I have surprisingly clear memories of the first time I saw the original Planet of the Apes. I was sick, home from school, and looking for something to watch on cable. I am sure that I chose Planet of the Apes just because I liked to watch Animal-Planet-type shows, and I probably thought I knew exactly what I was signing up for… a man or woman (with a british accent) narrating a documentary about a chimp named Nigel and his troupe of comrades that terrorize some far-away-jungle in Africa. The last thing I expected to find was a bunch of “intelligent talking apes living on a planet where humans were oppressed and enslaved”. I actually remember it being kind of a mind-blowing concept for a 10 year-old. Of course, that is why it is such a classic movie, the whole plot was unexpected and very creative.
There are a lot of definitions for creativity and almost all of them include something about “imagination” and “originality.” I particularly relate to this working definition of creativity, “the process of developing new, uncommon, or unique ideas“. I might be just-a-little in love with the idea of having a process to work towards developing the unexpected. Why? People like the unexpected. Unexpected ideas, processes, and productions wake people up from their sleep walking routines.
People are without question “creatures of habit” and honestly we have to be. Habits help us get through life. There are so many things we have to do, and to be efficient we simply can’t afford to spend too much time thinking about each of these tasks… eating, breathing, getting places. In fact, I’ve heard it said that 95% of the things we do, we’ve done before, and honestly it doesn’t really take doing a thing too many times before we can do it without a whole lot of active thought. A close cousin to a habit, is “the expected”. We’ve all had the experience of sitting in school, church, a meeting or conversation and hearing a word or phrase that simply sends a signal to our brain to “go ahead and checkout for a few minutes buddy, you’ve heard this all before.”
Of course, opening up our social media platforms can be the same way. Daily, we see images, words, and marketing approaches that look just like things we’ve seen a hundred times before and so what do we do? We check out. We move on. We avoid the expected. As a content marketing and social media promotion company, that is not exactly what our clients hire us for. In fact, they are banking on us to create the unexpected, so that we can change behaviors, and drive clicks. Our clients know that people simply can’t click on everything they encounter online so they pass on most of it, but hopefully not their stuff!
Our challenge then? To come up with ideas, processes, and productions that catch the intended audience by surprise. The trick is to leave the realm of not-so-active-thought-habits and to find ways to transform ourselves in to awesome-ideas-you-didn’t-see-coming-generators!
There are probably nearly as many strategies as there are people to help you think creatively. That said, here are 7 go-to’s that really help me and my team to find creativity:
- Sweat. Work out hard enough to break a sweat. It is amazing what exercise does for your ability to think clearly!
- Music. Do any of you watch Fringe? If you do, you might remember that in a recent episode Walter Bishop teaches “an observer” that music can change one’s perspective. And sometimes a little change in perspective is all you need to spark a little creative genius!
- Challenge Your Mind. Play a game of sudoku. Get out a crossword puzzle. Play a few moves on Words With Friends. Often times, the next thing you know is that you are also working out your creative problem as if it was a math problem.
- Do Something Risky. There’s nothing like a little adrenaline rush to spike your creative juice flow.
- Laugh. Laughter can be the best medicine… for a lot of things include creative road block. Stuck at work in an office by yourself? Fire up a Youtube classic or two.
- Change a Route. Even if it’s just to go to the bathroom. Find a new way to go someplace you go all the time.
- Ask Random People for Their Best Thoughts. I actually love this one. Ask a kid. Ask your mom. Ask someone who doesn’t do what you do daily. Why? It will be completely out of the ordinary for them and thus you might just shock them into a little unexpected creativity!
So, I’ll leave you with this thought from Lao Tzu:
“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”
Now, let’s substitute the word watch for train and insert the word creative before all of the nouns. Feast on this:
“Train your creative thoughts; they become creative words. Train your creative words; they become creative actions. Train your creative actions; they become creative habits. Train your creative habits; they become creative character. Train your creative character; it becomes your creative destiny.”
Happy creativity prospecting!