Can You Learn to Think Creatively?

Ginger Abbot

Oct 18, 2019

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What comes to mind when you picture creativity? Perhaps an artist painting a beautiful landscape in oils, a writer penning the nation’s next masterpiece, or a guitarist plucking the chords to a sweet song. Creativity tends to be a romanticized, coveted trait, and we often view it as a talent you innately possess — or not. But, can you learn to think creatively?

New research, however, claims we can spark creativity and develop it as a skill.

In one study, 74 employees participated in training seminars. When evaluated eight months later, they increased new ideas by 55% ⁠— a boost that led to $600,000 in new revenue.

These seminars featured exercises designed to strengthen skills in four areas, including exercises and advice in the following:

  1. New ideas: Keep a notebook or recorder on hand to capture thoughts as they come.
  2. Challenges: Take on projects without clear solutions.
  3. Knowledge: Take classes and read articles outside your career field.
  4. Surroundings: Keep interesting friends and an out-of-the-ordinary workspace nearby.

Are you ready to tap into your full potential? If so, you don’t have to attend a seminar or shell out money. Instead, try these tips to learn how to be more creative.

Discover a New Perspective

The secret to creativity is looking at topics in a new light. Anyone can read an article on the crime rate. A creative person, though, attempts to link this information to something else. Is there a link between the rise in crime and plummeting employment rates, for example? Can rising temperatures affect people’s moods?

Linear thinkers — people who process information straightforwardly — have trouble thinking outside the box. They prefer to focus on one subject instead of delving into several at once. Train your brain to look for and analyze patterns. Read two articles and write down a list of all the commonalities.

Say Yes to Challenges

It’s possible to foster creativity as a skill — if you’re willing to remain open. According to experts, the brain’s structure links creativity to openness to experience. Do you say no when presented with a challenge? Whether at work or home, it’s time to change your tune.

For example, say a friend invites you to backpack through Europe for two weeks. The trouble is, you’re afraid to fly, and sharing a hotel room with strangers scares you. Instead of your automatic response to reject the idea, say yes. Learn how to work through the situation in a way that maximizes your comfort. If you welcome challenges with open arms, they become easier to solve over time.

Boost Physical Activity

What if a walk or bike ride could leave you flying high on creativity? Turns out, it can. In one study, walking increased creativity for 81% of participants on Guilford’s alternate uses test, which determines the ability to think divergently.

During the study, researchers asked participants to think about a metaphor. Then, they had to create a similar one. As a result, 95% of participants who walked came up with an answer — compared to 50% who sat in the room. If you want to boost creativity, go for a walk, jog or bike around the block.

Keep Asking Questions

When going about daily life, we all tend to get curious. Why do you shiver when you have a fever? Is it possible to be allergic to water? Asking questions — and finding answers — is crucial to bolstered creativity.

When we ask questions, we uniquely combine two concepts. These combinations occur on a neural level, with individual ideas braiding together to form a single, stronger thread. Combining ideas takes away pressure, as it’s easier to ask questions than to discover a new concept.

Implement Some Greenery

Can colors affect how creative we feel? According to experts, yes. Throughout four experiments — with participants unaware of the purpose — scientists discovered looking at the color green enhances creative performance. It might sound strange, but studies suggest the color goes beyond aesthetics when it comes to function.

It’s possible to make your life greener, even if you live in a concrete jungle. Invest in indoor plants ideal for low-light environments. If you don’t have ample window space, opt for hangers you can string from the ceiling. Paint your office a shade that will help you relax. You can also hang relaxing photos of the outdoors.

Learn to Think Creatively — a Step-by-Step Guide

Are you a person who craves order? As helpful as to-do lists, specific instructions and strict schedules can be, it’s time to step outside your comfort zone and add a little creativity to your life.

Studies suggest creativity is a skill you can learn. While some are naturally talented — able to play Mozart at age 5 or recreate The Thinker with clay — it’s a skill you can develop.

Follow the tips above to tap into your unconventional side. What ideas can you link together? How can you take a known concept and make it new? If you’re having trouble, go for a short walk or jump on the treadmill. However you learn, you might just be surprised at the creative solutions you start seeing.

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