June 16, 2013 | Barb Carr

Career Development: Make Creativity a Habit

This post was written by  guest author ”Captain George” Burk.  Learn more about this motivational speaker, author & writer on his website: http://www.georgeburk.com/


Most of the people I know always think about new ways they can enhance their personal and professional creativity.  Their purpose for doing this is quite simple: they want to think more innovatively and develop the habit of how to think more creatively.

Bad habits, like negative thoughts and hostile self-judgments often block the strategic paradigms of creativity, innovation, anticipation and excellence.  According to Alex Osborn in his book, “Applied Imagination,” one reason many of us tend to function less creatively as we mature is that “we become victimized by habit.”

Either find a way or make one.” Hannibal, Carthaginian general

The key word here is “victimized” because I believe we have become an “externalized society.”  This occurs when people act and talk like someone else – a person, organization, or governmental entity – owes them something.  In adopting this attitude, they give up any sense of personal and professional responsibility for the choices they make and find it much easier to blame someone else for their “plight.”  In this scenario, everyone sees themselves as a “victim” versus conducting their lives like a “survivor.”  The former mind-set is just a lot easier; the latter more difficult as it requires courage, commitment, discipline, goals, focus and hard work.

The “victims” of today are precisely that because of their choices, and because no one, not their family, friends, bosses, or politicians held them accountable for their actions and choices.  First and foremost, however, is they made the choice not to hold themselves accountable and responsible.

“As a result of education and experience, we begin to develop inhibitions which tend to restrict our thinking” Osborn said.  What occurs are those inhibitions we set as our internal justification for not doing something and that something tends to keep us from attacking new problems (challenges) with enthusiasm and one of our greatest gifts, our imagination.   However, it is possible to change the habit of bad and negative thinking with good ones.  Here’s how:

Creativity guru Edward DeBono says that one way people can change bad habits and negative mind-sets is to exercise your creative mind.   DeBono suggests focusing on an ordinary object, like a drinking glass, or a plate of food and then develop a problem or challenge concerning that object and then brainstorm possible solutions.  The drinking glass or plate if food is a metaphor and only an example.

Don’t dismiss this example and tell yourself it’s too simple, or laugh it off as not useful to you.   Change the mind-set and say to yourself that this does sound logical and makes sense, and that you will experiment with it and see how it can work for you.  Use your creativity and imagination for another object, and then develop a problem or challenge for it and then brainstorm possible solutions.  This exercise is also a form of “mind-mapping.”

In his book “Serious Creativity,” DeBono says, “Mostly we think of creativity as being applied to a serious problem and difficulties that seem incapable of real solutions without a creative breakthrough.”

However, suppose that you begin to focus on an issue no one else has even bothered to think about. For example, DeBono suggests while you drink a glass of water, you can choose to focus, “just on the rim of the glass. Could it be a different shape?  Could there be a detachable rim for hygiene purposes?”

What are the tasks you do every day that be done differently?  Stop and break each task into small, manageable parts.  Are there any steps or procedures that are redundant?  Can you improve upon you are doing, or how you develop and deliver your product or service?  What are the relationships and interactions?

Granted, you may never use many of the ideas you generate from this creative practice but according to DeBono, “The mere exercise of setting out to pick an unusual focus area has a high value. This, in turn becomes a habit itself.”

“If the Creator had purpose in equipping us with a neck, he surely meant for us to stick it out.” ~ Arthur Koestler, writer

History is replete with stories about people that were successful innovators and who proved time and again the value of habitual creativity, anticipation and innovation.  For example, Leonardo da Vinci used his imagination and creativity to explore all the aspects of life and included science, art, architecture and engineering.  An important part of his thinking was to ask, “What if?”

Da Vinci’s creative habit produced paintings like “The Last Supper” which led him to develop detailed plans for flying machines, and underwater diving suits and a host of other inventions.

Thomas Edison is another inventor who made creative thought and action an integral party of his life.  He filed more than 1,000 patents for inventions like the light bulb, an electrical generating system, a sound-recording device and motion picture projectors.   To Edison, creativity and innovation was almost as important as eating.

To help you get into the habit of thinking more creatively, here are a few exercises to help you stretch your mind.

Record at least one observation a day in a notebook.  Observe details and events around you can help open you eyes—and your mind—to a whole new world of colors, words, ideas, thoughts, people, nature and much, much more.  When you take note of your observations and make the connection between your thoughts and what you see, you will begin to develop the habit to think creatively.  By simply stopping every so often and observing the world around you also enhances the quality of your life.

When was the last time you stopped to watch hummingbird take nectar from a flower, or watch a flock of geese flying North or South and wonder how and why they always land at the same body of water year after year, even when the clouds obscure their landing site?

Think like Da Vinci and play the “what if” game.  This is a great way to play with kids, too.

Playing “what ifing” games is great way to learn how to direct your imagination towards a desired mission (purpose), goal, or both.  Michael Michalko, in his book, “Thinkertoys,” says, “This technique lets your ego relax and the playfulness of the ideas it generates will cause your mind to relax even more.”

Michalko offers a number general “what if” examples and include: “What if you had eyes in the back of your head as well as the front?”  What if every person in the world had to adopt one homeless person and take care of that person for life?  What if people slept for 23 hours a day, and were awake for only one hour?

I don’t know about adopting a homeless person and caring for him or her for the rest of my life.  But I do know some parents who seem to have continued being responsible for their adult “kids.”  And, I think I worked with some people who really did sleep 23 hours a day and when they were awake, may as well have been asleep.  Eric Allenbaugh refers to these people as the, “the walking dead.”

So, “What if” you tell your employees they are appreciated and they’re doing a great job?  “What if” someone asks you to be their mentor?  “What if” you ask someone to be your mentor?  “What if” you pat someone on the back and say “thanks?”  “What if”’ you hug your kids and tell your spouse you love them? “What if” I had listened to some of the people around me who said I’d never walk again, or walk stairs, or be productive (well, this last point is open for debate).   “What if” John Davieau hadn’t driven through that ravine, and “what if” he hadn’t turned his truck towards the smell of the smoke?  “What if” he hadn’t found me on fire threw dirt on me and extinguished the flames?

“What if” I hadn’t met you…Well, I think you get the idea.

So, just like most of the things in your life, if you really want to become more creative, you will find a way to make that paradigm become a reality.  It is that simple!

Now, “if” I can remember where I put my cars keys.

“Buy the truth and do not see it; get wisdom, discipline, and understanding. Proverbs 23:23 (NIV)


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