When I ask people if they are creative the most common response I get is a small shrug of the shoulders or a non-committal tilt of the head. Somehow it’s not the ‘done thing’ to admit to having creative abilities. That’s unless we are a ‘creative’ someone employed to be creative with ‘creative’ in his or her job title, in which case it becomes legitimate and expected to big up our own creativity.
Psychologists as far back as the 1970s found that when it comes to creativity, rather than it being something that we either are – or are not, it is more about a state of mind. They found that when human beings are in a playful state of mind creativity was more likely to flow.
Many people find that good ideas come to them when they are relaxed. Popular answers when I ask the question, ‘Where do you have your best ideas?’ are ‘walking the dog’, ‘in the shower’, ‘driving’ or even ‘on the toilet’. It also seems that many of us have ideas in the middle of the night. This is perhaps no surprise for while we sleep our subconscious files away the events of the day and if there are problems we are trying to solve our brain tries to make order of them. I suspect this is where the phrase ‘I’ll sleep on it’ comes from.
If this happens to you, and you wake in the middle of the night with the answers to life, the universe and everything, my tip is to keep a notebook by your bed so you can jot down those ideas, because by morning, in my experience, you will just be left with an uneasy feeling that you had a really significant idea, but are unable to recall the all important detail.
No one has ever told me that they have their best ideas sat at their desk. And no one has ever mentioned that they have their best ideas when asked to ‘think outside the box’. If it was that simple to ‘think outside the box’ and just switch on our creativity then most of us would just be able to do it.
If you are trying to encourage others to think creatively, encourage them to wander and relax rather than demand they ‘think outside the box.’
Two simple steps to good ideas
- The first step is to realise and believe that you are creative.
- The next step is to tune into the times and situations that you are most likely to have your best ideas. Then when you have a knotty problem to solve, or need to ‘think outside the box’, go to that place or do the activity that sparks your creative thinking – and if that means spending more time in the shower or on the toilet – then so be it.
Interested in this topic? Listen to Lucy Gower, founder and director at Lucidity speaking about creativity at the AFP Congress in Toronto last November.