Three Tips to Improve Your Creative Thinking

I’m not an artist. I don’t have the word “designer” in my title. I repeatedly fail to master those pesky Pinterest projects that haunt me at night. But I’m still creative – at least, I’m working on it.

There are two big misconceptions about creativity. The first is that creativity is solely artistry. Just because you can’t design a fancy graphic for a presentation or sketch your self-portrait, it doesn’t mean you’re not creative!

The second misconception is that creativity is a talent. Many believe that you are either born with a creative gene or you’re not. But creativity is a skill, and you can work to improve it over time.

If you’re trying to develop your creativity, keep these three tips in mind:

Get uncomfortable.

When was the last time you pushed past the easy ideas for that “aha” moment? As adults, leaving behind what we know can prove challenging or can really bother us. (Farewell, carefree nature.) Acting silly or being adventurous is often reserved for children – but it shouldn’t be.

To think creatively, we must allow our minds to adventure – and get uncomfortable – from time to time, and part of that is throwing out what we know. Our minds can be our worst enemy when we second-guess or take ourselves too seriously. So to get uncomfortable, first, lighten up a little! Try to laugh more. If something is funny, allow yourself to even laugh out loud.

Create constraints.

When tasked with a problem, I often think: “If I were just given more freedom – more time, a bigger budget – then I’ll easily come up with a mind-blowing solution!”

Wrong. In reality, a more restrictive environment brings more creative opportunities. Think about it – two people are tasked with building a raft. One is given logs, screws, and an electric screwdriver. The other is given twine and plastic milk jugs. Who is likely going to think more creatively? Constraints practically force creativity!

To practice this at work, narrow your parameters. If you’re managing a project, slash the budget in half and see what happens. If you don’t have a budget, create one. You might find that allowing yourself fewer resources will challenge your creative thinking in new ways.

Silence your inner critic.

“Do you really know what you’re talking about? That idea is terrible. Don’t say that out loud.” If you’ve ever ventured into a meeting only to have your confidence plummet when that little voice in your head says things like this, you’re not alone. We can be our own worst critics – even before we finish a thought or complete an idea.

Many times, it takes those seemingly insignificant, totally off-base, or completely random questions or ideas to get moving in a creative direction, especially in contexts like team brainstorm sessions. Many of my schoolteachers used to say there are no bad questions or ideas – only those which never get asked or brought up.

When you have that self-doubt trying to shut you down before you even speak up, be bold and quiet that irritating critic. Who knows? You might just lead the team into a conversation for the next best program, product, or campaign!