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Creativity is not just for poets: 5 ways to be creative

By Grace Jackson

What is creativity? Is it a special talent that you are born with, reserved for artists, poets, and musicians?

Well, no – anyone can be creative. The root word of creativity is the verb, “to create,” which is defined as “bringing something into existence,” usually novel ideas. The created item may be something physical, such as a painting or photograph, or it could be intangible, like an idea, or process. The key to being creative is taking action and not waiting until the perfect moment to do so.

This means that each of us has opportunities and abilities to bring new ideas, thoughts, theories or projects into the world.

Creative people don’t often do what’s expected of them. They allow their intuition to guide them and follow paths that may not always be obvious. They don’t mind being told “no.” New and various experiences excite them, and they are eager to explore other worlds outside their own. Creatives are often in “flow,” a term popularized by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who believes that creativity brings meaning to our lives.

Innovation means “applied creativity”

Innovation and creativity are buzz words often used together, but they are two very different concepts. Creativity refers to generating new and novel ideas, while innovation refers to the application of the idea, of putting it into action. In other words, innovation is “applied creativity” and is most often a collaborative, team effort to improve a business, process or product.

Everyone can ask questions such as, “how can we improve?” and, “what would happen if?” Thinking about how to make an organization run more efficiently or be more beautiful is exciting and surely breaks the day-to-day doldrums of tedious, mundane tasks. It’s also fun looking at things in a different light.

Creativity can be encouraged in many ways. One way is working in an environment that welcomes, and expects, new and innovative thought. Having fun and laughing with coworkers and peers provides fuel for creative fire. And knowing that failure is not necessarily a bad thing can contribute to an atmosphere of growth and camaraderie.

Five ways to be creative at work:

  1. Take your thinking one step further. If you are asked to work on a new project, here’s your chance to look at the world from different angles and ask: how can this be even better? Who else might want this information? What can I do to make it more impactful?
  2. Seek beauty. Not just physical beauty, such as “oh, she should be a model,” but ask if your project can be simple in design, functional in terms of others being able to easily use it, and accessible.
  3. Think big, and find inspiration everywhere. Ask yourself, why not? What’s the best thing that can happen if you tried something new, or took a risk? If you have time to break out of a typical day, head outside for inspiration in nature, or visit a museum to expand your horizons.
  4. Think small. This is not the antithesis of #3, but an extension of it. Once you think of your creative idea, try not to over complicate it. Can it be said in less words, can less steps be taken? What if you had to teach this to a fourth grader? “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together,” Vincent Van Gogh said.
  5. Look for patterns. Being creative means making associations between two disparate ideas and combining them. “True creativity,” Steve Jobs said, “is little more than connecting the dots. It’s seeing patterns before they become obvious to everyone else.”

To look for patterns, or to learn more about creativity in the workplace, visit the School of Applied Leadership. We offer doctoral degrees in educational leadership and master’s degrees in adult leadership and adult education.