Whether you’ve been in your current job for a few years or more than a decade, just about everyone reaches a point where they feel like they’re stuck. Sure, you keep going through the motions and fulfill the basic duties of your job description, but something’s missing. Maybe you long to have a bigger impact on your company or wish there was a little more spark to your position. What you may be feeling is that you don’t have enough opportunity to be creative in what you do. Even worse, you may feel like you yourself are lacking in creativity, and that’s not a good feeling. But what if you discovered that creativity and innovation are skills you can learn? What if “thinking outside the box” were something you could practice and get better at? Now that would be a gamer-changer, right? Here’s the good news: You can increase creativity with science-based methods!
Apply a Clear Process to Increase Creativity
Big data analytics entrepreneur and author Allen Gannett has a new book out called The Creative Curve, and in it he describes the results of the hundreds of hours he spent studying highly creative people ranging from Netflix chief of content Ted Sarandos to romance novelist Kristen Ashley. Most of us tend to dismiss such people from being relevant to everyday folks because we think of them as eclectic creative geniuses. They’re somehow fundamentally different from regular people, right? Wrong! What Gannett discovered is that all the so-called “creative geniuses” he studied had something in common – they all had some kind of clear process they applied to achieve creative success. And anyone can learn a process, right?
What’s especially appealing about Gannett’s research is that it takes the notion of creativity out of the realm of genius and places it within reach of anyone. If you engage in the right processes, you can apply them to nearly any endeavor, whether it’s starting up a new company, creating high-impact learning and training programs, or writing a book. In other words, anyone can increase creativity if they simply know how to go about doing it. Part of why this is the case is because the fundamental situation at play with creativity is a tension between the novel and the familiar. When you spend too much time in that which is familiar, you’re essentially killing off your creativity. This is why Gannett’s book is called The Creative Curve – you have to learn how to ride that curve to find the optimal mix of the familiar and the novel for creativity to blossom.
Effective Tips to Increase Creativity
There are all kinds of science-based methods you can use to increase creativity, but here are five that seem to bubble to the top in Gannett’s research:
- Inject Unconventionality into Daily Routines: Remember how I mentioned “going through the motions” in your job at the beginning of this article? That’s definitely a creativity killer, whether it’s daily routines on the job or just in your daily life in general. Mix up those daily routines with a splash of unconventionality can immediately turbo-boost your creativity. One study looked at Dutch students doing the mundane task of making a breakfast sandwich. One group was asked to make it the way they always do while a second group was asked to do it in some kind of strange or weird way. Afterwards, it was the second group that immediately scored higher on test for cognitive flexibility – an instant creativity boost!
- Go Solo for Brainstorming Ideas: Most people tend to think of brainstorming as a group activity, but if you want to increase creativity, you’re better off brainstorming on your own. Studies have shown that individual brainstorming tends to result in significantly more novel ideas than brainstorming in groups. This may seem counterintuitive, but when you’re freed up from the group dynamics, you actually end up being more creative.
- Freedom from Choice: Here’s another counterintuitive strategy: Reduce the overall number of choices you make available. When you have too many options, making a good decision is actually harder. This “paradox of choice” can actually get in the way of decision-making.
- Turn Off the Lights: Something as simple as a change in lighting can make a big difference to creativity. A number of studies have shown that when it comes to creativity, individuals working in darker rooms generated more creative insights than those working in rooms with bright lighting.
- Bring on the Blue: The color palette of your surroundings actually has a discernable effect on your performance, but you have to know which colors do what. People working on detail-oriented tasks perform better when there is more of the color red in the setting, but when greater creativity is desired, blue is the color that has the desired performance-enhancing effect.
Finding the sweet spot where the mix of the novel and the familiar produce the right creativity-boosting tension necessarily involves some trial-and-error experimentation. But the results you’ll likely see when as you get closer to a more optimal mix will make it well worth the effort.
The exciting thing about the five tips and strategies listed above to increase creativity is that anyone can implement them without a lot of effort. They’re not complicated and yet have proven to be quite effective for all those people you think of as creative geniuses. Not only are they easy, but they also add up very quickly the more you do them in a cumulative way, which means that without a lot of effort you can build up a wave of momentum that you ride into the shores of greater creativity. And you don’t have to do all of these at once. Start small and implement just one of these strategies during the course of a week, then layer in more as you go in the following weeks. You’ll soon find yourself bring a whole new level of creativity to your work and your life!