Five ways to boost your creativity

Lamps by Maureen Didde

This post was inspired by the article ‘The New Rules of Creativity’ in the May edition of Wired (UK) magazine.

As marketers, it’s important that we keep a creative mind-set in much of the work we do. Whether it’s thinking up concepts for a new campaign or generating ideas for a series of blog posts, creativity is often the key ingredient for success.

But what can we do to stimulate creativity? How can we give our brains a jump-start when we’re looking for inspiration?

Here are five scientifically tested tips that you can use to super-charge your imagination and get your creative juices flowing:

1. Think like a child

Picasso once said: “every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist after he grows up”.

So how do we retain that youthful artistic spirit as we become reserved and modest in our old age?

The answer is to continue to think, imagine and dream like a child regardless of our age, profession or position within a company.

To become creative, we need to let go and take ourselves a lot less seriously. Children have the knack of being completely uninhibited and can therefore express themselves more freely.

We must also learn to suggest ideas regardless of how silly they might seem. Sure, they might appear a little whacky at first but by getting those ideas out there we can debate and refine them later.

2. Don’t brainstorm – debate

One of the first things most teams do when they want to get creative is to call a brainstorming session. Everyone gathers round and under the agreement that no one will criticise anyone else’s ideas the brainstorming begins.

However, research has indicated that traditional brainstorming approaches are not particularly effective and that much of this is down to the ‘no criticism’ rule.

Studies have shown that teams that debate and even criticise other people’s ideas are more likely to generate more creative results.

Far from being an inhibitor of creativity, debate and criticism can in fact stimulate ideas because it encourages us to engage more fully with the work of others and to reassess our own thought processes and points of view.

3. Embrace constraints

There’s a reason pop songs have verses and choruses and poems follow a specific structure, such as a sonnet or a limerick. These limitations allow the artist to think in a more holistic and creative fashion precisely because of the restrictions put in place.

Giving yourself a boundary or constraint focuses the mind on what really needs to be accomplished.

Twitter is a great example of this. By restricting users to 140 characters it forces them to remove any unnecessary words and waffle and say exactly what they need to clearly and concisely.

4. Take more breaks

Sometimes we can experience creative blocks where we feel as though we’ve hit a brick wall and we’re not going anywhere.

Working continuously on something doesn’t always lead to better results and research has shown that taking regular, pre-defined breaks can reinvigorate the mind.

Going for a walk, playing a musical instrument or reading a book can help you to focus on something new for a while before going back to a problem with a fresh mind and perspective.

Getting out and about can also generate new ideas in of itself. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had new ideas whilst out running, watching a movie or even swimming in the sea on holiday. It’s as if the ideas are there percolating in the background and spring up when I least expect them to!

5. Watch more comedy

Research has shown that happy people are more creative. Being in a positive mood lets the brain enter an open and playful state allowing you to think in new, imaginative ways.

I like to watch comedy not only to make me happy but also because I’m intrigued by how the writers and performers create the work they do.

Making people laugh is one of the hardest things to do and I therefore try and take inspiration from the way great comedians construct their acts.

What do you think of the tips I’ve suggested here? What methods and techniques do you use to boost your creativity?