Creativity-formulaSome people are explosively creative. They don’t need creativity exercises or structure to sustain their voluminous creative output.

Then there’s the rest of us.

If pure creativity eludes you, then having the right structures, exercises, and tools helps you get more from your natural creative thinking skills. For the rest of us trying to figure out how to be more creative, having a personal creative thinking skills formula can be an incredible help.

How to Be Creative through a Personal Creative Thinking Skills Formula

What might you include in your creative thinking skills formula? Consider these elements to boost your creativity:

1. Volume of Creative Output

Creativity CAN be viewed largely as a numbers game: create enough of whatever you create, and you can play the percentages. Some portion of your creative output will rise above the creative expectations in place. The rest of your creative output can be swept under the creative rug.

2. Creative Perspectives

Your perspective about a particular creative challenge or opportunity makes a dramatic impact on what you do with it. This idea is the basis of lateral thinking, in that a different perspective than you usually take helps you see and create new things. Sometimes a new perspective happens by accident or instinct. But far better to be armed with standard moves you can make to change perspective when you need it to trigger creativity.

3. Creative Combinations

Similar to structure, there are combinations and formulations of inputs to enhance creativity. Standard color combinations, musical scales, and geometric patterns work because they put together, constrain, and keep separate the right elements to strengthen creative output.

4. Creative Structures

Across creative disciplines, there are typically standard structures shaping creative output. Three-panel cartoons, 12-bar blues, sonnets, list-based blog posts, ‘high concept pitches” etc. are all examples. These all represent accepted creative structures. If you can fill in the blanks, you’re at least some (if not most of the way) toward creative output.

5. Tools

The tools you use for creativity do make a difference. When I got a great guitar, I was a better guitarist automatically, even though my skills hadn’t changed. Simply having a guitar that played well enhanced my very humble abilities. The plethora of apps and software available now for creativity are all examples. But whether online or offline, the right tools can make you (or make you appear) more creative.

That’s my creative thinking formula – what’s yours?

What are the parts and pieces of your creative thinking formula? I’d love to hear them, because I’m always looking for new ideas for how to be creative that I can borrow, as you’ll learn more about in tomorrow’s Brainzooming post.  - Mike Brown


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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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  • http://twitter.com/wbendle Bradley Woody Bendle

    You play the git-fiddle? We gotta jam sometime!

    • http://www.brainzooming.com Mike Brown

      Unfortunately, Woody, I haven’t picked up my beautiful blonde Fender Telecaster in probably four years. I can only imagine how rusty I am…and I was pretty rusty before that! : )

  • http://www.brainzooming.com Mike Brown

    Dr. Bob Preziosi emailed me his creative thinking skills formula, which he okayed to share all our readers:

    “You asked for it, so here it is. I’m happy to share with you my Creative Thinking Skills Formula
    1. Know that you can be creative anywhere and anytime. Creativity has no boundaries.
    2. Use self-talk from time to time to get your creativity activated. This gets the energy flowing.
    3. Once a week have lunch with a creative person or two. This kind of exposure can start something in your creativity zone.
    4. Play with a child’s toy once in a while. The pure fun may loosen you up for some unique ideas.
    5. Share each idea you have with a potential user. Another point of view can really open things up.
    6. Sleep on each idea you generate. This will give the brain a chance to play with it that can lead to another way of thinking about it.” via Dr. Bob Preziosi

  • http://www.creativesomething.net/ tannerc

    I’ve touched on this slightly with my rules of a creators life (http://www.creativesomething.net/post/14309368349) but I’ll go into more depth here, because sharing is fun:

    1. Build experiences – To fuel ideas. The more you put into your brain, the more you’re likely to get out of it.

    2. Practice makes perfect – So regularly practice creative puzzles or problems, big or small. Anything to keep your creative “muscle” active.

    3. Be curious – Ask questions regularly about everything you encounter. You don’t even have to answer the questions, just get into the mindset of asking.

    4. Make – Rather than seeking out inspiration all the time, get into the practice of making your own. Make big things or small things, simple things and elaborate things. Make, make, make!

    5. Immerse yourself – Surround yourself with a lot of various inspirations. Listen to different types of music, engage in conversations with strangers, put up motivational posters, do whatever it takes to surround yourself with inspiration!

    • http://www.brainzooming.com Mike Brown

      Tanner – Great list! And I appreciate your idea about soliciting creative formulas from others…that should be number on my list: depend on people more creative than you with smart ideas! Thanks! Mike

  • blogbrevity

    Provocative post, Mike! I agree with Tanner about experiences and being curious. However, I think my formula is definitely following the ideas of people across many industries. For me, diversity is key! Linear thinkers – that includes folks who only follow others talking about creativity – are limiting themselves. I believe serendipity – for me – comes from connections from seemingly disparate things! I say, one should open oneself to possibilities!

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  • http://www.brainzooming.com Mike Brown

    From Woody Bendle, here’s Woody’s formula:



    “think about something + think about it more + think about it harder + do something about it”

  • Dean Meyers

    Sketch. Sketch. SKETCH! Then watch, with an open eye, things and interactions, processes, systems; take it apart (and make notes about it) and then put it together any old which way that might work.

    I know that sounds loose, and “soft”, but it’s my quick and dirty version of Da Vinci’s method of Design Thinking.. (you can check out a terrific presentation on how to design like Da Vinci by Brian Sullivan: http://www.slideshare.net/bunky34/design-like-davinci-sxsw-2013

    I have piles of messy sketches that have given me everything from delight to yelling matches…. and a few have led to some good stuff (at least, other people have liked it well enough to use it). By the way, that’s not only “drawings” but musical sketches too.

    Regarding Tools: Brian Sullivan advocates NOT using the iPad, and going totally analog… even to the point of eschewing bound sketchbooks, so your sketches can be sorted and grouped later… It sounds good, but, with the warning that some tools require some mastery to get better results and that eats into creation time, I swap back and forth between analog and digital for both practical reasons (my work spans both environments) and, frankly, the change of pace keeps things fresh.

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