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The post How to… Cultivate Your Creativity, Part 1 of 2 defined creativity and discussed its important and how everyone is creative. Today’s post explores suggestions for feeding your intellect and promoting creativity.

How can you encourage and stimulate creativity?

There are as many ways to stimulate creativity as there are ways to be creative. Let’s cover 5 ways to encourage creativity that are readily accessible to most people.

1.) Get an outsider’s point of view. If not stimulated, creativity declines with age. Age often locks us into conventional wisdom. Fortunately, an outsider point of view can be cultivated.

Be willing to try something new and to make mistakes. Refuse to constrain creativity and simply let yourself go once in a while. Find new challenges to keep creativity alive.Listen to those new to your field and allow their outsider point of view to stimulate your creativity. Let go of pride and risk the embarrassment of admitting you don’t know everything. Go ahead, ask silly questions.Traveling also promotes an outsider point of view by disrupting routines and showing the ordinary in new and different ways. Our thoughts are shackled by the familiar, so living in the unfamiliar encourages creativity.

2.) Rest and relax regularly. Resting promotes divergent thinking, which we need when we’ve hit a wall and need an insight. In these instances, logic won’t help, so interrupting focus often leads to creativity.At 3M, workers are encouraged to spend 15% of their time pursuing and sharing speculative ideas and to take regular breaks. What 3M has figured out is that innovation often comes when a person’s mind is at ease, when people quit analyzing

Daydreaming walks teach us to relax mentally, thus promoting divergent thinking. When we take our time and avoid rushing, which causes automatic responses that are anything but creative, innovation has a chance to show itself. Playing, coloring and doing puzzles also stimulate divergent thinking. Even taking naps can be a great way to cultivate creativity.

3.) Persist. While divergent thinking is necessary when you’ve hit a wall, persisting or convergent thinking becomes necessary when solutions seem just out of reach. They’re there, but you can’t quite get to them. Pushing through and getting frustrated sometimes stimulates creativity.

Psychologists say that the ability to “stick with it” or having “grit” is one of the most important predictors of success. Examples of divergent thinking include editing and refining a piece of writing, coming up with an answer to trivia questions, and solving algebra equations.

4.) Interact often. Interaction is what 3M calls “horizontal sharing,” or the sharing of ideas across fields.  3M figured out what research now shows, namely that people who interact with more people, even if the relationships are not very strong, tend to be more creative that those who exist only in small networks of close friends.

Interpersonal collisions, or human friction, are found in abundance in crowds. While these interactions can feel unpleasant, they can also breed tremendous innovation. This is why Pixar Studios insists upon the interaction of employees across departments. In fact, they design their office space to force interpersonal collisions.

Jonah Lehrer, author of Imagine, expresses this idea of interaction by saying, “The most creative ideas, it turns out, don’t occur when we’re alone. Rather, they emerge from our social circles, from collections of acquaintances who inspire novel thoughts.”

5.) Consider opposites. Broadening your base of experiences increases creativity and innovation as a whole. If you’re an accountant, take up dancing. If you’re a musician, follow the stock market. If you like to cook, go out and play football. Find as many different ways as possible to express yourself, and then watch your creativity flourish.

Don Hahn, author of Brain Storm: Unleashing Your Creative Self and producer of the Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, says, “The nut to crack with creativity in any career is that one must cultivate a lot of creativity about a lot of things, and then bring that knowledge into ones’ very special chosen field of focus.”

A Warning about Cultivating Creativity

As you work to cultivate creativity, be ready for insights and innovation to flow your way. Once creativity is unleashed, it tends to spread like wildfire.

DISCUSSION: How will you stimulate your creativity in the coming weeks?

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