In a world where automation threatens to take over an increasing number of jobs, and teams of like-minded people can be prone to the pitfalls of groupthink, creativity is a highly valuable quality. Yet while some people seem to be born with it in spades, others struggle to come up with any new ideas.
Creative people don’t reinvent the wheel. They simply think more freely, which allows them to put ideas together – like combining the ancient art of bronze casting with 3D printing. You may want to improve on your creativity and come up with similar amazing ideas for your job or a business startup. If that’s the case, don’t pressure yourself to brainstorm or take actions to improve—instead, you should free your mind and start breaking down these rules and constructs.
Creative people are inquisitive. They use their curiosity to provide fuel for their ideas. And by instinct, human beings follow their curiosity to learn more about objects by taking them apart. Curious children behave in this way, but after years of behavioral conditioning, the desire to tinker gets hammered out of us.
Growing up in modern consumer culture doesn’t help, either. We buy products that don’t need to be configured or customized; if you mess with them, you void your warranty. However, you can begin to cultivate this sense of curiosity deliberately. Take expendable devices apart and see if you can put them back together. Don’t limit yourself to physical objects; think about how systems work. The chain of command and interactions between various departments at your company, for instance—break that down in your mind, learn how they work, and you can come up with insights that elude others.
Few people view a lack of focus as a desirable quality. Employers set deadlines and measure productivity. They incentivize dedication to a task until it gets accomplished. Procrastination and getting distracted easily—these things are associated with failure. Yet many creatives can flit from one activity to the next, often leaving tasks unfinished, only to revisit them with new ideas and higher energy.
Creative mind-wandering is deliberate. You don’t want to give yourself a license to procrastinate. Instead, expand your range of interests and follow them. When you’re stuck in one activity, shifting to another will give your mind a break. You’ll feel revitalized, and it just might provide you with the time and space to come up with fresh inspiration.
Any and all assumptions
In creative disciplines, it’s said that restrictions breed creativity. That may work for the people engaged in those fields because they already have a high level of innate creativity. Ordinary people, on the other hand, continuously operate under too many assumptions.
Each day, we go through the same routines; we follow standard procedures at work, and never question the way things are done. If you want to become more creative, you must feel free to do things differently. To get there, develop an awareness of these assumptions and how they influence your life. Ultimately, you may end up going with the flow and following routines anyway. But the value of the exercise lies in revisiting and evaluating those assumptions to see if they are getting in the way of your progress, rather than fostering it.
The status quo
When an organization needs creativity, it means that no one is questioning the status quo. It could be your startup or the company you work for; either way, groups of people can slowly develop an inclination towards following one direction only. They become resistant to change and divergent thinking, which are the exact things that they need to improve. Daring to go against the grain, speak up, and ask questions of an organization is what prevents stagnation. Whether you’re in a leadership position or among the rank and file employees, learning to question the status quo will help free your mind to think more creatively.
Fear of failure
Finally, the biggest rule you should practice breaking down is that of safety. You’ll meet people everywhere who tell you not to take risks. Sometimes, it could be your inner voice telling you to avoid anything that could fail. We go through life, observing safety practices that are reasonable and keep us from dangerous situations. But we also tend to avoid the small risks which could set us back a little, but allow us to learn in the process. It’s all right to avoid big risks, but you can sharpen your mind by increasing your tolerance for harmless mistakes and breaking down the small fears that limit you from your full creative potential.
There are certain situations where you can practice these exercises and others where it’s not a good idea. Use your best judgment, and you can gradually begin to flex your creativity.