Creativity enables creative thinking (coming up with new ideas) and problem-solving (implementing ideas to make things better) – both skills that are highly attractive in the workplace. So, it’s no surprise that the World Economic Forum listed creativity as one of the ten essential skills needed to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution. (That’s in any profession or industry, not just creative ones.) In case you’re wondering, creativity ranked third, just behind problem-solving and critical thinking.
Importantly, I’m not talking about creativity in terms of fine art, music, performing arts, architecture, and the like. I'm talking about a humbler definition of creativity: the act of turning imaginative ideas into reality. Therefore, you don’t have to produce a museum-worthy piece of art to be deemed creative; producing solutions to a problem by imagining different scenarios is creative. Thinking of creativity in this way bursts the notion that creativity is something that only special, “gifted” people have (and are born with). The truth is, we all have the ability to create. And if the World Economic Forum is right, it’s a skill we must all cultivate for future success.
Here are 12 ways to tune into your creativity:
1. Ask lots of questions. Creative people are curious people, so deploy your critical thinking skills and ask questions that challenge how things currently are, so that you can imagine how they could
2. Widen your network. Hanging out with people who have different life experiences and knowledge is a great way to expose yourself to new ideas. So, meet new people, have lots of interesting conversations, and watch your creative horizons expand.
3. Go to new places. Travel is another excellent way to expand your mind. But this doesn’t necessarily mean taking a big, expensive trip overseas. Something as simple as working from a different coffee shop or going on a new walk can boost your observation skills.
4. Look for patterns. Richard Branson’s mantra for success is ABCD – Always Be Connecting the Dots – so try to draw connections between different questions, ideas, and problems. This may highlight interesting solutions.
5. Keep a journal. I keep an ideas journal handy, and I'm always jotting things down – an interesting theory from an article I've read, a new phrase I haven't heard before, a new book idea, interesting observations, anything. Doing this, I've noticed I make surprising connections between unexpected topics.
6. Read more. I know it can be hard to find time for reading in today’s busy world, which is why I like to listen to audiobooks while I’m running. This often sparks new ideas – which I’ll capture right then and there as a voice note on my phone and then later transfer to my ideas journal.
7. Unplug and create headspace. Having just said I like to listen to audiobooks while I run, I also make sure to regularly run or walk without listening to anything at all! Being alone with your thoughts creates space for new ideas to bubble to the surface – and some of my best ideas have come during these periods of quiet.
8. From big daydreams like imagining a whole new career or small daydreams like visualizing the perfect anniversary meal, it’s important to take time to dream. This can be tricky in this age of information overload, but you can boost your daydreaming capabilities by simply not reaching for your phone during idle moments.
9. Maintain a positive mindset. Research shows that a good mood boosts the brain’s ability to come up with innovative, creative thoughts, while a bad mood leads to more analytical, straightforward thinking. So why not try out some mood-enhancing techniques like mindfulness, gratitude, and positive affirmations?
10. It's no secret that exercise is brilliant for boosting your mood because it floods the body with feel-good hormones like endorphins and serotonin while reducing stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.
11. Maintain a healthy sleep routine. Improving your sleep is another solid way to maintain a more positive mindset and, in turn, improve your creativity. Not only does sleep boost your physical energy, but it also gives the brain a crucial resting period in which to dream up interesting ideas and connections. To build good sleep habits, try going to bed and getting up at the same times every day, ensure your bedroom is dark and at a comfortable temperature, and stay away from screens in the hour or two before bed.
12. Practice, practice, practice. Tuning into your creativity is like learning to play the piano or run a marathon – it takes time and regular practice. So try to build some or all of the above steps into your regular daily routine, and you'll soon notice the creative benefits.
Read more about creativity and other essential skills in my new book, Future Skills: The 20 Skills & Competencies Everyone Needs To Succeed In A Digital World. Written for anyone who wants to surf the wave of digital transformation – rather than be drowned by it – the book explores why these vital future skills matter and how to develop them.