If you’re like most people, when you hear the word “creativity,” images pop into your mind of painters at their easels, ballet dancers en pointe or photographers capturing wildlife in the Sahara. What most people tend to forget is that creativity is an essential part of living. We use creativity every day to solve problems and analyze information, even if we aren’t artists ourselves! Consider this—you most likely got the current job you have because your creativity and personality shone brighter than the other candidates. Don’t waste your innate creativity by forgetting it exists. Let’s explore the ways creativity is beneficial to business environments.
What is Professional Creativity?
All of life’s problems require creativity, and the business world is no exception. Creativity is the ability to come up with something new and/or to approach problems in a new way. Innovation, in turn, is the implementation of creativity to engage in new processes. Creativity and innovation are skills that are intrinsically linked in many people’s professional lives. Today’s top business leaders find themselves in need of sharper critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills as worldwide markets trend towards more automation, artificial intelligence and technological advances than ever before. Rapid changes drive today’s leaders to produce unique new ideas for the sake of rapid innovation.
How Embracing Creativity Makes You a Better Problem-Solve
Everybody’s brain has a creative process feedback loop and embracing your natural creativity will give you a leg-up when it comes to problem-solving. In fact, 82 percent of companies believe that there is a strong correlation between creativity and business results. In today’s competitive business world, creativity is essential to success. Experts tend to agree that creative problem solvers are so successful because they challenge preexisting perspectives, they explore their options, they generate fresh new ideas and they make choices based on what they expect will create exciting breakthrough results.
There are several key ways in which creativity enhances problem-solving skills:
- Communication across fields, industries or departments can encourage the flow of ideas. Collaborating with people from different departments will help business leaders to understand new perspectives and to consider new approaches to problems
- Fostering creativity as a leader can encourage your team to live out a culture of innovation. Managers who promote non-judgmental environments in which ideas of all types can be shared tend to contribute to fostering autonomy in their employees. This leads employees to feel safer when it comes to suggesting new ideas, strategies or solutions
- Being sensitive to your team’s creative needs will help them learn how to embrace creative impulses rather than to stifle them
Methods for Enhancing Your Creativity
Some people are naturally more creative than others, just as some people are naturally more outgoing or are naturally great at complex mathematical theory. We all have our strengths. Just as mathematical skills can increase with hard work and time, creative thinking abilities can be enhanced with practice. However, if you have ever come up with a solution to a problem, you have exercised your creative talents.
Before diving into ways that you can enhance your creativity, let’s explore the creative process. Most people who regularly engage in enhancing their creativity find the following steps useful. Feel free to rearrange and expand upon these steps as needed. There are no bounds to the creative process.
- Find a quiet space to think – Many people like to set aside the first chunk of time in their day to write and/or reflect. Some people do this immediately after getting out of bed in the morning. Scientists have been researching the importance of dreams for decades, including their ability to bring unconscious thoughts to the surface. Engaging in creative thinking early in the day keeps you more in touch with your unconscious thoughts and you can uncover gems that would otherwise get lost. This sets the stage for a productive and mentally efficient day. Whatever time of day you decide to let your brain create, make sure to prioritize quiet time free of distractions
- Fully engage with yourself – Trust your ability to come up with excellent ideas. Shut out any negative voices and believe in yourself. Being able to face your inner challenges will help you face external ones more efficiently
- Relax – If you are feeling tense, take some time to relax before sitting down to a brainstorming session. This will help you to dive in and trust the process
- Make time for fun – If you are constantly focused on producing results, your creativity might become stifled. This is because you need to integrate fun into your life to let your thoughts flow freely. Think of it this way—if you’re stressed or worried all the time, your brain doesn’t have much leftover energy for creativity
- Repetition – If things don’t click the first time, try not to get discouraged. Give it another go
- Help others – Engaging in teaching moments with your peers will help you see things in new ways. When we help others understand processes that have become routine to us, it can help us see what we’re doing in a fresh new light
Once you find a process that works for you, try out some of the following tips to using creative thinking developed by social psychologist Graham Wallas:
- Recognize when a problem arises – Being able to pick up on a problem early on is crucial to finding a creative solution. Find out as much about the problem as you can and then come up with some tentative answers
- Incubation – After you’ve familiarized yourself with the problem, take a break. Do something else and consider ideas unrelated to the problem. During this step, your brain will do the unconscious work towards a solution
- Illumination – Thanks to the incubation step, your brain will find it easier to manifest illuminating answers or realizations
- Verification – This is the point at which you can implement your tentative solution and check that it works. If not, you can re-engage the process
Beyond this process, it is important to regularly challenge your creative self and push your boundaries. David Kelley, the founder of IDEO, delivered a TED Talk on creative confidence. In it, he explores self-efficacy and people’s abilities to change the world through their creativity. Here are a few tips to improve creativity:
- Collaborate and ask for feedback – When you collaborate with others, you stand to learn about new perspectives and to feel inspired by fresh concepts. Furthermore, when you get too close to a problem, it can be hard to see it clearly anymore. Check in with peers for feedback and advice when needed
- Look to other industries for illumination – Periodically check in on businesses that are growing and evaluate what they are doing well and why it is working for them. You just might have one of Graham Wallas’s illumination moments
- Take time to rest and enjoy downtime – Take walks and exercise, schedule time away from screens, let your mind wander, do nothing, or do whatever feels good. Avoid overwhelming yourself by scheduling time for self-care and relaxation
- Regularly test yourself – Research some bad ideas and brainstorm how they could have been better. What would you have done differently? How could a few minor changes drastically affect the outcomes? Regular maintenance on your creativity will keep you sharp
Although creativity is known for being fickle, when we engaged in regular creative thinking processes, we keep our brains sharp. All humans are born with the ability to be creative but knowing how to apply creativity to our professional lives is crucial to fostering success. It is no doubt that top leaders have achieved their status thanks to their ability to put their reasoning skills to use, creating innovative solutions when problems arise. If you’d like to take your professional creativity skills to the next level, taking KnowledgeCity’s course “Creative Problem Solving” can help. The course goes into detail about creative problem solving by covering the creative process, how the brain thinks and how you can exercise your creative side with unique practices. If you want to unleash your creativity on the world, start practicing today!