Studies by the technology research firm Gartner showed that, by 2020, technology would eliminate 1.8 million jobs in the United States and, in turn, change the way we work. To stay afloat, the study explained, each and every one of us would will “have to apply creativity, critical thinking and constant upskilling to solve complex problems.”. This is even more true as we start to make sense of and how to be creative in the new normal of this “post-pandemic” world.
In a world of disruptive innovation, the ability to use your creativity to problem-solve is one of the most sought-after traits in business and one of the biggest competitive advantages any company and individual can possess.
To prepare for these changes, here are seven behaviors to help unleash your creativity:
1. Give Yourself Time to Think.
Most CEOs consider time to be the number one barrier to innovation. Indeed, most of us hear ourselves saying “I don’t have time to think.” Give yourself some breathing space!
At Google, engineers have 20% of their time set aside for thinking. Steve Jobs used to go for a walk to think. At Disney, we would often go to our favorite attraction at the theme park.
And the most prolific innovator of the 20th century, Thomas Edison, used napping to give himself time to think. He would fall asleep in his armchair with a penny between his knees and a tin tray on the floor. As he drifted off to sleep, his muscles would relax, the penny would drop and he would wake up and write down whatever he was thinking, hence the expression “When the penny drops.”
Give yourself time to experience that eureka moment of brilliance!
2. Add Freshness to Your Daily Life.
Do you order your favorite menu item every time you go to your favorite restaurant? Do you sleep on the same side of the bed, even when you’re in a hotel room by yourself? Well, you’re not alone.
The majority of us do the same. We even commute home by the same route every day, often finding ourselves asking, “How did I get home?” No new stimulus in, no new ideas out. So, try injecting some freshness into your daily life to spur creativity.
Break your routine once in a while. Listen to a different radio station. Take a different route to work. Select a new dish from your favorite restaurant.
3. Be Playful.
Where are you and what are you doing when you get your best ideas? The shower? Jogging? Commuting? Walking the dog? About to fall asleep?
Why is the answer never “at work”?
Why do we always come up with the killer one-liner after the argument is over? Because when you are at work or in an argument your brain is usually stressed, and when you are stressed, you cannot access your subconscious brain, which is a gigantic repository of stimulus waiting to connect back to your challenge.
This is why we need to be playful when we are searching for those big, innovative ideas.
4. Nurture New Ideas.
How many times have you suggested an idea only to have it immediately shot down? How does that make you feel?
You can only come up with incredible ideas if you’re capable of nurturing them. Use the words “Yes, and…” when someone gives you an idea and help grow that idea into a world of possibility. Encourage others to start each response with “Yes, and…” and very quickly you all will find yourselves suspending the natural inclination to think “No, because…”.
The use of “Yes, and…” helps keep you focused on one idea with lots of potential. You will find the idea getting bigger, not smaller, and you will transfer the power of “My Idea” into “Our Idea”, which is crucial in gaining acceptance and buy-in from colleagues and superiors.
5. Follow Your Intuition.
How did you know that car wasn’t going to turn?
How did that person know you were staring at the back of his head?
How do we know when something isn’t quite right?
Our own intuition is far more powerful than we give ourselves credit for and can play a huge role in helping us develop a breakthrough idea. So, the next time you are brainstorming, listen to your gut. It has served you well in the past.
6. Practice Signaling.
Show people how you want them to behave at any stage of an innovation project. HSBC created a greenhouse inside their offices as a visual signal that, when you are in the greenhouse, you are expected to be expansionist and use the “Yes, and…” response.
Pixar has a “Plussing meeting” to test new storyboard ideas. The name of the meeting itself signals they are looking for people to add on, to jump in with new ideas.
At Disney, we created an “iD8” room where everyone instantly knew what was required of them. You can, too.
7. Be Curious.
Children are like sponges. That’s how they learn. What question do they ask and ask again?
They constantly ask “Why?” They don’t settle for the first answer they get. They dig deeper and deeper using “Why?” to help them get to the bottom of an issue.
This simple creative behavior can help us unlock insights for innovation, insights our competitors aren’t getting because they’re not digging deep enough to uncover that killer clue.