When studying creativity, researchers measure certain traits that are indicative of creative thought processes in individuals. Three key concepts are:
- Fluency (the ability to generate multiple ideas)
- Flexibility (the number of relevant categories of ideas)
- Originality (the uniqueness of each idea)
In general, more of each of the above is better and indicative of creative processes. Get more, and be more creative. Simple, right? In fact, getting more isn’t that difficult as you can practice pretty much anywhere – but you do need to practice. Here are some ideas to get you started.
To Increase Fluency
Play with words and associations (think synonyms!); practice coming up with ideas, get comfortable with expressiveness of feelings and ideas (i.e. emotion). A simple exercise is to find a common object and then come up with as many uses for it as you can. A favorite improv technique is to stand in the middle of a room (or anywhere for that matter) and point at various objects and yell out each one’s name, only call things by the WRONG name. It’s fun, liberating and harder than you think!
To Increase Flexibility
This is about categories, so spontaneity is good here, as is the ability to adapt. Strike out in new and unusual directions, expose yourself to new experiences; try things a different way and make the most of it. Usually put your left shoe on first? Try the right, instead. Brush your teeth with your right hand? Try your left. Try taking a different way to work in the morning. Pick up a magazine you’d never read and read it. Try food you’ve never eaten before. Get out of those areas you feel secure in and stretch yourself. The naming game mentioned above crosses over into this realm as well, depending upon what you’re naming.
To Increase Originality
This is about coming up with ideas that no one else would think of. It’s about making connections between disparates – putting things together that usually don’t get put together, while still finding, and building upon, that kernel of commonality that gives an original idea its glory. This is what gives every comedian her special uniqueness. It’s why jokes are funny. They come out of nowhere; we don’t expect the result but we ‘get it’ when some commonality gets presented and understood in a new light. We get it. But, don’t think this is the domain of comedians only. We’re all unique and originality is our signature. So, start practicing your creativity signature by combining dissimilar things! Pick up a baseball and a fork. Now, think of something that can be done with them. The easy answer is to stick the fork in the baseball. Go beyond that – way beyond. (This is where your practice in fluency and flexibility comes in handy.) You can do your own version of a cooking show like Iron Chef or Chopped. Take a mix of ingredients out of the fridge and make something you’re not even sure will taste good- but try it anyway. Finally, one practical tip: If you want your ideas to be more useful and not fauxnnovations, look for that kernel of commonality between the disparate objects, experiences, contexts, ideas or metaphors within the situation. It’ll help pull everything together and make originality shine (and implemented ideas more useful)!
So, there you have it – three ‘secret’ processes for increasing creativity. Only, they aren’t really secrets. They’re simple approaches for improving creativity and living an authentic life more full of surprises. Give them a try!