“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
- Pablo Picasso
Do you follow the same routine each day? When is the last time that you ventured outside of your comfort zone? Many of us enact an established pattern of behaviors on a daily basis, as our minds naturally default to the familiar or the “way things are done.”
The solution: Exposure and Creative Thinking
Challenging our established patterns develops an increased ability to innovate and problem-solve, increased propensity to take calculated risks, and the ability to think in non-traditional ways.
Exposure requires adopting an open mind and actively seeking conflicting ideas and approaches, which can challenge our perceptions and beliefs. It is important to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, so that we can experience new people, places, ideas, and create new experiences for ourselves.
“When all men think alike, no one thinks very much.”
- Walter Lippmann
Exposure promotes divergent thinking, which allows us to break away from familiar or established ways of seeing or doing. Simple approaches to creating exposure include:
- Living or traveling to new locations
- Engaging in new activities, related or unrelated to your known interests
- Interacting with a diverse crowd of people to adopt new ways of thinking
- Educating oneself in new disciplines by self-directed learning, listening to talks, speaking with others, etc.
Exposure promotes brainstorming capabilities to build fluency, or create many original ideas, and flexibility, or many different kinds of ideas. By visioning and exploring, we gather information and conduct data analysis, which we then modify and experiment with to create new ideas.
Exposure directly promotes creative thinking. Creativity is a process of developing and expressing novel ideas that are likely to be useful. It is a goal-oriented process that does not require talent.
Five misconceptions about creativity:
- The smarter you are, the more creative you are
- The young are more creative than the old
- Creativity is reserved for the few
- The creative act is essentially solitary
- You can’t manage creativity
The key to promoting creative thinking is through creative abrasion, which fosters interaction between individuals with different thinking styles to consider conflicting approaches. Creativity and creative abrasion can be promoted through the following conditions:
- Diverse composition of your group (thinking styles, knowledge, etc.)
- Enriching your environment (both mental and physical, i.e. new location and new topics)
- Providing tools and techniques to enhance idea generation
- Engaging in freedom, play, improvisation
- How do you spend the majority of your time? Are you stuck in a routine? Why?
- Who at the five people that you spend the most time with? Are they diverse?
- What is your natural thinking style? Synthesizing, idealist, pragmatic, analytical, or realist?
- How frequently do you seek new ideas and topics?
- Do you promote self-directed learning by reading, audiobooks, videos, listening to talks, etc.
- Is your environment stimulating? What changes can you make to seek more play and improvisation?