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How To Be More Creative

This series of posts on "How To Be More Creative" offers articles, books and other resources on developing creative thinking and innovation, and enhancing our creative expression.

My other Creative Mind posts, hopefully, do that as well - but these new posts specifically provide brief excerpts of selected material by other authors that have a more "how to" flavor. Feel free to make any comments or suggestions.

Creative Thinking: How to Be More Creative (with Science!)

by Gregory Ciotti

"Have you ever wished you were more creative? If you do creative work, have you ever suffered from a creative block and been stuck wondering what exactly is wrong, and how you can get yourself out of it?"


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Creative Thinking

Developing Creativity: Product, People, Process and Press

These four P's of Product, People, Process and environmental Press have been used as frameworks by many creativity researchers and writers.

In a helpful overview article, Sandeep Gautam provides explanations of these concepts, and references to various creativity experts. Here are a few excerpts.

First, to start with the illustration: "Blind monks examining an elephant", an ukiyo-e print by Hanabusa Itchō (1652–1724).

The story that inspired this artwork is basically that "a group of blind men (or men in the dark) touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then compare notes and learn that they are in complete disagreement." [Wikipedia]

Gautam concludes his article:
"In the end, it is important to realize that creativity is all things to all people, but still needs desperately, and would benefit from immensely, an integrative research paradigm; otherwise like the proverbial blind men and the elephant, we may end up getting narrow and useless conceptions of creativity and ignore the big elephant in the room."

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Creative Thinking

Developing Creativity and Innovation: Think More Abstractly

Creative problem solving is enhanced by thinking more abstractly or at an intellectual distance, rather than more concretely, according to research studies.

In my post Using Research to Enhance Creative Thinking – Part 2, I quoted from the article “15 Scientific Facts About Creativity” which notes that “psychological distance” facilitates creativity, and “when hitting a creative snag, the best thing thinkers can do for themselves is step away and try to look at everything from a completely different point of view."

Evan Polman of New York University and Kyle Emich of Cornell University devised four studies on this creative strategy, with results published in their paper: "Decisions for others are more creative than decisions for the self" [Abstract].

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Creative Thinking

Enhancing Creative Thinking With Design Examples

One of the ways that art students learn to paint is to copy the work of a master.

Of course, there are many more complex and abstract design, creativity and innovation challenges than traditional portraiture.

The Human-Computer Interaction Group at Stanford trains people in designing interactive systems.

In a research study they conducted, subjects drew animals to inhabit an alien Earth-like planet and were presented with example drawings at different stages in the experiment.

The results indicated that "Early exposure to examples improves creativity (measured by the number of common and novel features in drawings, and subjective ratings by independent raters).

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Tony Wagner on Encouraging New Innovators

How can parents, educators and business leaders support people to become more creative, innovative and entrepreneurial?

"Innovation-minded parents encouraged their children’s play, passion and purpose."

Tony Wagner is currently the first Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard and the founder and former co-director of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

The quote above is paraphrased from his article My View: Creating innovators, in which he notes that many people believe that "America’s economic future depends on more students taking courses in science, technology, engineering and math."

"However," he adds, "it is clear to me that the more important goal is for all students to graduate from high school or college 'innovation-ready,' and merely requiring students to take more of the same kinds of classes will not be adequate preparation."

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Creative? Introverted? Then You’re Probably Not Seen As A Leader

"People often avoid the uncomfortable uncertainty of novel solutions regardless of potential benefit."
That quote comes from the Forbes magazine article Managing The Psychological Bias Against Creativity by Todd Essig, who notes the situation where "You come up with a great new idea at work, or at home.

"Or a political leader actually tries something 'new and different' when faced with a previously intractable problem. But then, rather than grateful acceptance, or even a fair hearing, the idea is squashed, ridiculed, or otherwise ignored."

New research, he says, "empirically documents how our resistance to uncertainty makes the 'old ways' far stickier than they should be given the practical benefits of creative, new solutions.

"Once again, the biases built into our minds leave us simultaneously moving in opposite directions; we like creativity but avoid creative ideas because creative ideas are too, in a word, creative."

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Creative Thinking and Disruptive Innovation

Do we need to invest exceptional levels of time and attention in becoming experts before we can make significant creative contributions?

One of the key ideas of author Malcolm Gladwell is that “outliers” on the upper end of intelligence, ability and achievement have engaged in about 10,000 concentrated hours of practice and study in a specific knowledge area.

From my post Outliers and developing exceptional abilities.

Malcolm Gladwell is author of Outliers: The Story of Success.

But a new article by entrepreneur and philanthropist Naveen Jain, the founder of World Innovation Institute (among other credits) writes that while this may be "an interesting thesis" and perhaps true earlier, it may not apply "in today’s world of growing exponential technologies."

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Are We Losing Creative Thinking Ability?

Creative thinking is a vital element in healthy and growing people and cultures.

As The Cambridge Handbook of Creativity puts it, "We live in a society where those who do not creatively innovate risk failure in any of several domains of life."

The book adds that "Legendary thinkers throughout time, from Aristotle to Einstein, have pondered what it means to be creative.

"There are still debates, after more than six decades of intensive research, on how to measure, utilize, and improve it."

One of the most widely used evaluations of creativity is the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT), which includes scores on four scales:

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Creative Inspiration In The Shower and Fixing The Hubble

Getting flashes of creative insight or inspiration can solve real problems. But be wary of thinking you have to wait for them to be creative.

Psychologist R. Keith Sawyer says creativity researchers refer to "the three Bs—for the bathtub, the bed and the bus—places where ideas have famously and suddenly emerged."

The photo shows an un-corrected Hubble telescope image at the left, next to an image at the right made with corrected optics.

Sawyer explained in a magazine article that in 1990 a team of NASA scientists "was trying to fix the distorted lenses in the Hubble telescope, which was already in orbit. An expert in optics suggested that tiny inversely distorted mirrors could correct the images, but nobody could figure out how to fit them into the hard-to-reach space inside.

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Confidence and Creating

Assurance, backbone, boldness, brashness, daring - engaging in a creative endeavor takes confidence.

Large scale collaborations like movies often take years to develop, requiring intense commitment on the part of writers and directors and other filmmakers.

A bit of hypomania and creative obsession can help.

Individual creators also need that kind of energy, motivation and confidence to keep working at projects for long periods.

This is a photo of "Fallen Star" by artist Do Ho Suh - a small house, with a sloping floor, installed onto the top floor at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UCSD.

You can see more photos at the Stuart Collection site.

An article notes it took "Fallen Star" seven years to be realized.

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