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BLOGInsight: Improving Creative Potential

by Randall CraigFiled in: Blog, Content, Make It Happen TipsheetTagged as: ,

What is the one rubbish statement that single-handedly limits our creative potential? “Some people are incredibly creative, and others are not.  I am more analytical than creative.”  Rubbish!

Creativity is a skill to be mastered – not an endpoint of a so-called creative-analytical continuum.

Insight: Improving Creative Potential

In the interest of providing practical ideas to improve creative performance, here are five “creative” insights that can help:

1) Your Environment: Where do you actually do your work?  Your surroundings have both a direct and indirect impact on how your mind works.  Recently I saw the home office of a marketing and PR professional.  It was a small office, but the wall in front of the desk was painted with special blackboard paint.  On the blackboard were inspirational messages.  And attached to the wall were several candleholders.  For her, this was an inspiring place to work.  While candles aren’t my thing, and they may not be yours, but what is?  How might you change your usual environment to be more inspiring to you?

2) Environmental Change:  Even if you have a “perfect” place to be creative, the sameness of it all doesn’t always inspire.  Try changing to a different desk.  Or change the artwork.  Or put some music on.  Going to a completely different location can give you that new perspective that you need to come up with new ideas.  (In my case, I wrote several of my books this way: One in the public library, one in a hotel in Phoenix by the pool.)

3) Input Change – Knowledge:  Knowledge is nutrition for the mind, and is acquired through experiences:  at work, at school, on not-for-profit boards, and through what you read and watch.  Without new knowledge, thinking patterns will never change – you may be creative, but you only will be tapping a small portion of your potential.  Athletes pay attention to their nutrition… and so should you.

  • What challenging non-fiction books have you recently read?  Which are on your to-be-read list?
  • What “new” professional development have you signed up for?  And what’s on your list?
  • What are you doing “new” on the job?  How many special projects have you solicited?

The more knowledge you have, the more raw material you are working with.

Articles like this are designed to stimulate both of these dimensions.  Effectively, you are procuring for yourself a different knowledge base – mine – and as you read other tipsheets, you are able to use the knowledge profitably.  In other words, you are learning to think differently.

4) Reframing:  Reframing means to look at the challenge from a different perspective: take the challenge, and swap industries, swap roles, swap genders, swap anything.  For example, if you are trying to sell cars, a traditional marketing and sales brainstorm would yield traditional marketing and sales ideas.  But consider the ideas that might come from reframing:

  • How would cell phone companies sell cars?  (Monthly fees, free mileage, local driving zones, bundle with a free phone.)
  • How would Apple sell cars?  (Redesign the car itself, with simple controls, a touch interface, and only available in three colors.  And no negotiating at the dealer – just order online.)
  • How would Gillette, the razor blade company, sell cars?  (Cars would be free… but gas would cost four times what we now pay.)
  • How would a mechanic sell cars?  (Free maintenance forever – a worry-free experience.)

Reframing can also apply to your own problem solving techniques – even for writing tipsheets such as this.  Start with the conclusion, and reverse engineer your ideas.  Use pictures and diagrams.  Write instead of type.  Use a problem-solving framework that you’ve never tried before.  All of these approaches provide different outputs, which can spark even more valuable ideas when shared with others.

5) Remove constraints:  Often the constraints to creativity are in people’s heads – and not in reality.  Removing limiting factors can spark ideas that may have always been discarded “because.”  Some constraints that can be removed:

  • If budget were no object…
  • If there were no existing solutions or legacy issues…
  • If it could be done without a deadline…
  • If no warranty were required…
  • And so on…


Next time you need to spend time thinking by yourself, change your environment, change your inputs, reframe, and remove constraints.  And you know that colleague or friend who says that they aren’t creative?  Send them this Tipsheet.

“Some people are incredibly creative, and others are not.  I am more analytical than creative.”  Rubbish!

Does this topic resonate? Reach out to Randall: he can present it to your group.  (More presentation topics)
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