Can You Learn to Think Creatively?

Ginger Abbot

Oct 18, 2019
learn-to-think-creatively-yes-to-challenges

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.

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 How 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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