You can be creative. Don't let the myths of creativity hold you back.
You don’t have to be an artist, play music, or be exceptionally expressive either.
My family and I were watching the new Ted Lasso series and he inspired one of my recommendations below...keep reading to see which one.
One of the best definitions of creativity is from Freakonomics Radio (episode 345). Stephen Dubner says creativity is “doing something novel that works.”
As entrepreneurs and social innovators, it is important to create solutions to address the ever changing problems that affect people, places and our planet.
Let’s look at three sources of creativity and practices to help you tap into your own creativity.
Plato said “necessity is the mother of invention” and as social entrepreneurs and innovators this is where we start. It's imperative that we empathize with the people we serve through observation, listening, and engaging them. These are Human Centered Design principles we teach in our WVS Courses.
Also, keep in mind that you can evaluate old solutions and reengineer or reform them so they work better. This seems less creative, but it often is the quickest way to get your creative juices flowing.
Practice: Look at an existing solution (product, service, policy) and think of five ways it can be adjusted (if you could wave a magic wand). Then take the top idea and spend time imagining what it would require for reform or re-engineering.
Have you ever been doing a mundane activity where your mind seems to flow freely (e.g. chores, walking)?
For me it’s when I’m taking an early morning shower. My left brain has not had enough time to wake up and gives my right brain plenty of space to flow freely, often addressing problems that I may have been sorting through the night before.
Notice that my example here is that the source of creativity was from within you, your mind in a more spontaneous way. However, I also recommend that you tap into your own values, ideologies and faith as a source of inspiration too. Often, it is these things that keep us grounded to our passion and purpose and can be inspirational for others too.
Practice: While not all ideas prove to be feasible, some are worth taking note of and that's why I recommend keeping an ideas journal. Anytime you have those “aha moments” jot them down. Capturing both the content and the inspiration (how it made you feel) so that you can tap back into that later.
History has shown that when people moved into cities those places became hotbeds for creativity and innovation. Why is that? Mostly because of the diversity of cultures. Talented people bumped into one another in coffee shops and cafes where they exchanged ideas and found collaboration possibilities.
In our modern world we think of making connections in terms of networking via social media like LinkedIn. While these platforms are useful, it does not yield the same effect as the connections for creativity. However, I would encourage you to look for opportunities to ask lots of questions and get feedback.
The skill to develop is curiosity. Ted Lasso demonstrated curiosity in a hilarious way in episode eight and quoted Walt Whitman, "Be curious, not judgmental." So, when we see people’s problems, we should not judge but rather ask “Why?” five times. And why do we do this? Because questions help us discover more and go deeper into root issues. It also helps us uncover the assumptions or bias that we need to be aware of when designing a solution.
Practice: Design a validation process BEFORE you move to widespread delivery. We use the lean design and product prototyping process that helps validate the value proposition before rolling out a new product or service. Getting feedback from potential customers, peers and advisors is key. I recommend you find 10-20 people that will give you feedback and keep an on-going feedback loop for users and customers.
So by being empathetic to needs you see, inspired by possibilities and curious about connections, you can tap your own creativity.