“Think out of the box”
There’s hardly been a more often used cliche. Its as often abused too, with “innovation workshops” and “guidelines” trying to define a box in which you can think outside it!
Its also something entrepreneurs need on an everyday basis. Sometimes to create something wonderful, sometimes to delight the customer, and sometimes to just get around seemingly intractable problems.
Thinking unconventionally also keeps your mind sharp, alive and active, and in one form or another, both demands and helps foster creativity.
Trouble is, most of us do not think of ourselves as creative people – that’s reserved for a very narrow band of professions, and comes with certain traits, appearances and attitudes that many of us do not possess or even associate with.
Don’t Try Too Hard
A lot of smart ideas, amazing insights and brilliant solutions just “happen”. Watching a movie, while in the shower, just glancing through the newspaper (but rarely when watching TV).
Reading opens your mind up to a lot of new ideas, different parts of the world, new ways of thinking. Read a variety of books – not just self help, or just fiction. You’ll be amazed at what might strike you when you’re enjoying that Phantom or ACK from ages ago!
Talk to people about Ideas
It happens so often – you think through an idea, and even as you start describing it to the first person who’s willing to listen, you immediately realize you forgot to think of some issue, or completely ignored a possibility that now seems obvious.
Also, people think very differently, and like to share their opinion. Its amazing how you can often outsource creative thoughts and get some amazing inputs that might have totally eluded you!
Scrabble, chess, dumb charades, pictionary – anything that needs you to push your brain along a different dimension – helps you not only spend some quality time with family and friends, but also exercises a different part of the brain.
Don’t be Afraid
To draw, write – a short essay, a blog or even poetry. “Me?” is the usual response – but backing yourself is not just liberating, it also makes you think more freely without getting all caught up in how great your idea is. Even Edison invented a 1093 things for the few really useful ideas that he’s actually well known for.
Question. Re-examine. Be Curious
This again goes back the the previous one – a lot many questions will seem like stupid ones to start with. Especially in the Indian context, we are taught to accept “truths” from established sources of knowledge and wisdom. Tell yourself – explicitly – that its ok to not take that as a given, and questions are not about right and wrong, but about different. Newton’s F=m.a is what we all learned as the truth, yet holds true only for larger objects in everyday conditions.
Can we travel differently? Could there be another answer to equity splits? Is search a solved problem – and why not? Are people totally happy with the way something is being bought/sold right now? What are the inefficiencies in any system? What assumptions and variables have changed since a product built around those tried solving a problem?
It needs you be curious and sometimes opportunistic wherever you are. On a vacation, in a conference, in a party, in the mall, or driving around. A few dozen observations will eventually turn into a few insights. Over time, you’ll get better at it as well.
Yes, very often a creative spark is merely the coming together of a relentless seeking of information and opportunity and the gumption to take a call based on seemingly unreliable insights you derive from it, and the latter becomes a skill as its done more and more often.
To paraphrase a famous one from a very geeky legacy – “May the creative force be with you!”