One of the most valued traits that a modern employee should possess is creativity. A huge number of companies describing their perfect candidate in job vacancies point out creativity as a necessary quality, even if the job itself is not directly related to “creative professions.” For example, creativity may be required from all kinds of managers, SEO specialists, marketers, or even salesmen. Such a high demand for this quality can be explained with the broadness of the term: creativity does not necessarily mean the ability to create unique content; in a more general interpretation, it can be understood as the ability to solve problems and approach challenges in a non-standard way—and, from this perspective, it is indeed something any specialist should possess if he or she wants to be able to withstand competition.
It is also fair to speak of creativity as a kind of depletable psychological resource, somewhat similar to emotional or mental resources. When it is sufficient, it is perceived as something constant; when being in a resourceful condition, designers, for example, can come up with memorable and unique brand identities; copywriters can write persuasive and engaging sales write-ups and advertisements; painters and sculptors can create masterpieces, and managers can efficiently perform their daily tasks, looking out for new and fruitful ways of fulfilling their duties. However, as in the case of any other resource, creativity may exhaust; in this regard, we speak of the dreaded “burning out,” when even the simplest and the most routine tasks appear to be extremely difficult or even impossible to do. The good news is that creativity can be replenished, and even in a burnt out condition, a person can remain efficient and productive, using certain creative techniques.
Everyone has heard of brainstorming. It is a great method, but it works well only when there is a number of people thinking over the same issue; however, a more common situation implies working on a problem alone. In this case, one might want to use the mind-mapping technique. It is rather simple, and its main goal is to push one’s tired mind over the limits of mundane thinking. All you need to break through your creative block is a sheet of paper and a pen. Let us suppose you are a designer working on a logo for a start-up, feeling completely stuck on the most basic versions. First of all, you need to write down the keywords related to the subject you are working on. For example, if you must draw a logo for a company producing orange-soda, write down the most obvious words describing this product; let these words be, “orange,” “soda,” “drink,” “cold,” “summer,” “refreshing,” and “sweet.” Now, for each of these words, you must find several associations: more is better, but at least three or four will suffice. For instance, “orange” may be associated with “color,” “sun,” “evening,” “tropics,” and “sphere.” “Soda,” in its turn, may be associated with “bubbles,” “gurgling,” “sizzle,” “tin can,” and “holiday.” These are the associations of the first level, and your task is to move deeper, to the second and third levels at least. To do this, for each association you wrote down, you must create several more associations: “color” may be connected to such words as “bright,” “pigment,” “painting,” “Mark Rothko,” and “sketch”; “sun,” in its turn, can be expanded to “stars,” “solar system,” “hot,” “orbit,” and “meadow.” These associations do not need to be nouns; you can write down adjectives, actions, emotions, song names—whatever comes to your head. If you keep doing this, rather soon your sheet of paper will be covered with a huge number of words, each of which is related to “orange soda” in some way. What you need to do now is to explore the possible combinations of these associations—phrases you make up this way may sound weird (“sizzling tropics” or “orange universe,” for example), but they will give you new ideas. And this is what a creativity technique is meant for, right? Mind-mapping works for any problem you are working on—so, you can be a lawyer or a plumber, and still use it to your advantage (Lifehacker).
The next method you can use is called “Six Thinking Hats.” Its main purpose is to allow you to look at a problem from different angles, and it is a blessing for those who feel like bashing one’s head against a wall, trying to find new approaches to routine issues. It works well for both collectives of people and hardworking singletons, and its main idea is that you must “try on” six different “hats,” each of which represents a separate style of thinking. The hats are white, black, red, green, yellow, and blue. Wearing the white hat implies addressing the data you currently possess. Revise the information you have on the problem, analyze it, and figure out what else there could be that you do not know yet; fill the gaps in with your knowledge about the problem. The yellow hat means a positive outlook—your task when wearing it is to find all possible ways to solve a problem. Even if it is naive or not too realistic, it still counts. The main goal of this hat is to show you the strongest points of your solution. Then there is the black hat, which is the direct opposite of the yellow one: while wearing it, you must seek all the reasons why the solution in question will not work, thus spotting your plan’s weaknesses. The red hat implies emotional analysis: pay attention to your gut feelings, intuition, or emotional reactions to the problem and its solutions; it is irrational, but sometimes positions like “I have a bad feeling about this” can be the most solid pro or contra arguments. The green hat thinking process somewhat resembles the brainstorming technique; it implies that you express any idea on the subject that comes to your mind: irrational, strange, obviously ineffective, and so on. While wearing the green hat, you must turn off your critical thinking, and allow yourself to be as creative as possible. Free-flowing associations work well for this hat. Finally, the blue hat means process control, and is especially useful when applying the “Six Thinking Hats” methods in groups. The blue hat wearer observes the process of generating ideas, and directs it. For example, when the blue hat sees that the green hat is running out of new ideas, he or she may give it a break, and address the red hat. “Six thinking hats” can be viewed as a structured and moderated version of brainstorming, with the participants having a right to criticize or advocate ideas (MindTools).
The methods described above are powerful and effective ways of getting out of creative dead-ends. Mind-mapping allows you to push yourself through the block caused by the lack of new ideas by piling up associations; these associations serve as “food” for our brains, and our minds work in such a way that even when we cannot consciously come up with a new idea, they will automatically “digest” the food you feed to them, and produce new combinations, thoughts, and images. “Six Thinking Hats,” in their turn, are effective when you need to evaluate the results of your work, make a decision, come up with a strategy, or generate ideas. This method structures the thinking process by dividing it into such categories as critical thinking, positive thinking, emotional reactions, free-flowing creative processes, and data analysis, thus helping a person think more purposefully and effectively. There are many other creative methods out there as well; use them to your advantage, and you will be able to get through any obstacle that gets in the path of your creativity.
Pinola, Melanie. “How to Use Mind Maps to Unleash Your Brain’s Creativity and Potential.” Lifehacker, Lifehacker.com, 19 Sept. 2013, lifehacker.com/how-to-use-mind-maps-to-unleash-your-brains-creativity-1348869811.
“Six Thinking Hats: Looking at a Decision From All Points of View.” MindTools.com, www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTED_07.htm.