From going for a walk to sensory overload, these techniques can boost your creativity.
In 1939, Alex Faickney Osborn, the co-founder of world-renowned advertising agency BBDO, was looking into ways of unleashing creativity for ad campaigns and discovered that, when a group of people came together and started offering ideas freely, creative thinking was much more productive than when each of those individuals attempted problem-solving on their own. He later wrote a book titled Applied Imagination, where he elaborated on the idea and insisted on two fundamental concepts: deferring judgment and reaching for quantity. I.e., reducing social inhibitions and producing a large number of ideas, under the belief that quantity generates quality. Osborne named that process “brainstorming,” and it would prove to be the birth of the first creativity technique in history.
Aiming to boost productivity, educational and professional environments push for conformity to the norm. It’s easier to teach students or manage human resources when everyone follows the same pattern. However, it can also be detrimental to the variety and richness of the output. This is especially so in the world of art, but creative thinking can have significant consequences in many other walks of life.
Following brainstorming, other techniques were put forward. One of the most effective ones was named SCAMPER, an acronym for seven techniques: (S) substitute, (C) combine, (A) adapt, (M) modify, (P) put to another use, (E) eliminate and (R) reverse. SCAMPER is a problem-solving technique that can be used for business projects and also when stuck in an artistic endeavor. Thus, substitution aims to pinpoint the areas or elements that can be substituted to improve the whole. Combining is merging several ideas to obtain something new. Adapting is finding the adjustments that can enhance your output. Modifying would be more about your whole work process. Putting to another use would imply changing the context of your work. Eliminating can make you think about the elements that can be excised from the whole project. And, finally, reversing is about changing your entire creative process.
Besides SCAMPER there are several approaches to boost creativity. These are some of the most basic ones:
Expose yourself to a sensory overload
If you expose yourself to more inputs, the likely outcome is that your mind will start connecting strands and finding new sources of inspiration. Traveling, reading, or communicating with other people will probably generate that creative spark that you’re craving for in your daily output.
Keep track of your ideas
Ideas can travel through your mind at the speed of light… and disappear just as quickly as they first came to you. Carrying a notepad to write down your ideas or just recording them on your phone or voice recorder can provide you with a few brushstrokes to kickstart your next project.
Go for a walk
Giving your mental processes a real-world counterpart such as walking can enable the free-flow of ideas. And, if you do that in a forest or a natural environment, the effect can be substantially improved. Oriental philosophies and religions stress the importance of losing yourself as an observer and becoming part of the observed. This is also related to the loss of self-awareness.
Don’t take anything for granted
Remember when you were a kid and everything was new? Reality is just as complex in your current life, but you have learned to navigate it by preprocessing it. Of course, that is helpful for your daily tasks, such as crossing the street and avoiding oncoming cars. However, it’s not that useful when you’re trying to find a different or novel approach for your creative thinking. The “eyes-of-a-child” technique means questioning your environment and exploring the reasons for your actions. Does this have to be exactly like that?