Creative ways to get creative ideas

We’ve all been there. You’re sitting at your desk, banging your head against the keyboard praying or a creative thought to fall out. Whether you work in marketing, writing, publishing, design, sales, etc you need to come up with an interesting solution to any problem you’re solving. The more creative you are the better the solution.

So what is creativity? A “define: creativity” google search tells us the following:
• The ability to create
• Creativity is a mental and social process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations of the creative mind between existing ideas or concepts.
• Creativity is a monthly magazine covering all things creative in advertising and design. The magazine, launched in 1986, provides a showcase of the best ideas across all areas of consumer culture, an exploration of the talent and techniques behind the work and insight on the people and the …
• Creative – promoting construction or creation; “creative work”
• Creatively – in a creative manner; “she solved the problem creatively”
• Creative – “Creative” is a song written by Peter Gordeno, Chris Porter and Howard New. Leon said in episode 21 of his Bebo Leon’s Life series broadcast on …
• Using imagination rather than imitating something else. Generation of ideas, images and/or solutions.
• The process of developing new, uncommon, or unique ideas. The federal definition of giftedness identifies creativity as a specific component of giftedness.
• Refers to the act of generating new and useful ideas, or of re-evaluating or combining old ideas, so as to develop new and useful perspectives in order to satisfy a need. …
• Generates and/or recognises how best practice and imaginative ideas can be applied to different situations.
• The production of previously non-existent information. All new items of information are based on preceding ones, and they are “new” …
• The degree of innovation and dynamism (bounded rationality).
• The experience of thinking, reacting, and working in an imaginative and idiosyncratic way which is characterized by a high degree of innovation …
• The ability to produce something new, to generate unique approaches and solutions to issues or problems or opportunities.

All are definitions of creativity, but I personally think that definitions that use the word to describe itself are lazy, stupid, and generally not very useful. It appears that there isn’t one set definition of creativity – yet it’s something that all people are looking for, want, need, and have the hardest time being. Simply put from these definitions, creativity is the process of generating new and unique ideas, concepts, thoughts, and perceptions to solve an problem/opportunity. This is the keyword, you have to realize each situation as an opportunity to be creative, not a problem that requires creative thinking. That sounds great you way, but you’re still left banging your head against the keyboard wondering how to be creative.

The first thing you have to realize is that you don’t have to be creative – you already are!

It’s not about whether you are creative or not, since we already know everyone is creative the value is what you do, what can you put on the table.

When you’re looking for creative ways to generate creativity you’re really just looking for inspiration. This inspiration needs to be based on knowledge already possessed, inspiration based on someone else’s perspective – it does you no good.
Association. Start with a big white board, or large pieces of butcher paper and just write words. Put your main word/product/idea in the center and just write everything that you think of. It should look like a big web of words that may or may not help immediately but the goal is to just get it out there.

Ask searching questions
Ask opening ended questions. Why questions help discover the problems, meanings, understanding. How questions discover alternatives, differences, improvements.

Brainstorm in teams
You don’t know all the answers, and no one else does either. When you bring in different people with all sorts of backgrounds, job roles, area of expertise, or even better lack of expertise you start seeing opportunities from all kinds of perspectives. Keep in mind that bringing in the head of every department may result in the type of diversity required for a truly creative brainstorming sessions. They play by the rules too much – ask the interns, ask the receptionist, ask the new workers, and compliment them with the veterns. Check out this link for a guide to running brainstorming sessions.

Go on a scavenger hunt
Get away from your desk and bring in new objects, toys, tools, things to play with. It’s even better if you’re working in teams and send everyone out to grab 10 things in 90 seconds and report back. Remember Apollo 13 when they had to build a new air filtration system out of what seemed to be a random pile of objects?

It’s time for old school
Technology is great, we all love it, it usually makes our job easier. Get away from it when you’re trying to get creative. Looking at a blank screen doesn’t help. Go sit in the break room with some pens and a notepad. Sit in the receptionist waiting area and listen in on some conversations while you doodle. Put yourself in a different situation or environment where you don’t do routine tasks.

Opportunity into the discussion
Realize that you don’t have a problem to solve, but an opportunity to bring something new to the table. Having an outlet or an opportunity to show some creativity is a rarity in today’s world of lawsuits, political correctness. Go out there, way out there, let someone else bring it in while you keep trying. Do the things you want to do but never could, say the things you are always afraid that will get you in trouble. Break the mold, stick it to the man!

Pitch it
Come up with quick 30 second elevator speeches. Even better, get in your elevator and just start talking about your idea/product. If you are in a lower building with just a few floors then you probably don’t have the resources to do something that will take a long time to explain. If you’re in a high-rise building creativity is probably stifled and you’ll need that extra time to come up with something that makes every department happy – sucks for you.

Say cheese
Get the camera out, step away from your desk and just start shooting photos – you only have 30 seconds so you can’t be worried about composition, or light, or frame. Just take as many pictures as you can and see what you come up with.

Run away to get closer
This is a goodie. The best ideas come when you aren’t consciously thinking about it. Remove yourself from whatever it is you’re trying to do and go do something else. Find something that is calming – take a walk, take a shower, go to the gym, remove yourself from the situation where you feel that you have to figure it out right now. Creativity isn’t a switch you can flip on and off – it’s a long process that is going to take time.

Time to go shopping
Visit a hardware store, or Walmart(or K-mart for those deeply opposed to it). Look through the aisles, pick up the stuff on the shelf, see how it works, what did they do it. What makes this thing more special than the others. Why do they want you to buy this one and not others.

Walk in the park or at least outdoors
Nature has always been the most creative system. That seems odd, a system that is creative. Go out there and pay attention to what is up there. Try taking a walk around the block only looking up. You’d be amazed at the new things you see since we spend all of our time looking forward to the next step we never take that alternative perspective.

Being creative is easier when it’s something you do on a daily basis. It’s about bringing together a number of different ideas to create a fresh perspective. It’s a frustrating process but it’s also an extremely rewarding one when you finally come up with that “AH-HA” moment. But for those who still don’t believe you can be creative because you always get blocked out. Check out the 7 Stages of Design Grief (I personally have it hung above my desk), it’ll put a smile on your face and can even give you some inspiration to be creative.