Dr. Linda Sands26 October 2018

The journey to becoming a “creative-type”

Creativity is an important part of innovation. The more creative ideas we can come up with, the more likely we are to find a new way to solve a customer problem, and therefore, to be innovative. Given creativity is important for innovation, have you ever thought how “creative” you are?

Many years ago, I was working in a small team of six people. As we all sat around a table together, our manager asked us to write down a word that described each of our colleagues in the team. By the end of the activity, each person had five pieces of paper, each with a word on it from a different colleague, describing them.

I looked over my collection of words, describing me. A number of my colleagues had described me as ‘creative’. I felt surprised by this and asked them, “why do you think I’m creative?” They gave me specific examples.

All my jobs, up until that point in my life, had been in roles that emphasised analytical thinking. I’d been a data-driven scientist, with an overly utilised left hemisphere of my brain. I’d spent almost 10 years studying and working on my PhD, and at the time of this activity, I was in the business of science and was marketing scientific products.

At first, I felt uncomfortable with the label, a bit of a fraudster. I didn’t think I looked like a “creative” type. I’m a science nerd, who loves spending time with books. Being told I was creative made me curious about ‘creativity’ and I set out to understand more about it.

I discovered that there is a lot of scientific research about creativity and the results clearly show that creativity is just like any other skill – we can actively work at being more creative. How do we do this? Well, there are lots of ways, but here are three tips to get started on your creative journey:

1. Read broadly about different topics

As creativity arises when different ideas come together in new ways, the more we can expose ourselves to different topics, the more creative ideas we can generate. For example, if you always read about topics related to your job or industry, try reading about what’s happening in another industry, or for something different, read some fiction.

2. Spend time with people who are different to you 

When we spend time with people who are very different to us, we get exposed to different perspectives and different ways of seeing the world. This can help us break out of our habitual way of approaching problems to come up with different ideas. Think about the people you spend time with. How can you broaden your network?

3. Block time for fun 

Research shows that when we are happy, we are most effective at thinking broadly and creatively. Think about what makes you happy – this may include spending time with your family, friends, or pets, or perhaps watching a funny movie. Make a list of these things and ensure you block time for it!


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