We’ve probably said it to ourselves and also heard other people say it, “Oh, but I’m not creative.” And we say it so many times that we start to believe it – creativity is reserved for those people who can paint a picture, design a pattern, build a piece of furniture.
Well, you are wrong and I have an exercise to prove it. I have been trying to organise and de-clutter my computer as I can never seem to find anything these days and I came across a great creative thinking exercise that I had completely forgotten about. You can use it in groups or by yourself to get the creative juices flowing and it really does work!
Basically it’s about combining ideas, being able to see the link between two quite separate and often random things to create something new and innovative. It can also be taking one item, re-purposing and using it in a totally different way. We have been doing this since we were cavemen, it’s something we do naturally and yet we don’t recognise the link between that and creativity.
We label ourselves as non-creatives when in fact we are being creative everyday: have you ever used a mug for something other than a drink, have you used a chair for something other than sitting on? Fine, these are simple examples but you get the point.
The aim of this exercise is to take two items that are random and separate, focus on each item and then combine them. ask yourself what it represents to you. Write down the different points or do a mind map in a notebook.
So, let’s take an example: I have chosen ‘umbrella’ and ‘pen’. First I will consider each item separately and ask myself what it represents to me. I will write down the different points or you could do a mind map in a notebook.
Pen – it’s hard, plastic, long and thin, it’s solid, comes in lots of varieties i.e. colour, style, ink, biro, felt tip), it’s useful for writing, some have lids others have a twist action to retract the nib, most pens have writing on them, they allow us to communicate, they often get lost.
Umbrella – hard, fabric, waterproof, mixture of metal, wood and plastic, it has spokes like a wheel, variety of colours, most are the same shape, you can have umbrellas for the garden as well as the ones we carry, small ones and large ones, protect us from the weather which could be rain or sun, long handle, collapsible, useful as they keep us dry, can be difficult to use, generally break in strong wind.
Then I combine them and think about how each item relates to the other or how they could relate to each other:
- Have an umbrella that has a compartment to hold pens
- An umbrella that folds in on itself or retracts like a pen’s nib so the rain water is captured and can be emptied out in a sink or drain
- Each ‘spoke’ on the umbrella could be a different coloured pen
- Have a waterproof pen that can write messages on an umbrella’s fabric – change the colour and message to suit your mood or use for cheap advertising
- Have an umbrella holder (similar to a pen holder)
- Have small LED lights on the umbrella so you can see where you are going in the dark and others can see you; have a torch in the handle of the umbrella; have a torch that is also a pen
- Pens could have little LED lights that shine so you can see them in the depths of a bag or drawer
I’m sure you have other ideas and the list could get quite long. It doesn’t always have to have an immediate application as there will be other people who could take the idea and turn it into a practical solution.
You can use this exercise in a workshop as an energiser: it doesn’t have to be linked to creativity or anything but it gets the brains working in a different way so you can include it in any format, after lunch or first thing in the morning. It also helps me be more creative and wakes my brain up if I am tired. Just as we are always thinking of energisers for participants in a workshop, we also need to be energised if we have a day in front of the computer and this works perfectly for me. And you never know, you could come up with the next best invention!
So, no more excuses we are all creative we just need the time and space to get the juices flowing. The exercise above takes just 10 minutes but the effect will last a lot longer and could lead to that next breakthrough.