By Elizabeth Jeffries, RN, CSP, CPAE
It was a business function and our host was about to introduce me to a person who was sitting down behind me. As I moved in closer to say hello, she turned, realized we had met before, reached eagerly for my hand and said, “I remember you! We were at a meeting together and you were so creative! You had so many great ideas!”
Creative! Many years ago, I thought that was the last word people would have used to describe me…till I went on a mission to understand and increase my creative problem solving abilities. I believed that somewhere in the depths of my mind and spirit was lurking a creative genius just waiting to be released! I could learn other things. Why not creativity? So I simply set out to learn how to be more creative and solve problems differently.
And so can you!
It’s true that some people are more naturally creative than others, but recent psychological and neurological research has found that almost everyone has the capacity to be creative. But we’ve become creatures of habit, locked in boxes of routines and engrossed in ‘getting things done.’ Not much room for creative genius here.
Today’s workplace needs continuous creativity from everyone to serve patients and staff and meet the demands of a competitive marketplace. There are some surprisingly simple tricks that can help all of us boost our creativity. Here are 3 ideas from Jonah Lehrer, author of Imagine: How Creativity Works, followed by 5 tips from my own learning.
- Think blue. The color we’re surrounded with when we want creative thinking has a dramatic affect on our outcomes. A study published in Science found that test subjects doubled their creative output when placed in a room painted blue rather than one painted red. Apparently the human mind associates blue with relaxing images, such as clear skies and calm seas. A relaxed state of mind is crucial for creative thinking.
- Travel ‘across the pond.’ Spending time in foreign lands and other cultures seems to significantly boost creativity. A 2009 study by the graduate business school, Kellogg School of Management, found a strong correlation between time previously spent abroad and success with a challenging problem. For example, Ruth Handler, wife of an executive at Mattel, was on vacation in Switzerland when she spotted the doll that would inspire Mattel to create Barbie in 1959. From that observation, she convinced her husband that the company should create a doll that looked like an adult, not just baby dolls. And Barbie was born. If Handler had known that the doll that inspired her was a popular sex symbol in Switzerland, she would have rejected it as tasteless and Barbie might never have been born!
- Replace brainstorming sessions with debate. A cardinal rule of brainstorming is that criticism is not allowed. But it turns out we don’t fully engage with ideas when we’re not allowed to criticize them. A study by a psychologist at UC Berkeley found that when traditional brainstorming is replaced by idea-generation sessions that allow criticism and debate, the number of ideas produced by the group surges by about 25%.
And a few ideas from our own experiences and resources:
- Read unrelated books and articles on subjects that will stimulate your thinking. They will generated ideas you can transfer over to other areas of your life. As I coach executives today, I’m amazed how often the nursing process I learned many years ago is perfect for solving all kinds of business problems.
- Feed your brain with foods to stimulate creativity and thinking. High-protein foods, including nuts and beans, contain tyrosine and help you feel more alert. Lots of ideas and need to focus better? Eat carbohydrates like bread, pasta and cookies. (My favorite idea.) Brain Toniq is a new drink I just read about. It’s said to clear brain fog and stimulate creativity. It supposedly packs an undeniable punch of herbs, natural compounds and organic agave syrup.
- Observe and play with children. They are masters at discovery and imagination. They have unlimited boundaries and can help you expand yours.
- Deviate from your normal patterns and see life differently. Retrain your brain to think differently by driving a new route to work, sit in a different chair at that staff meeting, move to a different pew at church.
- Take risks and explore new things you haven’t tried before. Two of the most fun things I’ve done as an adult that expanded my world were to take a series of tap dance lessons and voice lessons. I didn’t perform on Broadway, but it stretched me and was great fun!
Play with these ideas. They’ll help you unlock your brain power and get the neurotransmitters in your brain talking to each other. The more you are ‘in action,’ the more your ideas come. The more you act like a creative person, the more you will unlock your brain power. So why not take action on a few of these ideas?
It’s what leaders do!
Elizabeth Jeffries, RN, CSP, CPAE is an award winning professional speaker, author, and executive coach. She is a principle in the firm of Tweed Jeffries, LLC, the parent company of Leading Home Care. She can be reached at 502-339-0653, or at www.tweedjeffries.com.