17 ways you can develop your creativity and improve your design performance
Is creativity a natural born talent or a nurtured skill? It’s an age-old debate, but I believe that creativity is largely a nurtured skill, in the right environment where imagination is encouraged. The more creativity is practised and encouraged, the greater your skill will become. We live in a fast-moving, technology-driven world where creativity and innovation are highly sought after. Read on to discover 17 ways you can develop your creativity and improve your design performance.
1. Flex your creativity muscle
Much like going to the gym, you need to remain consistent generating creative ideas or thoughts if you want to achieve results. If you go to the gym once you are not going to automatically see the results you want, and that is exactly the same for any skill that you are trying to develop – and developing your creativity is no different. Whether that is writing, drawing or brainstorming, dedicate an hour a day towards being creative.
2. Early bird vs night owl
Understanding your own preferences and discovering the time of day you are most creatively productive will improve your performance. There’s a whole science to it, and you need to be increasingly selective and disciplined about where your focus is invested each day. If you know first thing in the morning, with a coffee, is when you are most motivated and creative, plan your day accordingly. Whereas, if you know it is the afternoon where you come alive, schedule more administrative tasks for the morning. This will also help remove any creativity blocks you may be experiencing.
3. Get messy
Whatever this means to you – explore it!
Post it notes of ideas all over your desk, a whiteboard/flipchart with no logical order, a sketchbook of doodles or a table of papers and resources – your idea of messy could be anything! However, there has been research that has concluded that messiness and creativity are very strongly correlated. Tracey Emin (the artist behind my bed), Albert Einstein, Mark Twain and even doctors have be criticised for their messiness – but look at their results.
The importance of messiness is to allow your mind to think without constraints, but it is important that you refine the ideas generated from the mess.
Creation can be ignited at any point of the day. You could be watching TV, reading a book, travelling or even having a conversation and the idea will generate. Allow your mindset to tune into these ideas. Jot the idea down at the time and then park it until you are in the environment to expand and build upon it.
5. Find your inner child
Every child goes through the stage of asking ‘why’ about everything (if you are a parent, you will know this more than most). They are learning. However, they are also exploring their imagination, processing the information and challenging the norm. Find your inner child and ask why (or why not), be curious and let yourself, or your mind, play around with ideas.
6. Challenge the unknown
Genius architects give birth to beautiful masterpieces, not when they implement it time and time again from what they did in previous projects, but when they start from scratch. Rethink the space, challenge the unknown and work with something you haven’t tried before. You will develop creativity from your greatest masterpieces and your biggest blunders.
7. Put down your device
The amount of information we take in from electronic devices daily is overwhelming and can clutter our imagination. Taking a simple break from the sensory overload can inspire new ideas. Nurture your stimulus and add the required detail or research later.
8. Be your own guru
Allow yourself the freedom and energy for new ideas to flow naturally. Freedom and energy will be different for everyone. Freedom could be different environments and the ability to move away from your desk, to knowing that there are no limitations within your work/ideas.
Energy is important not only for creativity, but for connectivity too. Recognise that when something impedes your energy it limits your creativity. This could be: doubt, clutter, conflict, fear, labelling, stress and resources. These terms will mean something different for each individual, however the message is the same – remove the frequency and intensity when you are trying to develop your creativity.
9. Explain things to yourself
Nowadays it is too easy to use google for an explanation or further information, but if you cast your mind back to the 90’s the internet wasn’t as accessible as it is today. Treat yourself as though you are in the 90’s and explain your thoughts to yourself. As you do you will start to see solutions, spark ideas and fully understand what you are trying to achieve.
Creativity is about combining knowledge in new and unique ways. Collaborate with a diverse range of perspectives, not just like-minded people. When you are in a conversation or situation of conflicting perspectives your brain will go into solution mode.
11. Fuse ideas
This involves combining things that don’t normally go together. You will know what you’re looking for if you use your intuition – look for ideas that are simple, elegant and robust. When fusing ideas, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of both (or all) and fuse the strengths together, looking for complements and accents. Once you have fused ideas together, never stop editing because everything can always be made better. Get a peer to critically review your final idea.
Listening to music whilst you work, walk or unwind can help you relax and give your brain the capacity to think clearly and calmly.
13. Go for a walk
Sometimes you simply need a change of pace to get the creative juices flowing, and a simple walk could be the perfect remedy. According to a study conducted by Stanford University in 2014, walking, whether that's on a hiking trail or on a treadmill, increases a person's creativity significantly.
14. Painting, colouring or cooking
Creating art, whether that is visual or edible, helps us to relax, reduce stress, improve critical thinking skills, concentration and creativity. When you are painting, colouring or cooking, firstly you need to use your imagination to pick the right colours or ingredients and combine them. Creating a piece of ‘art’ will make you feel happier and increase your self-confidence. Going forward, your new gained confidence and skills will help you become more original in anything you are doing.
If you do not think you are creative then start with paint by numbers, an adult colouring book or following an easy recipe.
15. Write down your dreams
Research finds a direct relationship between our nightly dreams and daily creativity. Those who write down their dreams are significantly more creative than those that don’t.
16. Eat more fruit and vegetables
It seems boring, I know. In every aspect of life people are telling you to eat more fruit and vegetables to gain the benefits. Creativity and curiosity often go together. According to research, eating more fruits and vegetables can make you both more creative and curious. One study examined the food intake of 405 participants over a 13-day period, ultimately finding that people who ate more fruits and vegetables reported higher levels of creativity and more intense feelings of curiosity compared to people who ate less of these foods.
17. Be open to new experiences
Many psychologists believe there are five basic personality traits, often labelled as ‘The Big Five’, consisting of extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness and neuroticism. Of these traits, ‘openness’ is most highly associated with people who are creative. Creative people are open to ideas and experiences, as its these new experiences and events that allow them to explore new possibilities in unfamiliar environments.
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