For a lot of us, creativity is important. Be it part of your work or part of your hobbies, it’s an essential aspect of being successful. Everyone is striving to be the best they can, to stand out from the crowd. You can’t do this however if all you are doing is the same as you’ve always done, the same as everyone else is doing. Creativity is more than just being creative. It’s easy to fall into the trap of saying “I need to come up with ideas but I’m just not that creative”. Creativity abounds and you can nurture it in many ways but it has to be a part of your workflow for you to bring out the best.
Have you ever sat down and really thought about just how you go about doing the things you do in your day to day work? Have you ever sat down and thought about the key values and characteristics that your work should exude or radiate? If you haven’t, that’s ok, most people don’t. I would suggest you take some time to do so however, and that you take some time to look at how you can include creativity directly in your workflow.
At first this might seem counterproductive. Creativity is free flowing and unpredictable. Sparks of brilliance can come at any time but you can’t summon them at will. How can I cram creativity into a rigid process and expect it to work?
The answer is you don’t.
What you do do however is plant the seeds into your workflow and then nurture them and let them grow.
Make sure inspiration is in the mix. Whatever you are doing, make sure you take the time to research, observe and appreciate what has been done before you, and by as many different people as possible. Take the time to reflect. Look at what worked, what didn’t work, and why. It is believed that our creative imagination works by mixing and matching pieces from memories and experiences. So the more you put in there the more your mind has to go at.
It’s very easy to be given a task and to say “ok, I know how to do that” and dive right in. That may very well be the case but you should still take some time to think about it before you do so. I was once told that before doing anything you should think about 3 different ways in which you could do it. Don’t just accept the norm. Question it. Make a habit of doing this before starting anything.
Don’t let tools make you narrow minded. The most common tool in use today is a computer. Unfortunately, the user interface on many pieces of software is not very well thought out, and it is most likely not tailored to your specific needs. This can leed to a sort of tunnel vision. You start thinking, not in terms of what you want to produce, but in how the software can most easily create something that fulfills the requirements. It starts to guide your thinking. Don’t let this happen.
Stay aware of the big picture, where your targets are and how you are progressing towards them. It is very easy to get stuck into a projects and get all caught up in the small details. You end up losing sight of the big picture and it becomes easy to stray. The easiest way to do this is to have regular Big Picture sessions. Before you start a project you should write a one sentence description of what the end result should be. You should also list 3 characteristics that are the most important (such as ease of use, or flexibility, or stability). At regular intervals you should step back and read over your description and characteristics then evaluate your progress so far. Another useful technique is to get someone else, outside of the project, to do so as well. This will provide a non biased opinion.
Make sure you have doodling material near you. By this I mean something you can draw on easily so when you have inspiration you can let it fly. A pen and paper or a whiteboard are ideal for this (my favourite is the whiteboard).
Discuss your ideas. Talk with collegues and friends. If they’re not specifically involved with the project, even better. Different people will have different ideas, opinions, attitudes, experiences to draw upon etc. Make the most of it. Plan a monthly Show and Tell or something similar so everyone can contribute.
If you want to be successful you need to differentiate yourself and that requires creativity. To maximise your creative potential it needs to be infused in your workflow. By considering and implementing the ideas above you will be on your way in a positive direction.