Want to Boost Creativity? Turn Down the Loud Guy


Why is it that some people are always buzzing with new ideas, whilst others can’t let go of what they have always done? How do some see obstacles and others opportunity? What makes the difference between having an idea and making it stick?

In truth innovators have developed a set of habits that increase their chances of making new discoveries, solving problems,improving customer experiences, society and the planet. And so can you! 

Here are some ideas you can develop for yourself...

Pay Attention

Our unconscious mind processes around 11 million bits of information per second. Our conscious mind 50 bits per second. Our brain has to filter data in order for us to understand and it tends to filter out rather than in, based on what we pay attention to. To boost innovative thinking we have to allow new information into our thinking systems and that means paying attention in a different way. So...observe people, spot broken, rare or interesting things, look up, break your routine, be inquisitive, talk to a stranger, listen to the background noise, switch off your phone. 

Turn down the loud guy

Our minds are conditioned to simplify, seek clarity and make the strange familiar. Logic, judgement and critical evaluation makes us exclude rather than include ideas, banishing embryonic thoughts into nothingness. To create we need to turn down the volume on the internal voice of judgment, at least for a while, so that we can do something with the thoughts that float around our minds. 

Interact with your thoughts

Creative people let thoughts and ideas emerge. They are comfortable with ambiguity, allowing their minds to piece together the patchwork of anecdotes and observations, hunches and information to find connections and make sense of their observations. They tap into intuition to reveal new information and balance this with critical thinking and evaluation to shape, rather than dismiss ideas.

Write it down

Innovators habitually capture their thoughts, musings, mind-wandering and ramblings in notebooks, scrapbooks, images, vision boards and the like. Writing thoughts down allows you to reflect on and interact with them over time so you can find new connections.

Practice, practice and practice some more

Many of us approach performance and learning with an attitude of "peaking by Friday," driven by a thirst for immediate results.  Yet almost every habit that you have (helpful and unhelpful) is the sum of small actions and decisions you have taken over time. If you want to super-charge your creative and critical thinking then focus on small steps, tiny actions, repeated every day. 


How to Package What You Do


Packaging your skills, especially when you are multiskilled and help people in a mutlitude of ways can be very tricky. Here are some tips which may help: 

1. Start by thinking about "what people get" from working with you. Really spend time focusing on the benefit that you deliver rather than the "what you do". What problem do you help them solve? Ask your clients what they get from working with you. Why do they keep coming back? There is likely to be a consistent idea or theme that keeps coming up. 

2. Think about what it is you do best. This is the unique thing about what you deliver, and the way you deliver it that no one else can deliver as effectively. It may be the way you put programmes together, your style of working, your values, your attitudes, other added value you give to your clients.

3. Focus on one idea. It is likely that you deliver lots of benefits, do lots of different things and do lots of things uniquely. There will however be one thought that keeps on coming through which captures the what you get and what you do best. You want to be able to give people a single idea which allows them to download the benefit very quickly. Think big!

As an example a sales development agency in my network (Ruby Star) talks about "ooomph for business" - you can immediately download that this company will help you move forward and grow. In my own business I talk about moving your business "from good to awesome" - I help people who want to be remarkable and make a difference in the world. Another company supporting young people in enterprise, career, personal development is called Striding Out - they help people stride out to success. etc.  

Use a thesaurus to explore words that capture your essence. Or ask others to sum up what you deliver best. 

4. You may have a number of "packages". It may be that there is not a single idea that captures everything because you have a number of different packages - because you are either targeting a different group of people, with different needs or the benefit you are delivering differs significantly. It is ok to have a number of packages if this is the case, as long as each of these packages has a single idea. 

To What End?

The Mullah Nasrudin stories originated as Sufi teaching tales in the Middle East but their appeal is universal. Nasrudin is the wise fool who says the unsayable, plays the fool, tricks us into seeing clearly, and turns our thinking upside down. Peter Hawkins has updated the Nasrudin stories for the world of the modern organisation and corporate advisors in "The Wise Fool's Guide to Leadership", O Books, 2005. Here is one of his stories:

The board of a large company were working on their mission statement.
"What is your fundamental purpose?" asked Nasrudin.
"Our mission is to create constantly increasing dividends for our shareholders," they declared.
"To what end?" asked Nasrudin.
"So they make increased profits which they will want to reinvest in our company," they said.
"To what end?" asked Nasrudin.
"So they make more profits," they said, becoming somewhat irritated.
"To what end?" asked Nasrudin nonchalantly.
"So they re-invest and make more profits."

Nasrudin pondered this for a while and thanked them for their explanations. Later that week they had arranged to visit Nasrudin's house to work further on the Mission Statement. They found him in his garden stuffing oats into his donkey.

"What are you doing?" they asked. "You are giving that poor beast so much food that it will not be able to go anywhere."
"But it is not meant to go anywhere," Nasrudin replied. "Its purpose is to produce manure."
"To what end?" they asked.
"Because without it I cannot grow enough oats in my small allotment to feed this greedy beast."