"Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts." —Rita Mae Brown
Inventive thinking is prized now more than almost any other time in history. The creative class is on the rise and is an important emerging driver in the economy. Richard Florida's book, "The Rise of the Creative Class" (Basic Books, 2002), now celebrating its 10th anniversary, notes the creative class makes up at least 30 percent of today's workforce.
To solve the increasingly complex problems of the world, as well as think through how to reinvent current products, approaches and processes, creativity is required. It is vital to use both your right brain and left brain.
But what if you are not a "creative type?" Can you learn to be creative? Yes. All people are creative. It comes naturally to kids. Children make up stories to tell—remember playing make believe? Coloring, drawing—a kid can make a rocket ship out of a cardboard box and yarn. Even kids in desperate situations are intuitively creative. It is what drives us to learn, to explore and to grow.
Necessity may be the mother of invention, but creativity is the spark that lights the way to invention. Creativity is what keeps organizations and individuals innovating and improving. As adults though, many of us do not use our creativity. Creativity is not lost; it goes dormant until you are ready to use it. Like a muscle, it can be flexed and strengthened.
Using both sides of your brain taps into your creative and your analytical abilities. The right side of your brain is the source of your dreams, inspirations and insights. The left side is the process center and can either accept or reject them. Learning to use both explodes your ability to think, to grow, to find solutions and take action in the face of challenges—even when you think you can't.
Not using both your creative and strategic sides can lead to taking on projects that deplete you or getting stuck in a rut. Using your creativity keeps you open to new possibilities or perspectives. You can decide if a new approach to a project will help you get it done or if the project is worth your time.
Some of the most creative people I know are not artists. They are business owners: bankers, attorneys and an electrical engineer. They have two important traits in common. One, all regularly to flex their "what if?" Muscles and, second, each embodies the three core values Richard Florida identified within the creative class:
Individuality. They endeavor to create identities that reflect their creativity. This can entail a mixing of multiple creative identities.
Merit. Each favors hard work challenge and stimulation. They have a propensity for goal-setting and achievement because they are good at what they do.
Diversity and Openness. They strongly favor organizations and environments in which they feel that anyone can fit in and can get ahead.
How to Become More Creative:
Be Curious. Ask questions such as "What would make this simpler? How could we do this differently? Then play with the puzzle pieces until you figure out answers.
Make Structure Your Muse. Don't wait for inspiration to strike. Schedule regular non-meeting time with the sole purpose of reviewing a project or a trend and consider "what if?" The time can be a short as 15 minutes each day or one hour once a week.
Treat every project like an experiment and every failure as a jumping point. Not everything is going to work. Something not working is a signal there is more to learn or something else to try.
Persevere. Creative people hone their craft over time. When you have a dry spell, keep pecking away at the keyboard or adding more compost to the proverbial soil of your work.
Embrace ambiguity. Part of being creative is not knowing exactly what is going to happen. Ambiguity offers the opportunity to be flexible and inventive, to build a new skill or discover a novel way to apply existing skills.