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Creativity is the act of making associations or connections between two or more previously unrelated things or ideas. All people are creative to a greater or lesser extent because of their individual natural tropisms. However, creativity can be encouraged and developed in every person.

Thinking creatively is an attitude, a set of activities, and a behavior pattern or life style. The activities described here are part of the second of the three characteristics of creative thinking. However, by performing these activities on a regular basis, they will become a part of your daily routine and new behavior patterns will emerge in your life. As you generate new ideas you will appreciate that indeed you are creative. A new perspective will grow that will feed on itself improving your attitude about your creative thinking abilities.

The following guideposts are a compilation of many books, seminars, and personal activities I have engaged in over the years. They work. Some may work for you and others may not. The only "right way" is to get out of the daily habits and attitudes to which we cling: at least for a small amount of time in order to see our worlds with a different perspective.

A few years back I modified the "cube" that I sit in everyday. Actually I just decorated it with creative thinking inducements. These included informational posters and maps from the National Geographic magazine, cartoons from newspapers or books, magnetic words (Shakespearean Insults was my favorite) as well as various little manipulative puzzle toys from the science museum's store.

An important factor is to change these items periodically so you see fresh things. The cartoon I changed everyday. The Shakespearean phrases every couple of days and the posters every couple of weeks.

Fustularian Montebank! - I have no idea what it means but it sure sounds cool!

I was able to think more broadly and produce better ideas for performing my daily tasks. I got out of these habits when I had to move several times in quick succession between office cubes. My composition of this write-up reminds me to pull out once more my creative environment and "freshen up" my attitude.

Six Daily Guideposts for Creativity

  1. Stretch Your Horizons
    1. Set aside time to read in other fields. Keep "How might I use this?" in mind. Take notes on interesting items you come across.
    2. Collect and file clippings, notes, and ideas that seem original.
    3. Attempt to work or write on a problem outside your own field or interests.
    4. Exchange ideas with others.
    5. Listen to comments and complaints. Be alert to note the unusual.
    6. Cultivate hobbies like puzzle solving, chess, constructing or building hobbies, and word games.

  2. Cultivate Your Field or Interests
    1. Seek out all available sources of information - investigate.
    2. Read and examine the literature in your field. Remember that findings and facts are fluid and subject to change.
    3. Question every accepted assumption in your field or that underlay the problems you are working on in your field. How did they emerge? Who made them? How valid are they?
    4. Don't be too quick to throw out unorthodox or unusual ideas. Think of minor changes to make the unorthodox more practical.
    5. Look for key factors of your activities/problems and try to isolate them.

  3. Pinpoint The Problem
    1. Ask "What am I doing, or what is done that could be done more effectively, better, cheaper, differently?" or "What's wrong with this?"
    2. State the problem in a simple, basic, broad, general way.
    3. Keep asking: "What are the problem's actual boundaries?"
    4. Break down the problem's variables through analysis.

  4. Hunt for Ideas
    1. List the ideas and various approaches that might solve the problem.
    2. If progress is slow - reexamine the problem definition.

  5. Boost Your Lagging Enthusiasm
    1. Set idea quotas.
    2. Carry a notebook. Write ideas down instantly.
    3. Create your own "creative atmosphere" or space to work within.
    4. During the creative process, practice empathic involvement. Become the idea you are developing. Then detach yourself and objectively look at the results.
    5. Take time away from the problem to relax and allow your unconscious to work by itself. Pursue hobbies or sit silent and uninterrupted. Be sure to set aside time to relax.
    6. Determine and then use physical conditions that aid you in your best thinking. Walking, posture, special hat, room or light - whatever.
    7. Avoid distractions - spend blocks of time on the problem. "Sweat, but don't fret." Concentrate and don't allow distractions.
    8. Schedule problem solving time for when you have your most energy and favorable mind set.

  6. Prepare Your Ideas for Premier
    1. Polish those gems! Examine them critically before rushing out with them.
    2. Expect to work to convince others of your ideas.

Additional Activities

  1. Build Idea Banks. Use 8 1/2 x 10 inch envelopes. Label each one with subjects of interest to you. Cut out articles, pictures, anything that fits in those subjects and keep them in the envelope. Take them out periodically to mix and match for new connections. Don't forget to recycle old items to "freshen up" the contents of the envelopes.
  2. Observe with application. Observe, enjoy, absorb.
  3. Develop strong curiosity about people, places, and things.

  4. Listen with your eyes as well as your ears. Listen creatively, enthusiastically, interestedly.
  5. Build up your idea sources. Widen friendships. Read widely, wisely, pick up books outside your interests.
  6. Latch on - reach out for ideas. Borrow brains from others - mentally latch on to their storehouse of ideas, experiences.

  7. Anticipate Achievement. Build a positive attitude in yourself. Encourage it in others.
  8. Pick a time to think everyday.
  9. Act on your ideas. Put them to work. Sell them. Give them away. Swap ideas with others.

  10. Associate other ideas. Build big ones from small ones.
  11. Cultivate a Honeybee Mind - pick up idea pollen everywhere. Grasshopper Mind - jump about, its your brain's normal pattern.
  12. Question, question, question: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? If?
  13. Write a minimum of one idea a day on these broad topics:
    • How can I do a better job?
    • How can I help my fellow humans?
    • How can I help my employer?

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