**Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Catharina F. de Wet, Ph.D and author of One View of Giftedland, a blog focusing on talented and gifted education.
Google the word “creativity” and you will get almost 84 million hits. The first few has to do with defining creativity and it ranges from the cerebral Wikipedia definition: “Creativity (or “creativeness”) is a mental process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations between existing ideas or concepts” to a simple definition by Henry Miller: “ The occurrence of a composition which is both new and valuable.”
Because of research we know a significant amount about the creative process and creative people. We know they are energetic, curious, flexible, independent, adventurous, perceptive, open-minded, and imaginative. Words like imagination, ingenuity, innovation, intuition, invention, and discovery are often used as synonyms for creativity. We are aware of two more traits of creative people: They are attracted to complexity, and they have a tolerance for ambiguity.
Generally speaking, when we talk about a creative person, we have in mind two kinds of people. The first is the kind of highly creative person in one particular domain that we can also label “talented.” Here we think of the Picassos, the Bachs, the Nureyevs, or if you are of a different aesthetic persuasion, the Warhols, the Kamens, and the Katherine Dunhams.
These are the people who have an innate exceptional talent that is developed to the highest degree through the application of time, effort, training, and dedication, and a handful achieve recognition and eminence. There are comparatively few of these artists and consequently their contributions to the world are highly valued.
The second kind of creative person is one who lives life creatively in a general sense, interested in new things, thinking in new ways, not constrained by social or intellectual limits. Creativity should not be associated too strongly with the possession of extraordinary and distinguished talent. Creativity is a lifestyle , a way of living, a way of perceiving the world.
Here are ten things you can do to develop your creativity:
1 – Deliberately remove barriers of tradition and habit that block creativity. These blocks to creativity have to do with habit, learned rules, traditions, and cultural norms. We learn ways of thinking and doing from an early age. We learn what is acceptable and what is outside of acceptable behavior. Societies that prize conformity inhibit individuality. Highly creative people are often seen as rebels and mavericks because they question traditions and rules. I do not advocate throwing all rules and traditions overboard. It is possible to remove barriers and blocks to creativity in a moral and ethical way by questioning the way things have always been done within the boundaries of your moral and ethical limits.
2 – Examine and remove perceptual blocks. We get used to observing things in a particular way based on our interests, needs, biases, values, and past learning. People with strong perceptual sets are prone to quick decisions and conclusions, rather than looking for alternatives. To be more creative, take a minute and examine alternatives. De Bono’s Lateral Thinking is a technique for breaking free of our perceptual blocks, as is Synectics.
3 – Recognize and remove emotional blocks. Emotional blocks to creativity are feelings such as anger, fear, anxiety, hate, and even love. Sometimes people experience these temporarily through home or work circumstances, or problems with peers, parents, partners, and children. Chronic sources of insecurity are things like fear of rejection, fear of being different, fear of failure, fear of ridicule or criticism, fear of people like supervisors or those with authority over us, timidity, or poor self-concepts.
The right attitude for developing a creative lifestyle is a willingness to take risks, a willingness to fail, a willingness to be different, a willingness to stand out, a willingness to question, a willingness to laugh at one self.
4 – Recognize and overcome limited resources. Sometimes a lack of finances, information, people, and time inhibit our ability to be innovative. This is an excellent opportunity to think creatively. How else can you make this idea work? What other people are available who might help? What can I substitute for the expensive resources I think I need?
5 – Practice divergent thinking. Divergent thinking is the generation of multiple answers to a problem. Think of many and various alternatives. Brainstorming is a great example of this technique. The secret to brainstorming is not to evaluate ideas as they are generated, but to name or write down as many things as you can regardless of their possible utility or value. The first things we think of are the usual, the known, the mundane. The longer you continue with this process, the more likely you are to come up with new ideas. Another technique is to break objects and ideas down into its component parts to analyze those parts and the relationships between them.
6 – Practice convergent thinking. Convergent thinking is deliberately putting diverse and disparate ideas, concepts, and objects together to create a new object, idea or concept, or to find the best solution to a problem. De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats is an excellent example of a convergent thinking technique.
7 – Pursue new experiences. Putting yourself in the way of new ideas and new experiences will help you open your mind. The more you develop a curious mindset and an openness to new experiences, ideas, places, people, and objects, in other words living creatively, the more likely you are to produce creatively.
8 – Make time to think. No one is creative under pressure. Pressure, whether time pressure or emotional pressure, inhibits creativity. Positive emotions are conducive to creativity. Take time to think, to relax, to be happy. Maslow’s self-actualized person (see here) is the epitome of a fully creative person. Many religions link spirituality and creativity through meditation. For Christians, this includes prayer time. The Holy Spirit is a creator and allowing the Holy Spirit to suggest new ideas and actions to you is a natural outcome of a vibrant relationship with God. Sarah Stockton has some very good suggestions here.
9 – Collaborate. Shared thinking provides opportunity for many of the above thinking techniques: brainstorming is easier with more than one person; divergent thinking of multiple people produces more diverse ideas; multiple perspectives focused on one problem create better convergent thinking. Collaboration requires an unselfish attitude and can create positive emotions. Choose your collaborators well and enjoy the sharing process.
10 – Make time to study. Creativity requires knowledge. Both divergent and convergent thinking requires thinking content. People who know nothing have little with which to be creative. Some of the best creative producers are those who can use knowledge from one domain in another.
To help you study the topic of creativity, here are some suggestions:
Jack Ricchiuto’s book Collaborative Creativity: Unleashing the Power of Shared Thinking
Ken Robinson’s book Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative
Bill Breen’s article in Fast Company: 6 Myths of Creativity
Watch Ken Robinson’s 20 minute video on Creativity in Education
In fact, give yourself some inspiration and watch all the videos at TED Talks
If you liked this article why not subscribe via RSS or e-mail so that you don’t miss out.