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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

5 Steps toward rebuilding your creativity and innovation side

Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon 
What do you see in this rock formation?

Children are extremely creative and imaginative.  They see many opportunities that adults tend to overlook.  Maybe it is because as we become adults our tendency is to become more mature in our thinking and novel ideas are considered as daydreams and unrealistic.  Perhaps, we fear being ridiculed for ideas that may be unique and creative.  In school, our educators aggressively drilled us in the facts and did not stress the creative side.  It is difficult to say what happened from the kid stage to the adult stage and it was likely different for everyone.

Kids often see things that adults miss.  The photograph of a rock formation may not look like much to you.  The kids standing in front of it thought it was the image of Mulan the lead character in a 1998 movie.  Maybe you can start to get your imagination back by looking for the character.  Seeing alternatives to the normal and expected is a skill that needs further development.  You had a childlike imagination once; maybe it is misplaced now.

Remember when you were a kid and received a present in a very large box.  Perhaps to many of you, the large box became the focus of attention rather than the gift.  The box could be a house, fort, tent, hideout, private meeting place, or anything you wanted it to be.  You let your mind determine the needs at the time and the box took the shape of your imagination.

In building a room many years ago, a sibling managed to go to a section of the room with some crayons.  Clearly, no adult was around, so the child did what most any child would do to the walls!  The father returned home and the wife apologized for the newly decorated walls.  The parents asked the child what that was on the wall.  The child said a “RABBIT!”  It did look like a rabbit and the parents just laughed and repainted the wall. 

Hard to imagine there was the potential for invention in that incidence, but there was.  Years later, the father was in a university discussing a new technology with a professor.  The discussion came to a point that a blackboard was required for drawing certain structures.  The father turned to look for a board as the professor handed him a marker.  Not seeing a place to draw the structures, he asked where the board is.  The professor said “each of the walls.”   The professor had the walls constructed of erasable white board material.  He said write any place you like, I did this at home for my kids!  They love it.

The father missed an identifiable problem present at the time of the rabbit drawing because he was thinking too conservatively.  Kids draw on walls and covering it with paint is a natural solution.  Making the walls to be erasable was not normal at the time. The eventual solution was a creation of someone else that invented something unique and interesting.

The following are few things you can do to enhance your creative and innovative side.  Maybe in time we can improve our skills to be more creative and innovative.  The following are steps that can apply to your everyday life.

1.      Do not dismiss what you see: Too often, we see things that are not normal to us, like drawing on the walls.  It is a problem needing a different type of solutions.  We ignore the alternatives or fail to consider the issue a problem because it is too easy to repaint or wash the wall.  Many issues have creative or innovative solutions if we just think about them.  The new solutions do not need apply to the triggering event; the solution can be an idea for the future.

2.      Identify problems:  Inventions and creative actions occur many times when trying to solve a real problem.  After all, solving a problem for you may solve a related problem for others too.  Seeing the problem is an important step.  It is hard to fix something that is not broken!

3.      Study the issues:  Every problem has issues associated with it.  The background info may be something you can learn from books.  Maybe you can learn about the issues from speaking with others.  Alternatively, you can take the issues apart and assemble them again considering changes that may be improvements.  Understanding the problem and potential solutions are the next step.

4.      Test-drive the solutions:  Recognizing a problem and studying the issues often leads to alternatives that solve the problem.  Testing those solutions is an active component to a final resolution.  In testing, you may see places for improvement and modification.

5.      Finalize solutions:  Testing and modification lead to the final solution.  Perhaps it is something you will find useful for a new business.  Maybe it is something with partnership potential leading to a developed commercialized product.  Alternatively, it may be a simple improvement in how you conduct your life and have little commercial application. After all, many inventions never become commercial products. 

The goal could be to keep your mind active and creative.  Improve that creative and innovative side you had as a child.  Why miss the joy of creating something novel that others failed to see?  You may find it fun and exciting, or even make money on the new idea.

  Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon