It can be mighty frustrating when you're sitting at work, waiting for inspiration to tap you on the shoulder. Generating a fabulous idea comes easily to some of us but for many others it's a long hard slog between a blank mind and a lightbulb moment.
There has been much debate over the years about whether creative geniuses are born or made. But Dr Amantha Imber told The Huffington Post Australia, the idea that you can only be creative if you were born that way is just a myth.
"Research has shown that much of being creative is about your experiences, or training, as well as the environment you're working in. Only a small portion of your creativity is something you're born with. But if you really want to stretch your thinking and instantly improve your creative thinking abilities, there are some fun and simple ways to do that," Dr Imber said.
Set Clear Challenges
Letting your mind wander wherever it needs to, starting with a blank canvas and being free of rules are all considered conducive to creativity. However, the latest psychological research has shown the complete opposite.has shown the complete opposite – creativity loves constraints.
In one study, a group of adults was asked to make a construction using LEGO. One group was given no constraints; they were told that they could build whatever they liked. The other group had several constraints placed upon them; they were told that their construction must contain no right-angled joints and they could only use one kind of brick.
The constructions built by the 'constraints' group were judged to be significantly more creative and lateral than those in the 'free expression' group.
So the next time you want to exercise your creative muscle, make sure you have a clear challenge to focus on, thus setting yourself a clear constraint.
Stop asking customers what they want
Many organisations fall into the trap of simply asking customers what they want, or what is important to them. However, customers' ideas can be unreliable. People are not very good at predicting what they might want or need in the future.
As Henry Ford is reputed to have said, 'If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses'.
Instead, focus your efforts on clearly understanding what frustrates your customers. By understanding the problems that your customers have, you can then focus your innovation efforts on finding creative ways to solve those problems.
Look for the odd one out
Enhancing our ability to create new and original solutions to problems can be as simple as staring at an image that depicts the notion of "being different". One study compared the ideas generated by people looking at a poster depicting an 'odd one out' image versus people seeing an image representing conformity for two minutes, while also tasked with coming up with different uses for a brick.
The 'odd one out' viewers came up with significantly more ideas. In addition, their ideas were judged as being 25 per cent more creative.
Watch some stand up comedy
Our mood has a big impact on the chances of coming up with insight and inspiration. If we get ourselves into a happy state, creative ideas are much more likely to abound. In one study, participants were asked to watch a five minute bloopers reel, which put participants into a jovial mood.
The participants who had experienced a good belly laugh were able to solve significantly more insight puzzles compared to those who had watched a short clip about mathematics.