“Creators are creative because they believe they are creative.”
Michael Michalko, Thinkertoys
Creativity is like a superpower of the human mind. It allows us to rethink, reinvent, question, and imagine. However, we’re taught that creativity is a talent gained at birth — either you have it, or you don’t. That’s not true. Searching for something new is a unique trait all humans share.
You are already creative
If that’s hard to believe, look around you. Did you create your own outfit and style? Or design your home? Or build your career? You create meals, topics for conversations, a welcoming atmosphere when the guests come, your living space, presents for your friends and more. Thus, acknowledge that you are already creative. Make a list of the things or experiences you have created, and you will see that it’s longer than you thought.
You should prime yourself with a positive attitude towards creativity. Remembering that you are already creative is a great start.
Why do we need creativity?
We all have opportunities to utilize and problems we want to solve. Having more options is always beneficial. Being creative can also expand our understanding of the situation and make for better solutions. Humans are creative by nature, and curiosity drives us toward the future. The advancement of artificial intelligence further increases the roles of creativity and empathy in the near future. Creativity is a proactive, positive mindset that allows us to change things in our lives and the world.
How to measure creativity?
In research, creativity is measured by looking at ideas related to specific questions. Three different measures are used to see how creative the idea space was.
- This basically means the quantity of ideas — more is better. The more ideas you manage to get, the more opportunities there are and the more options you have. It’s important to note that there is no difference between a good and a bad idea at this phase; only the number of ideas matters.
- This can be thought of as the diversity of ideas. Are all the ideas closely related, or are there different groups to be seen? For example, ideas for drinks, ideas for foods, ideas for snacks, or ideas for smells. These categories can have several ideas, but the more categories and diversity you have, the more creative your idea space is.
- Originality comes from divergent and lateral thinking and taking the least explored path —from approaching the question in a novel way. This is the hardest part in the beginning, but with practice and using different tools, it becomes more and more natural. We all had this mindset when we were kids.
There are many different definitions of creativity; this is just one way to measure it in engineering and design work. What we can learn from this is that if we maximize all three aspects, we can get many more creative solutions and options.
Tools to help you
Creativity is about mindset and the way of looking at the world. The mindset comes from practice, and there are a lot of concrete tools for it. They can help you get started and change how you think about the world.
There are hundreds of different creativity-boosting methods, and you can find most of them by just searching the internet with keywords like “creativity method,” “idea generation method” or “ideation workshop.” Some have been explained in detail, and some leave more room for interpretation. Usually, there are step-by-step guides, and just following them will give you some results. Every situation, team and question is different, though, and no method is ultimately better than another. Therefore, it is best to try many. Different methods focus on different aspects, so some will focus on generating more ideas, and some will help you come up with different approaches. The more you use, the more patterns you can recognize that will help you be more creative in the future.
Make a list of the things or experiences you have created, and you will see that it’s longer than you thought.
In addition to using different methods, it’s important to give creativity time. Incubation time, where you don’t actually work on the question at hand, has been proven to increase creativity on every level. This means letting your mind breathe before choosing what idea to continue with. Go for a walk or sleep through the night — anything that puts your mind to rest. You can also focus on divergent thinking in your everyday life. Consider how you can see things, questions and answers differently. Take time to think about a few more options or approaches to everyday situations, and you will notice that you do it more often than before. Daydreaming is one method of creativity!
You can find all kinds of creativity methods online, and there is also a relatively comprehensive list in a paper by Senni Kirjavainen and Katja Hölttä-Otto. But most importantly, have fun! Having fun is proven to increase creativity, and if you’re not, what’s even the point?