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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.

Combine Things

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.

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Creativity Exercises