Time for a bit of creativity

More from Phil Chambers

To be creative you want to leave all avenues open. If you take a single word in isolation it can have a multitude of meanings and trigger countless ideas. As soon as you place it in a sentence you are restricting the meaning and taking away the freedom to associate. You are putting up walls, imprisoning the word. Even worse, sentences funnel you down a path of more and more selective thinking. You write your first sentence. The second sentence follows on from the first. Maybe it develops or refines the theme, but you choose the sentence that best flows. At each point in a narrative you are making choices or selecting. Selective thinking is the enemy of creativity. You need to employ generative thinking to come up with as many solutions as possible.

Capturing thoughts using a Mind Map without imposing sentences allows you total freedom to come up with hundreds of ideas. You can stimulate idea generation using various techniques. These include…

Metaphors: Take a different situation, generate ideas and then relate them back to your challenge.

Reversal: Identify as many ways as possible to make the problem worse and then propose the opposite.

Provocation and movement: Make a ‘silly’ statement, imagine what would happen if this were true and what consequence would arise.

Daydreaming: let your mind wander – Do you come up with ideas in the shower, on long journeys like travelling on trains or planes, or when you go for a walk? Give your subconscious time to work on a problem.

Challenging your assumptions: What walls have you put up that you restrict your thinking? Give yourself permission to stray from convention.

Taking a different perspective: Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. How would scientist like Einstein approach the problem? What would a tough businessman like Alan Sugar say? How would a politician, a nurse or a psychotherapist see things?

Only once you have generated ideas do you evaluate which are most likely to be fruitful. With one or two really good ideas, you can develop them, flesh them out and finally articulate them in sentences. Don’t serve a life sentence of sentences. Break your creativity out of jail.

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