
Power." After a few weeks of consistent use, it will become
second nature. Then "program" yourself with another.
This is a great way to develop your creative thinking abilities.
Note: In part two I have examples that demonstrate
the various thought patterns of creativity. You can find that
here: Serious Creativity.