What’s the Big Idea? How to Foster Creativity
Each January we review our work from the previous year then make plans and set goals for the next. Whether personal or professional, most of our goals are focused on improvements: making more money, losing some weight, reading more books, or learning a skill.
There’s nothing at all wrong with improvement, but we have become like human iPhones. We don’t really need a slimmer, smarter, more expensive version of the iPhone every year, but that’s all we seem to get. What we loved about the iPhone back in 2008 was that it offered us something different and new. It was a change, not just an improvement.
So how do we get away from version 10 of the same and create a version 1.0 of something original? Well, we need to do what Apple encourages us to do (but maybe fails to do themselves these days) think differently.
Curiosity is a powerful force. At my company, Farmore Marketing, we have a shared Google document dedicated to one question: What if? The moment you stop asking questions, and specifically “what if?” you stop growing.
“The future belongs to the curious” – John C. Maxwell
All great things came from asking questions like, “what if?” and “why not?” I am a naturally curious person, so asking questions comes easy for me. It came easy for most of us when we were younger, because everything fascinated us.
In fact, a study conducted by online retailer LittleWoods.com found that the average four-year-old girl asks 390 questions each day.
That equals about a question every two minutes of the day; whereas adults, according to a number of sources, ask between six and 20 questions per day.
Somewhere throughout our lives, we stopped being curious, but there is still so much to learn. We have an infinite amount of information available at our fingertips. It only takes a simple question to unlock a wealth of knowledge.
Take some time each day to intentionally ask questions. You never know where you might end up.
Now that you have started to become curious, try out something new. (Unless you found it on Pinterest. All of that stuff is just impossible.) But seriously, try something new, even if it’s just a new restaurant to start, and push yourself outside of your comfort zone.
Pushing beyond the comfort zone is so important to developing new ideas because it provides you with a different perspective on a subject. Adding those new experiences can make you more creative, and help you think outside your own bubble. Beyond the possibility of finding your next favorite food, activity, or friend, new experiences raise new questions. And new questions bring maturity and growth.
We’ve all heard the idiom, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.” How can we expect to grow and change if we don’t do something different — something new?
Beyond personal growth, trying new things lends to your credibility. Anyone can read a book about skydiving or watch Instagram videos of others skydiving. But others want to hear about your experience skydiving, not what you’ve read or watched.
Inspiration is defined as, “The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.” Inspiration can strike at any time, but if you’re in a creative industry like marketing you need regular inspiration.
Inspiration is everywhere, but you have to be open to it. As part of my natural curiosity, I enjoy looking at the pieces of a puzzle, not the whole. I want to know how everything works, where it came from, who built it, and why they built it.
Make some time to seek out inspiration. It can come from anywhere. Henry Ford was famously inspired by a meat processing plant (hello, bacon!) to create his automobile assembly line. And be ready to document your inspiration. There’s no telling when a great idea will come, so you’ll need somewhere to write it down or sketch a photo.
At Farmore, one way we encourage our team to share inspiration is through a collective message thread we use to post work that we love. It’s a simple way to share and store great ideas.
Sleep On It
Not all good ideas are formed quickly. If you sense that you are on to something, feel free to take some time to let it percolate overnight — or even longer. You will be surprised at the power of your subconscious mind if you aren’t forcing it in a certain direction. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “follow your dreams!”
Find a good sounding board and have a conversation about your idea. I’m definitely the type of person who needs to talk ideas out. Whether it’s through a brainstorm session or just running my idea by a colleague, when I say things out loud I get the chance to hear the idea a differently than in my own head. Sometimes I like it even more; other times I hear it and say, “never mind.” Either way, it allows me to process my ideas and get a fresh perspective from someone else.
Do some research on similar ideas. It could be that someone else has done something similar, and you can use them for inspiration to make your own version of whatever it is you’re planning. Think through the steps required to make your new idea a reality.
Creativity doesn’t just arrive on a magic carpet, swooping down at random. It isn’t a cartoonish lightbulb over your head or a special club level reserved for select VIPs. It is, in fact, work. It takes work to open yourself up to new ideas and experiences. It takes work to train your mind to be ready to receive inspiration. And it takes work to make that inspiration a reality. What ways do you channel your inner creativity?