Creativity

10 Creative Techniques to Unleash Your Imagination: Innovate, Stand Out and Think Like Never Before

Introduction

Something very peculiar happens when children transition into adulthood.

Kids are extremely creative and curious about everything. They combine ideas without any limitations. They speak their mind. They play with enthusiasm. And they actively learn about the world through trial and error. Kids have no objective to pursue, yet in following their curiosity they learn languages, motor skills, human emotions and cause-effect relationships in a span of just a few years.

The exact qualities that create the world’s biggest innovators are being unlearned when kids go through school.

It almost feels as if our the current societal organization deliberately kills creativity. Today, we live the consequences of the industrial revolution, in the system that creates standardized factory workers.

In the information age, the future will belong to people who can think and act creatively. We need to re-learn to think like kids, because creativity is the driver for change and innovation.

This article will show you awesome techniques to evoke your creative child back to life.

Note: if you are one of the people who thinks that creativity is reserved for advertisers or artists, I encourage you to rethink that. Nothing can be further from the truth. Just think about Apple, SpaceX, Virgin or charity: water. These companies are successful because they do think differently. Creativity is pragmatic!

Understanding Creativity

Creativity can feel very vague. I will define it the following way:

Creativity is using imagination to find a unique (non-standard) and original solutions to solve real problems.


Here are a few of my favorites:

1. SpaceX launches Tesla Roader in space. During testing of the Falcon Heavy, the most powerful operational rocket today, Musk decided to launch his own car into space instead of a block of concrete - standard practice in the aerospace field. This stunt has generated both SpaceX and Tesla millions of dollars of free publicity.

2. Banksy sheds the painting the moment it was sold. Banksy’s main message is about questioning the social constructs, political system and financial disparity. Shredding the painting communicates his message better than anything else.

Painting that becomes more valuable when destroyed: The LA Times

3. Eminem releases an album out of nowhere dissing today’s biggest rappers and his critics. The album is titled Kamikaze (suicide) and this cover is just genius because it shows comments that dismiss his credibility.

Bonus: HOW TO GET AN MBA FROM EMINEM by James Altucher

4. And, of course, some guerrilla marketing from Virgin - “Handled by Virgin Atlantic.” Egg cartons were laid out on the baggage carousel to show cause Virgin’s care for their customer’s language.

The MOST important part: The Set Up

Now, let’s create the optimal environment for our imagination to flourish in, while meeting our key objectives.

STEP 1: COME UP WITH YOUR QUESTION

Creativity is the most valuable when it helps solve real life problems. You’ll need to come up with a question before you go through the creative exercises in this guide. We want to be creative in the right direction.  

For example, you want to come up with a new way to light up a cigarette. You can drive up to the rocket launch sight and putting a cig next to the exhaust. You can use the Boring Company’s  “not fire thrower.” You can ask a stranger to take off his glasses and use it as a magnifying glass to concentrate the sun beams to light it up. What about self-lighting cigarettes that light up  automatically when you take them out of the pack (phosphorus reaction)?

Everything goes, if it answers your question.

A few examples of good questions:

  1. How can we increase word of mouth referrals from our existing clients?
  2. How can I have Elon Musk reach out to ME?
  3. How can my art be more intriguing?

STEP 2: SETTING UP THE RIGHT SPACE

When we were kids, we did not need anything special to be innovative. We just tried new things out, combined the uncombinable (just like this very word) and had fun doing it. Let’s relearn those skills.

What holds us back from tapping into our creative:

  1. The inner critic
    - Evaluating our ideas while they are being created.
  2. Acting in our predefined framework
    - Acting from our “identity”
  3. Perceptions of limitations
    - “Is it even possible?”
    - “The Sun spins around Earth!”
    - “Everything that can be invented has already been invented."

Silencing the Inner Critic

The first step is to create a safe space for our imagination. This happens when we turn off the performance pressure. The best ideas are found among the dumbest ones. Creative brainstorming should feel safe. Never combine ideation with evaluation of ideas. You can pick the best ideas after.

Even now, I can write whatever in the world I want. Ok, I’ll draw it instead.

Don't you dare! It might as well be a test.

Unframe (not a word either)

Forget what you know. Forget your identity. We often judge the world based on what we think is possible and from our perspective.

Examples of what people considered impossible:

  1. 4 minute mile
  2. Light without fire
  3. Personal computer

You DON’T KNOW what is truly possible.

Individuality

Arguably every single famous artist or actor have a unique voice or a unique combination of styles. The best way to create dope ideas is to be in your authentic.

Have fun. Play.

Don’t treat everything like work. Playfulness takes the bad stress away and puts our brains in the flow state.

The Creativity Techniques

Once you set up the space and determine what you want to accomplish, you can use the following exercises to find creative solutions to your question.

AWFULLY GOOD

Exercise:

Outline 5 “normal” solutions to your question, the ones that are commonly used by everyone. Now flip those solutions (or product qualities) 180 degrees. Think about “anti-solutions” to your questions. What do the opposites look like?

Explanation:

Anti-solutions almost always have gold hidden in them. This is a perfect exercise for product or brand differentiation.

Example:

OVER-CAFFEINATED

Exercise:

Start spitting out words and sentences very quickly. You can start with random objects in the room and slowly transition into your question. Eventually, interesting ideas will start coming out. Do not stop speaking like your life depends on it! Each team member has 90 seconds.

Explanation:

Kids are the best at this exercise. They can be saying things that make absolutely zero sense for a long while. This is a great warm up exercise to speed up your creative brain and allow yourself to vocalize dumb ideas.

CHAIN REACTION

Exercise:

Every team member writes down a word that gives them a pleasant feeling or association. For one minute, the whole team throws random ideas related to that word or feeling, while keeping the big question in mind. Then you switch to the next word.

Explanation:

People connect to feelings the most. It’s emotions that make people buy stuff, not their logical brain. This exercise works great to find solutions that are emotionally captivating. It’s also a fantastic exercise to get people work together as a team.

RAP IT UP

Exercise:

Freestyle about everything that comes to mind: random objects in the room, the meeting itself, the client, your company or the question you a looking to answer. Make it random and silly. Don’t worry if you are not on the beat or if things don’t rhyme - just keep going! You have 90 seconds.

While you are raping the team writes down their their ideas based on what they hear. Take 2 minutes to share your ideas with the team and further bounce them from one another.

Explanation

Remember to boot out your inner critic when in your brainstorming space. Everything goes, creativity daily dose, you can rap about whatever, just put your mind on this endeavor.

One of my favorite exercises to be honest. It doesn’t always generate the best ideas, but it does create a very strong team dynamic. Freestyling is a very vulnerable activity.

You can also use RapChat, the best app to find and record on the go. More people can rap than you might think.

TABOO

Exercise:

Find the weirdest solutions to the question you are trying to answer.

Explanation:

The weird makes people pause. What did just happen? This exercise is meant to further break your perception of what is acceptable and what’s not. As our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, weird is becoming the new Bitcoin.

Thinking about the weird will allow you to create something new and interesting. Your end solution doesn’t need to be crazy, but the way you of thinking absolutely can be!

Example:

THE AI-POWERED CONSCIOUS TREND EXERCISE ON BLOCKCHAIN

Exercise:

Take the most disruptive futuristic trends and buzzwords. Choose 3 trends that resonate the most. Now brainstorm ideas using those technologies / trends to solve your question.

Explanation:

I use this practice when people ask me what I do and I am not really in the mood to give them the standard pitch. This is one of the coolest exercises to solve more complex problems through innovation. Using over-hyped technologies in your thinking will make you question how you currently solve problems at hand. Works incredibly well for startups and boring companies like yours.

Here is a list of trends.

Example:

Personalization of articles based on their engagement level and the specific search query using AI . The website mines bitcoin in the background while you are reading it for author compensation instead of ads.

This is the next-billion-dollar idea! Free for you. You are welcome!

DISPLAY AUTOMATIC HISTORIAN

Exercise:

Every team members comes up with a super random 1) verb 2) adjective 3) noun independently. One person per part of speech. On the count of 3 you say your word. 1….2….3…. Then each team member takes 1 minute to tell a story that makes sense of all of the 3 words together. Proceed with the next person and a new word combination.

Example:

Score Unhappy Cast

Question: How can we increase employee retention?

When a movie director gets unhappy with the cast, he/she scores them in different categories and provides notes to improve. This way the whole team gain awareness and have a fast feedback loop. We can use a similar frequent performance evaluation to increase connectedness and awareness with our people.

I used this Random Word Generator to come up with the example above and the title of this exercise just now.

JUST CHILL 🌶

Do this when you have already warmed up (closer to the end of your brainstorming session).

Exercise:

Lay down on the floor (savasana pose) and stare at the ceiling for 10 minutes. Write down ideas as they come. You are not allowed to talk, look at anything other than the ceiling.

Example:

Like this but upside-down.

ВОРУЙ КАК ХУДОЖНИК

“Good Artists Copy; Great Artists Steal” - Pablo Picasso
“We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas” - Steve Jobs

Exercise:

1) Choose your die-hard fan (niche target audience).

2) What 2 products are these people fanatical about?

3) Google the product. Note how it’s being sold on the website: imagery, slogans, branding, voice.

Детали (in Russian):

На хорошие идеи нет патентов или монополии. Большие компании инвестируют миллиарды долларов на исследование аудитории и их маркетинг сообщения. Вы можете найти крутые идеи бесплатно.

Example:

Six Thinking Hats

I’ll leave it at that. You are smart. You got this!

Conclusion

Creativity is innate. While we often unlearn it as we grow up, creativity can be relearned. The more you apply creative thinking, the more it will become a part of your day-to-today thinking habits.

Allow yourself to be a kid. Use imagination and curiosity to make sense of the world. At the end, creative ideas and creative execution win.

Now, how can you apply it to yourself? Let’s sum it up:

  1. Define your question: you need a well-defined question to solve real world problems. Once you have  this question in place, answers will come more easily. So instead of thinking “how can I improve my product” rather ask yourself “what can I change in my product to make it stand out more”.
  2. Create a safe and playful space: wherever you go into a creativity session, drop the inner critic, be ridiculous, don’t think about “Is this even possible?” and don’t judge yourself or others when are brainstorming.
  3. Use the creativity techniques: Those are outlined above. Pick the most interesting ones to you and give yourself 15-20 minutes for each to go through.
  4. Finally, pick the best ideas: use your answers by putting them in the real-life context. Ask “how can we make this possible?”

Remember, creativity is not new to you. You might have just forgotten it.

It’s time to imagine!

Conclusion is written by Gui Perdrix, the founder of Coliving Diaries.

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