Try These Creativity Exercises
A more creative mind is probably something you would like
to have. You may not invent the next million-dollar product or
solve important problems -- or maybe you will. But if nothing
else, it is enjoyable to come up with great ideas and new ways
to do things. Fortunately you can practice and develop your creative
skills and abilities. Here are some basic creativity exercises
to get you started.
Think Without Words
This is more difficult than you might imagine. We humans had
essentially the same brains we have now just prior to the invention
of systematic languages, and we certainly could think back then.
It is reasonable to assume that we can still think without stringing
words together in our heads, if we practice. In part, this is
an exercise in visualization, and if you do it enough you will
find that you "see" new solutions and ideas in your
mind more often, rather than just explaining things. Practice
"seeing" logical connections between things and processes
without explaining them using language. When words come, set
them aside and try again. Imagine scenes and, when you get better
at this, imagine stories that are entirely visual. Do this exercise
for at least fifteen minutes at a time.
This is a fun exercise that will generate new ideas, and,
if you play with it enough, it will make your thinking become
habitually more creative. The basic idea is to create something
new out of a combination of two or more things, processes or
concepts. For example, you can randomly choose two objects in
the room, like a phone and a calendar, and see what comes to
mind when you mentally put the two together in various ways (among
other things, what came to mind for me was a service where you
enter your schedule and phone number online and you get an automatic
call as a reminder prior to each appointment or event).
Work with more than just everyday items. The most unique results
will probably come from the combination of processes and things,
or beliefs and ideas. What comes to mind when you combine the
idea of evolution with mowing a lawn? And work with combination
of more than two items as well. What results from mentally combining
a government, the idea of marginal profit, a bicycle, and a book?
Work on Puzzles
Doing puzzles is good brain exercise in general, but if you
work on those puzzles that have some visual element to them you
might also help develop creativity and visualization skills.
Keep it creative more than analytic. In a recent study
on creative insight it was found that people found the solutions
to puzzles less often when they were required to explain how
they were solving them. Apparently intuition and trial-and-error
works better for some things than planning and explaining (a
good reason to develop that creativity).
Challenge the Common Beliefs
The point of challenging common wisdom is not to deny its
truthfulness or usefulness (and sometimes the latter is more
important than the former), but to exercise your ability to look
for other, more interesting explanations and ideas. For example,
it is commonly assumed that work should be paid for in money
and according to the time worked. But are there perhaps other
ways to pay employees, and what other measurements could be used
to determine how much to pay? Several ideas came to mind as I
wrote this, but I will keep my own ideas to myself at this point,
and let the reader do the exercise.
Do Something Different
We have an image of who we are and that can sometimes stifle
creativity. Make it a point to occasionally do something that
you do not normally do. Walk to the store if you usually take
the car. Sit on the roof to read a book or make a video of yourself
doing impressions. Sing loudly if that is not a common activity
for you, or spend a hour listening to people without saying anything
more than necessary.
Practice Using Different Perspectives
There is always more than one way to "see" something.
(The quotation marks around the word are because to see
is used metaphorically to mean seeing, understanding, imagining,
and even apprehending with the other senses.) To practice using
different perspectives, you might watch the news and think about
each item from the perspective of several different groups of
people. What does the most recent news mean to farmers, investors,
Chinese citizens or Catholics? Get past your preconceived ideas
of what their opinions might be, and try to actually think about
and analyze things as they might.
To make these creativity exercises really interesting, look
for the most unique perspectives. You might imagine, for example,
how the grass, if it was conscious, would see a lawn mower, or
how a mouse might judge the ethics of a cat. This gets us to
the next exercise...
Work With Crazy Ideas
If crazy thoughts do not come naturally to you, force a few
upon yourself in any way you need to. Just say something you
consider to be "stupid," for example, like "we
need to get rid of families." Then work with the idea to
see if you can somehow make sense of it or make it into something
more useful or logical. It might be crazy to imagine a world
without biological families, but what would the advantages be,
and how could it make sense.
(Thoughts that came to mind: The family is the most communistic
community most people will encounter -- something to consider
if one is concerned about the dangers of communism. Biology is
not nearly as important as actual parenting, so maybe at some
point in the future assigning babies to the best parents will
be workable. Families are where we learn tribalistic notions
such as that of loyalty to the group trumping truth or justice;
perhaps there is a better way to organize and relate to each
other a family.)
Imagine Other Purposes
This is a fairly simple exercise that, if done enough (perhaps
several twenty-minute sessions weekly for a month), will boost
your output of new and creative ideas. Just look at things, processes,
and systems, and then look for another purpose to put them to.
For example, books are meant for the purpose of communicating
information, stories, and ideas, but they could also be used
for table legs if you are done using them for their primary purpose.
A sprinkler is for watering the lawn, but it will also cool the
air temperature inside a mobile home if it is used on the roof
on a hot day. A pen can be a drinking straw, a light can be used
to heat food and so on.
Do exercise like these regularly and you'll notice the difference
in how creative you are.