Here are seven things that just might surprise you about creativity:
1. Pushing for More ideas Increases Odds of Thinking of a Quality Idea. People often seen brainstorming as inefficient, but in order to get to a breakthrough idea you have to push through the obvious, top of mind, and frankly bad ideas. When you get through all that you are at the jumping off place for truly creative solutions. Studies show that the more ideas you generate the more likely it is you'll find an innovative one.
2. Creativity can be taught. Creativity is a way of thinking, and you can change the way you think. So, you can train yourself to be more divergent and more imaginative. Creativity is more than self-expression and artistic talent it includes problem solving and decision making, and we all have capacity for those things. People with this creative thinking training consistently outperform people without it.
3. Out-of-the-Box Ideas are not always what you want. Out of the box ideas can be amazing and they are so game changing it's become a cliche to try and seek them. People and organizations forget that they can also be high risk, expensive, and difficult to implement. There is a time and place for very big or different ideas, and there is a time and place for incremental improvement. Small, easy to implement, “a little bit better" ideas often have big results. World class manufacturing requires continuous refinement for example, and refinement ideas, and lots of them, are exactly what you need.
4. You can brainstorm alone. Brainstorming, or Ideation as it is sometimes now called, is thought of a group activity. Most people don't even attempt to brainstorm alone, but it can be very effective. With the right frame of mind - no self-editing allowed - you can get into a flow of idea listing that will work well towards finding solutions. The key is separating divergent thinking (listing) from convergent thinking (selecting) - diverge first, then go back and critically review.
5. Creativity is not just about spontaneous thinking. Creativity - you just do it right? Artists come up with brilliant ideas and off they go. If they don't come, well, they have to visit their muse to rekindle their creative fire. Well, it may seem that creativity is always spontaneous, but actually, creativity can be done deliberately and in a step-by-step structured process. Even artists have methods. If you understand the basics of creative process you can focus your creative thinking towards specific challenges. Then, when spontaneous ideas occur you can better use them, and push them through your idea factory. When you mention the concept of structured creativity to people it sounds like a paradox - how can it be structured and spontaneously creative? Well, it can. Much like a piano player who has spent years internalizing melodies and then is able to spontaneously improvise on the spot, we can train ourselves to direct our creative thinking in more effective, more structured ways. Once a creative problem solving process is internalized you can have more appropriate spontaneous ideas within it.
6. Creativity is measurable. The myth is that creativity cannot be measured - it's too mysterious and elusive for that. Not so, assessments have been developed that can determine your creative thinking tendencies and preferences. One is the KAI (Kirton Adaptor-Innovator Index) that puts you on a scale of high Adaptor through high Innovator. Adaptors think “better" while Innovators think “different". Your creative style preference is essentially set by the time you are about 12 years old. Both styles (and all those points in between on the bell curve) are creative, they are just creative in different ways. Common myth has the Innovators as creative and Adaptors as not, again, not so, Adaptors have an essential and important kind of creativity. The field of modern Archeology for example was essentially invented by a high level adaptor, Howard Carter, the discoverer of King's Tut's tomb.
7. Only a select few of us are truly creative. About half of us think we are “Not Creative. " In fact, every human being alive with their faculties intact has creative capacity. It does not require a high IQ and it does not require artistic talent to be creative. If you can think of ideas to solve your problems, like most people do every day, then you are creative. And since creativity can be improved with training one can become more and more creative over time. Creativity is, quite simply, a choice.
Gregg Fraley is a recognized expert on creativity and innovation. He speaks internationally and consults with many Fortune 500 companies on new product development. Co-host of the Innovise Guys, a leading podcast on innovation and improvisation, he is also the author of Jack's Notebook . To find out more about Gregg's consulting or speaking services, visit http://www.greggfraley.com