How To Design Creativity Boosts That Keep Your Thinking Fresh

Creativity is essential to work today and jobs of the future. But nurturing new ideas during a pandemic requires an even more innovative approach.

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Creativity is one of the top skills for jobs of the future, according to the World Economic Forum, LinkedIn and, well, just about everyone. This makes sense, because companies need creative ideas to innovate and compete in today’s rapidly changing world. And work aside, we all need fresh ideas to strive on during the lockdown.

The very foundation of creativity is to nourish new ideas that spur fresh thinking. But how can we create that space for new ideas to flow in when we’re stuck within the same four walls?

This year marks the 25th anniversary of The Artist’s Way, a primer to help people unblock their creative energy. Packed with exercises, the guide uses two consistent tasks to get past creative blocks: writing three pages longhand every day, and a weekly artist date where you take yourself out to experience new things. Writing longhand is incredibly easy during a pandemic. Getting out in search of new ideas is more of a challenge, as is getting over the idea that an artist date it for “artists,” meaning sculptors or screen writers. Creativity is for everyone, and everyone can benefit from finding new ways to generate ideas.

In the olden days of 2019, we could go to a museum or play or yarn shop for inspiration. Not so easy during a lockdown. That said, I’m setting myself a challenge to overcome the cabin fever and find new ways to boost my creativity by taking myself and my brain on a solo play date every week.

If you’d like to join the creativity boost journey, here are a few thought starters:

Be a clumsy student. Natalie Nixon in her book The Creativity Leap advocates for being a clumsy student of something. Maybe sign up for zoom guitar lessons or join a beginners chess club. Nixon recently said she was dipping a toe into pickling vegetables.

Put a new spin on something. The streaming version of Hamilton gave us the chance to reframe our understanding of the founding fathers right from the sofa. This hip hop version took a little creative license with some historic details, but it’s a compelling look at our scrappy founding fathers that way we haven’t seen. Here’s Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel listening to the Hamilton polka created by “Weird Al” Yankovic, clearly a fun, innovative spin on a hip hop founding father Broadway musical.

Put away your phone. Mind wandering is an evolving area of neuroscience, and daydreaming can help enhance creativity and problem solving by letting ideas incubate. In other words, skip the podcast on your walk and don’t scroll while waiting for the train. This will help your brain make new connections.

Get out your phone. This idea seems counterintuitive, because phone addiction is part of the reason our brains don’t stay fresh. But if you use your phone to create a photo essay, that’s something else. Choose a theme and then shoot ten photos. My themes are public art, interesting manhole covers or things all of one color. A photo essay on red, for example, can score pictures of stop signs, front doors and boutique windows.

Keep a notebook. Track your excursions and impressions in a notebook, or on the notes app on your phone. This will give you data on what you’ve done to boost your creativity and document how these experiences benefit you over time.

The bottom line is that by setting the intention to boost your creativity, then following that intention with specific action steps, you’ll be on your way to setting your ideas free.

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