creativityThe word “creativity” is on everybody’s lips these days. We constantly hear that it is important to boost creativity in our children as well as in adults. It is important for a country to have a certain level of creativity generated because this in turn boosts innovation with positive ripple effects on the economy by providing new sources of income in an increasingly competitive world.

Let us go back to basics first. What is creativity and what do we exactly mean by “being creative”? Simply put and without citing any dictionary definition, creativity is about “thinking out of the box”. Looking at a topic, a problem or a situation from a different angle than usual. Daring to think differently to others, asking questions about the status quo, giving or sharing ideas that can make a positive contribution to your own life or that of others. Being creative does not necessarily mean coming up with something new that has never existed before. It could also mean building on the further layers of an already existing idea.

Why is then creativity so important? It forms the very essence of innovation and problem solving in a complex situation. It makes you feed your thoughts and challenge what we could usually take for granted. Why does the apple fall always downwards and not in any other direction, asked Isaac Newton. But creativity can also be an expression of what we feel and a channel of communication for strong emotions. Some of the masterpieces in art, literature and music have withstood the test of time and they were a true emotional experience for those that created them.

So the obvious question now is: how can we boost our creativity in everyday life in a fast-paced world and in an age where we tend to get bombarded with so much information all the time that we try to cram every single minute of every single day with our heads immersed in some kind of screen, mostly our smart phones or tablets. Even our ears are with headphones, shutting out a part of our world around us as it happens.

Here are some ideas to help you reboot the creative buds in your head.

  • Take five minutes every day to just close your eyes and breathe in and out and imagine your stress dissolve into thin air. Five minutes of simply doing nothing can work wonders on your body and on your brain.
  • Observe. Observe the minute details of simple every day things that you come across. Be it the sound of the rain outside, a smile from the neighbour or the feel of the fresh toothpaste in your mouth. Children can get to be creative because they observe what is going on around them, absorb like a sponge and then express all of this through their creative play.
  • Get up and about. Do some sport and enjoy it, knowing that this body movement and that sweat is boosting not only your energy levels but also feeding your brain with a fresh dose of “feel good” factor. A short walk can work wonders after a whole day stuck in your routine, doing a sedentary job and simply getting on with day to day chores. Life cannot be “all work and no play”. In the same way that play is so important for a child’s physical and emotional development, so is leisure time for adults.
  • Ideas flow when the person least expects it. Write them down so that you can come back to them any time you want and reflect. More often than not, as was the case of great artists, writers or musicians that have immortalized themselves through their creative work, dealing with the ups and downs of life can be THE ultimate instigators to creativity and change. So if you are going through intense emotional periods in your life, get your thoughts, feelings and ideas on paper. You can reread what you wrote after a while and take action.

There are two excellent strategies that work well to generate ideas and help in decision-making. The first is the DeBono strategy of the Six Thinking Hats. Imagine you are wearing a white hat when you are writing down facts about a situation. Then move on to wearing a yellow hat to see positive elements in the situation, a black hat to spot the negative, a red hat to tune in to your gut feeling, the green hat to think of alternatives and other possibilities and let your creativity run loose and the blue hat as a concluding way how to manage the whole thinking process.

The second strategy to generate creativity is that of mind-maps. You jot down one main idea and then branch out other ideas or words that come to your mind during those five to ten minutes. You will be amazed how the ideas and associations start to flow in easily and smoothly.

Last but not least, remember that creativity can knock your door if you give yourself the opportunity. And when it does, just go for it!