When it comes to creativity and creative thinking, do you often find yourself up the creek without a paddle? Sure, all these years you’ve been honing your “bean counting” skills to perfection – quite appropriately actually, considering that you are/were studying to be a chartered accountant. Nice. But don’t you cringe each time some bright spark in the office or classroom comes up with a nifty new idea and you’re left just twiddling your thumbs and muttering, “Heck, now why couldn’t I have thought of that!”
Why not indeed! If you want to stay ahead of the pack, you have got to keep those creative juices sweetly flowing. Here’s how:
Use Mind Maps
A mind map is a visual or graphical representation of thoughts, ideas or information. It essentially consists of a single, core keyword or idea placed in the centre of the page, to which related ideas of concepts are connected all around, much like branches of a tree. Mind maps can help you assimilate information very effectively, hence are a great aid to studying. But they also are a great tool for brainstorming and creative problem solving. You can find myriad mind mapping tutorials and examples on the Web. Then use a free tool such as the one at www.mindmapfree.com to practice creating your own mind maps.
Try Six Thinking Hats
Creativity guru Edward de Bono has developed many techniques designed to boost creativity and lateral thinking. One such technique is “Six Thinking Hats”. It is useful for group discussions as well as for individuals. The fundamental concept here is that one has to look at a problem or a decision from six different perspectives in order to arrive at the best possible, well-rounded creative solution. Generally, each one of us is accustomed to thinking in just one style that we are used to – either positive, negative, rational, emotional, logical, or whimsical – which may result in a one-dimensional view of a problem. The Six Thinking Hats method asks you to analyse a problem from each of these six thinking styles in turn. As a result the solution will hopefully incorporate ambition, contingency plans, good execution, and creativity in full measure. Also try approaching a problem as if you were, say, a marketing manager, instead of always thinking like an accountant or finance professional.
Get Out of the Box
Most of us are almost literally “boxed in”. Week after week we go through the same routine, follow the same routes and sit in the same cubicle at office all day long. This is a sure-shot way to dull the mind and snuff out any little spark of creativity left in us. Set your mind free from this prison! When stuck with a problem, get out of your work area and maybe take a walk around the block. Keep changing your routine and try to experience something new every week, outside of your area of specialisation. Take up a new hobby, read a magazine from another field, take a new route home.
Invariably, most people’s work day is crammed with getting routine tasks done, leaving no time for thinking. Perhaps you could set aside a little time to do just that.
What Research Has Shown
There have been innumerable research studies aimed at determining what works best to boost creative thinking. For instance, research has shown that soft classical music playing in the background can stimulate your brain towards lateral thinking. Another study revealed that if your surroundings are predominantly blue in colour, they induce a sense of calmness and inspire creativity. Next, note that some ambient noise is preferable to total silence. Finally, attempt to think like a child – ridding yourself of inhibitions means you are less likely to shoot down your wackier ideas before they are completely formed.
Try the above methods – all the bright ideas they help you generate should make you shine!