How would a “productive day” compare to a “creative day”? What would, if anything, they have in common? Chances are not much. One might think a productive day would be closely aligned with scratching off items on a to-do list. On the other hand, someone’s idea of a creative day might not even have a to-do list.
Our current work world is obsessed with productivity. We are inundated with books, articles, white papers, to time block this and time block that; all just to do more work. But our relentless quest to be productive is undermining one of the most important abilities in today’s workplace: creativity. What of the future, though? Will machine learning and artificial intelligence perform the routine aspects of our work at the expense of our ingenuity and creativity?
So how do we create the right conditions for creativity, particularly when we are trying to deal with a to-do list?
Consider this comment from screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (the mastermind behind the television show West Wing and films like Moneyball and The Social Network). He told The Hollywood Reporter that he takes six showers a day. “I’m not a germaphobe,” he explains but when his writing isn’t going well, he’ll shower, change into new clothes, and start again. Sorkin’s trade relies on him minting something fresh on a regular basis. And it occurred to him that his best thoughts were not happening in moments of fevered concentration, but when he was in the shower. So he had a shower installed in the corner of his office and makes regular use of it. He has described the process as “a do-over” for triggering original ideas.
In 1939, James Webb Young, a Madison Avenue advertising executive, wrote a definitive guide to the process of creativity, A Technique for Producing Ideas. In this short book, Webb Young reminds us, “that an idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of old elements.” In his view, the skill of creativity is the ability to spot new connections between familiar thoughts, and the art is “the ability to see [new] relationships.”
Fifty years later, Steve Jobs observed something similar: “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”
Webb Young also lays out a remarkably simple technique for creative thought. It involves stimulation. Continue reading →
We like to think that every creative execution hits right on target. Well, we know better even when we don’t like to admit it. A recent report from the UK, suggests quite the opposite, that creative effectiveness is being called into question.
UK advertising agencies are fast-paced, dynamic and produce advertising, media and marketing that many consider to be the envy of the world. One organization that voices their concerns, showcases their work and continuously develops their skills to keep them at the top of their game is the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), incorporated by Royal Charter.
The IPA exists to help members be the best they can be. They set the protocols for the UK industry’s best practice standards. They advise on how to choose an agency, how to run an agency or how to behave if you work in an agency. They also work collaboratively with members to improve diversity within the industry.
So, as this new report makes the rounds of the British ad scene, it will be interesting to see what the reaction is. It will, I dare say, be interesting to watch what, if any, reaction there is here in the US. If anything, the US has always been much more conservative in our approach to advertising compared to the UK. Does that conservatism mean our ads are more effective than theirs. Doubtful. It’s sort of like comparing apples and oranges. Continue reading →
In a London-based publication on advertising, Shots conducted Q&A interviews with various agency and production firms around the globe.
They were asked one thing: How are you and your company coping with the current restrictions and what impact do you think they will have on the industry and your business?
In this special edition of Quotes, relating to that question, we hear how businesses are coping, what the potential fallout of this crisis could be, and about the initiatives being put in place to foster creativity during this isolation period. Here are some highlights.
Recovery will happen, however, many of the brands and clients we work with have other priorities right now and we are very sensitive to this.Sarah Cutler, Director of Partnerships, makemepulse London
Right now, the world is in isolation physically and emotionally – I believe there will be a reaction to this.Simon Hatter, Founder & Creative Director, Rumour Has It Amsterdam
Some are set up for success and, for others, this will be a wake-up call.Nancy Crimi-Lamanna, Chief Creative Officer, FCB Toronto
The world must keep moving and creative problem-solving has a vital role to play.James Razzall, President, Advertising North America, Framestore
As crippling as this crisis has been for our industry, finding ways to support brand messaging in a time where consumers are looking to them to give back is a vital role.Justin Wineburgh, CEO & President, Alkemy X
Our Chinese co-workers shared their best practices at a very early stage, both from a business and safety aspects. The worst scenario would actually be not to come prepared for what’s next. We must help companies and brands to be up and running just before lockdown ends.Olivier Lefebvre, CEO and Partner at FF Paris
The world is also changing how it consumes media. Print will likely take a hit (Playboy was the first to announce it had stopped printing).Héloïse Hooton, Founder, Hooton Public Relations
Our biggest priority is to relieve the anxiety of everyone in the company.Joseph Bonnici Partner & Executive Creative Director, Bensimon Byrne Toronto
I am convinced that advertisers will have to continue communicating through campaigns/commercials, especially once life returns to normal. Ruben Goots, Founder and EP, Hamlet Belgium
What will never change about our business is that creativity, craft and smart solutions will always win the day.Ari Kuschnir, Founder & Managing Partner, m ss ng p eces
It is simply impossible for any business to survive a period of expenditure with no income over a prolonged period of time. What we don’t want is a lag in getting going again and that is very much the views of the agencies we have spoken to.Spencer Dodd, Joint MD & EP, Merman London
If this crisis has one upside for entrepreneurs, it will be to force us to focus on essentials, reinvent how we do things in a leaner way.Simon Cachera, Co-Founder, Victor & Simon Amsterdam
If you liked this post, check out some others here . . .
AdWeek Special Report: 6 Tips to Help Creativity and Quarantine Co-Exist
In times like these I find it particularly important to share news and helpful information wherever and whenever I come across it. Such is the case with this blog post. Thanks to Adweek and its contributor, Sara Spary for the article on which this blog is based.
In the creative world, we’re used to people getting together, face-to-face, to collaborate and exchange ideas, to, well, create that next great ad or TV commercial. So what does one do when quarantine is the order of the day for just about all the known universe?
Demands for making the abnormal as close to normal abound from clients and prospective ones. Business as usual it’s not. So, how is this all working out thus far?
The trade publication Adweek asked veteran creatives around the world to “share their experiences and advice on how to keep the creative juices flowing from home”—even when COVID-19 is knocking on the front door.
Since you’re already used to doing this, why stop now?
“We’ve made it a point to keep interactions face-to-face whenever possible. Every meeting, regroup, catch-up, brainstorm session—no matter how big or small—is done through Google Hangouts,” said Ryan Engelbert, creative director at We Are Social New York. “It’s forced us to be even more focused on each other and more accountable for the information and ideas that are being exchanged.”
This feels weird, not to mention a bit awkward
Engelbert’s creative partner and fellow creative director Casey De Pont recommends creatives embrace the occasional awkwardness that comes with video calls, since you never know where such moments may lead.
“Video chat still feels awkward to us as humans,” Du Pont said. “There’s a lot of pressure for maximum productivity and zero wasted time when you’re digitally staring each other down, but creative development doesn’t work that way.”
Not everybody may be used to video chat but not everybody is used to uninterrupted speech in a live conference room meeting either. Goof ups and unintended pauses work the same as if you were humanly in the same room with one another.
“You need the awkward pauses and the space between ideas to let things breathe and develop. The more we can be real people in the virtual space, the more comfortable we’ll become working there,” she said.
Be a Space Cadet
Spending time alone in quarantine gives you the time to quietly explore ideas and concepts without any critics jumping down your throat. You’ve got plenty of space to think out loud if you want.
Droga5 copywriter Gabe Santana like it this way. “I think the best part about working from home is that I can lie down on the floor and say bad ideas out loud without bothering anyone,” Santana said. “Except Germany, of course.”
That would be Germany Lancaster, Droga5 art director, Santana’s creative partner and self-proclaimed homebody. Lancaster prefers to brainstorm alone and mull it all down to a few good concepts “before meshing ideas” with Santana.
“Once I’ve got a couple ideas down, I like to either present them to my partner in a deck or chat through them in hopes that they springboard into something grand. Chatting through ideas always leads to lots of laughs, so that’s definitely a bonus,” Lancaster said.
Establish a Stronger Relationship
Working remotely can really strengthen that and those relationship(s).
For Ludovic Miege, copywriter at Havas Paris, working remotely hasn’t been too much of a problem so far because he and his creative partner, art director Jordan Molina, have worked together for six years.
“For us, working like this is not very complicated because we know how to work together and do not need to see each other to work,” he said. “We can call each other all day long using Facebook, Whatsapp, Gmail, Zoom. We have many ways to communicate and exchange our ideas.
“Because of our long relationship, we know how the other one understands things. You are more efficient when your partnership is strong.”
Have a Flexible Routine
Working remotely can feel odd and awkward to those not used to doing it. Don’t overdo the video conferences and calls just to prove something. Remember, too many conference calls can lead to less time for thinking.
But Madrid-based Javier Campopiano, who recently joined Grey as chief creative officer of Grey Europe and Global, warns this will only lead to burnout. He says keeping structure in your day is important.
“Right now, I try to keep a routine. My kids are not going to school so we don’t need to wake up as usual, but we’re trying to keep the same schedule. I try to exercise on the balcony, because I can’t go for a run—we can get a fine—so I exercise and then shower,” he told Adweek. “I dress up to work, maybe less formally than I usually do, and I sit in front of my computer in my little office here at home.”
So you work in your pajamas. So what?
Depending on what kind of routine one is used to doing, spending the day in your PJ’s may feel very normal. If not, that’s okay, too.
Mariana Albuquerque, a creative copywriter working in Ireland suggests “the main challenge is not being distracted by other people—or animals—in your home, and understanding the time to start working and finishing it,” she said. “Since I’ve been working from home for a week, I’ve created a routine for myself. I do wear comfy PJs, though. It doesn’t make me feel lazy at all. But I do comb my hair in case of a video call.”
Her creative partner and art director, Carina Caye Branco, urges the most important thing of all is open communication.
“Communication is key, and trying to organize our day and tasks. Be online all the time, or at least tell your partner if you need to go offline and how long,” she said. “And keep a record of everything you’re thinking/doing. [That has] been proving really helpful for us.”
Sara Spary is a freelance journalist based in London. She’s been a reporter for eight years, covering advertising and consumer brands.
Over the past two blog posts about crisis coping, we’ve listened in on a conversation between the author, Ellyn Kail, and photographer Danny Ghitis about various methods to cope for creatives who have been entangled in the Coronavirus pandemic.
In this, the third and last post of the series, they explore what it’s like finding a sense of community during these very scary times.
In the last two weeks, I have received more than two dozen emails about the temporary closures of galleries and studio spaces amid the coronavirus pandemic. I’ve received several more about canceled exhibitions. This is a period of uncertainty for the photography community as a whole, but in this time, we’ve also witnessed people coming together.
In between those letters about closures and cancelations, there have also been emails from artists who are hosting camera giveaways, publishers who are discounting their books, and non-profit organizations who are offering free talks and photog resources.
Globally, photographers are sharing information about how we can donate supplies to local hospitals and encouraging us all to practice social distancing for the safety and well-being of the community.
Over the past week, we’ve spoken to the photographer and professional development coach Danny Ghitis about how creatives can cope during this time and continue to create meaningful work in unprecedented circumstances.
Photography, like any art form, can be a solitary pursuit, but it’s also full of communities and resources. With all the recent gallery closures and exhibition cancellations, how can photographers stay connected and engaged with one another?
“This is so crucial. One of the main causes of my own burnout was a feeling of isolation as a photographer, and that was way before all this coronavirus mayhem. We are wired to need other people. That lone wolf photographer icon can be really damaging because it makes asking for help look like a weakness when, in reality, it’s a superpower.
“In a way, this moment offers a unique opportunity. Everyone is struggling with the same overarching challenge. Everyone needs help, and we have the technology to easily stay in touch. We’re not as spread thin as usual with a thousand networking events, galleries, meetings, etc. So reach out, offer support, provide feedback, invite conversation, have a virtual coffee, host a roundtable discussion.”
Has the creative community faced any upheavals like this one in recent years, if not on the same scale? If so, what can we learn from that time, and how can we apply those lessons to the here and now?
“I graduated from college with a photojournalism degree in 2006, the year before the iPhone hit the market and changed everything. The newspaper bureau where I interned closed a couple months after I arrived (not my fault, I swear!). I started my freelance career at the same time as the 2008 financial meltdown.
“Somehow, I made it work and grew as a human and professional. And guess what, I’m not that special. Human beings are resilient by evolutionary design. We’ve outlasted and overpowered nearly every other living organism and are capable of incredible adaptation. If you’re reading this and you’re human, you already have the tools you need inside your body.”
What are some ways you see the creative community coming together right now to support and help one another? Any moments that have given you hope?
“All of a sudden we’re in it together. We have a common struggle and purpose. We’re thinking collectively like a tribe like in the good old prehistoric days. Of course, we don’t wish sickness and suffering upon anyone and hope this goes away soon, but it does offer a unique opportunity to see the big picture.
“I keep getting emails and social media posts about virtual gatherings and support groups, and I am getting more messages than usual from friends checking in. I just started an online meetup group, and there are lots of others out there if you’re willing to search. It’s all about taking initiative and reaching out.”
How would you advise photographers and other creatives who suddenly have a lot of free time on their hands?
“This can be viewed as a great opportunity because we’re being forced to evaluate how to spend our time wisely. First, the mindset work. If you’re not in a good state of mind, it’s very hard to be focused and productive. If you want business results, practice self-care. Remember how flight attendants demonstrate putting on your oxygen mask first? Same deal. Take care of yourself to take care of others.
“Ask yourself, ‘How can I serve?’ It’s easy to get caught up in self-centered problem solving during a crisis, while orienting toward service can be more effective in creating action and will make you feel better. What do others need, and what skills do you have that can help them?”
We are truly living in unprecedented times. Deadly times. History has recorded plagues, wars, and various catastrophes yet we’ve managed to survive. Granted, the planet has lost life in measurable means before but we’ve never faced a global pandemic like this before. I guess, in a sense, this could be compared to chemical warfare on a global scale from an invisible enemy.
Yet, we will live on. We will create and innovate. We have to do that now to find a vaccine to nullify the virus so we may begin to get used to a new normal. Things won’t be the same since we won’t be the same, those of us who will survive. But we will. We have to. Together. Smarter. Stronger. More persistent. Less partisan.
Wait, what’s that? It’s creativity knocking at the door. Let’s welcome her in, shall we!
This is part three of three of our interview with Danny Ghitis. Here are parts one and two.
In this second of three part series by Ellyn Kail, they speak of various tools to utilize for staying creative, especially when stressed. Letting your creative juices flow during times like these does reduce anxiety and can give you a sense of accomplishment. Creativity is a happy, constructive tool that, when applied, can take you to a place normally abandoned during a crisis.
I speak from personal experience. Take my two blogs, for instance. I’m still trying to write them every week and during this Coronavirus outbreak, it’s like a medicine for me. It’s also important to me to provide my take and share with others that information pertinent to this crisis. Speaking of which, here’s part 2.
Creativity doesn’t just improve our wellbeing; it can also reduce our stress levels. Recent studies tell us that creative tasks can unlock our imaginations, distract us from our feelings of stress and anxiety, and even prompt our brains to secrete feel-good chemicals.
That’s something we could all use right now. Still, it can be challenging to find that creative spark when we’re experiencing anxiety and stress. Amid the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, finding space for creative exploration and experimentation can feel overwhelming.
In the first part of our interview with the photographer and professional development coach Danny Ghitis, we asked him to share some tools for coping during this difficult period. This time, we wanted to pick his brain and get some of his best tips staying creative and motivated.
You might be stuck indoors, but there are still ways to engage your brain and get the ideas flowing. Read on for his advice.
Habits and routines can be especially important when we’re facing uncertainty and upheaval. What are your favorite creative habits?
“I don’t believe in a prescribed habit routine, and there are so many people out there modeling specific approaches. The important thing is to figure out what works for you through trial and error.
“People have a lot of ‘shoulds,’ like ‘I should get up at 6:00 AM and meditate’ or ‘I should chunk my day into rigid blocks.’ Hey, if that works for you then, totally go for it. But there’s a ton of anxiety around being someone other than yourself, and habits are much less likely to stick if they’re not intrinsically motivated.
“Give yourself a break! Take the time to reflect on what does make sense for you, given the circumstances. Ask yourself more proactive questions. What habits will support your goals at this point? What trusted person can help you be accountable for building that habit?”
Do you think stress can ever be channeled creatively?
“It depends on how you define creativity and stress. There’s a broad range of experience there. There’s a difference between the inspired creativity of discovering a new project idea and the focused creativity of cranking out five pitch emails on deadline.
“If creativity is about innovative ideas and broad perspectives, then anxiety and stress are not the best. When your body is in a stressed state, your thinking narrows and focuses on the perceived threat. So, if your goal is to think expansively, you should focus on calming your stress response and getting into a broader state of mind. It’s why people have epiphanies in the shower.
“On the other hand, if you define creativity as, say, a detail-oriented craft, then you can leverage stress in your favor by color-correcting images in Photoshop or keywording your image archive, etc.”
Do you have any skills for calming that “stress response” and getting back to thinking expansively?
“Your body’s ‘rest and digest’ mode takes much longer to activate than your ‘fight-flight-freeze’ mode. Stress is meant to keep you safe, but chronic stress defeats the purpose and can seriously hurt your immune system.
“To regulate this, get into the habit of conscious breathing as often as possible. Your breath gives you a direct line to your autonomic nervous system, which is the otherwise unconscious way your body knows how to regulate itself.
“There’s a common misconception that taking a ‘deep breath’ will calm you down. In fact, it’s the out-breath that triggers a calming response. Try this: breathe in slowly for four counts, hold for two counts, breathe out slowly for six counts, hold for two counts. Repeat.
“Ultimately, managing stress is a huge topic, and there’s no one-size-fits-all technique. It’s important to understand what triggers your stress and address it using what works for you.”
What are some of your favorite (productive and creative) things photographers can do with the time they spend stuck indoors? Do you have any books or resources you’d recommend?
“This is a hard question for me to answer because I tend to look at an individual’s specific needs before discussing a course of action. It’s easy to get caught in a social comparison trap, wanting to succeed the way others do because it looks sexy.
“It’s normal to be influenced by other artists, but you have to show up for yourself, especially when it feels hard. This is a great moment to explore, research, plan, and reassess.
“To get your creative juices flowing, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and The War of Art by Steven Pressfield are always solid staples. For more insight about how you best show up in the world, I suggest taking the VIA Institute’s free character strengths assessment and reading their materials.”
Some of us are using this time to recalibrate and refocus, whether that’s in business or the creative sphere. What are your insights on setting realistic goals, both in the long and short term?
“My favorite method of self-sabotage is perfectionism. I set the bar too high, making it impossible to succeed, and it’s a terrific excuse for getting nothing done. If you never get things done, you also avoid failure and create a false sense of comfort. You’re not failing, but you’re also not succeeding.
“This is super common in creative fields rife with rejection. Aim for scoring a B instead of an A with your projects. Set iteration goals without expecting a specific final outcome. You’ll actually increase your chances of achieving an outcome you’re happy with.”
Any more tips for photographers working from home right now?
“If you want to be shooting while you’re in quarantine, my suggestion is to be proactive about it. Keep your camera with you as often as possible and think of it like a sketchbook.
“Your thoughts and behaviors influence each other, so the more you take pictures, the more you’ll think about taking pictures and feel like someone who can take pictures in the moment.
“Because of cognitive bias, your brain filters what it thinks will be useful for you. If you keep ‘telling’ it to look for interesting compositions through repetition, the more you’ll automatically start finding them.
“This also applies to your mindset about business during these strange times. If you read panicky headlines all day, you’ll believe the sky is falling and hide under your bed, but if you look for opportunity, you will find it!”
This is part two of three of our interview with Danny Ghitis. Here’s Part one. For more in-depth and tailored coaching, Ghitis offers free 30-minute consultations.
This is a special edition of the Ideasnmoreblog featuring a recent webinar by IABC Houston on the Coronavirus and the impact it’s having on the communication industry.
The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has disrupted the global markets and the pandemic is now impacting many within our own community. Schools have closed, local businesses have shuttered, and many are unsure of the long-term implications to their careers and personal health.
In this time of uncertainty, how can we navigate the COVID-19 crisis as communicators? Join IABC Houston and our panel of experts for an informative discussion on crisis management during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our panel will share insights into their corporate response, working remotely, and the importance of maintaining a focus on mental health.
Thank you to all who tuned into the Crisis Management and COVID-19 webinar yesterday! If you missed it, you can watch the full webinar onFacebook or YouTube. Feel free to share the links with friends and colleagues as well.
Judge Ed Emmett is the former county judge of Harris County, Texas. From 1979 to 1987, he was a Republican member of the Texas House of Representatives, first from District 78 from 1979 to 1983 and then newly numbered District 127 from 1983 until 1987. After a twenty-year hiatus from politics, he was elected as county judge to head the five-member Harris County Commissioners Court, based in Houston.
Emmett has been awarded numerous awards in his career, including being named Transportation Person of the Year by Transportation Clubs International in 2005, receiving the Presidential “Call to Service” Award from president George W. Bush in 2008, and receiving the 2009 Distinguished Public Service Award from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. In 2011, Emmett was named a distinguished alumnus of Rice University.
Emmett is now a professor at Rice University, a senior fellow at Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, and a distinguished senior fellow at Northeastern University’s Global Resilience Institute. He also maintains his transportation logistics consultant practice in Houston, Texas.
Clint Woods | Pierpont
As chief operating officer, Clint Woods leverages more than 20 years of industry experience to ensure future growth for Pierpont Communications. In order to drive new business and deliver successful service expansions, Clint is responsible for client and employee development, setting firm-wide strategy and overseeing many functions across the agency, such as strategic partnerships, P&L growth and M&A activities.
In addition to leading Pierpont’s energy practice, Clint has worked with clients across a broad spectrum of industries including automotive, retail, enterprise hardware and software, professional services, business intelligence and collaboration tools, financial services and manufacturing. He has led or supported engagements with globally respected brands such as BP, Boston Consulting Group, Group 1 Automotive, Halliburton, Imperial Sugar, TPG Capital, and Wood Group, among many others.
Dr. Chris Yandle | St. Tammany Parish Public School System
A native of South Louisiana, Dr. Chris Yandle is a former college athletics administrator and an award-winning public relations professional at both the K-12 and college level. After spending more than a decade with five different NCAA Division I college athletics programs, he transitioned to K-12 communications in his home state in 2016.
Considered among the leading communications professionals in college athletics, Chris served as the Assistant Athletic Director for Communications at the University of Miami (2012-2014) and Georgia Tech (2014-2016). He was CoSIDA’s university division recipient of the 2014 Rising Star Award. He is the author of Lucky Enough: A Year of a Dad’s Daily Notes of Encouragement and Life Lessons to His Daughter and he continues to share his daily notes on social media in an effort to help parents make non-digital connections in a digital world.
Greetings and good day to ‘ya! Here’s your respite into the world of famous and sometimes infamous quotes from a variety of personalities. Any one of these could prove motivation for that ad you’re working on, tweak your imagination, inspire you or just plain bring a smile to your face.
Feel free to share.
Nobody has ever built a brand by imitating somebody else’s advertising.
David Ogilvy, member, Advertising Hall of Fame
In the advertising business, a good idea can inspire a great commercial. But a good insight can fuel a thousand ideas, a thousand commercials.Phil Dusenberry, member, Advertising Hall of Fame
Our job is to simplify, to tear away the unrelated, to pluck out the weeds that are smothering the product message. William Bernbach, member, Advertising Hall of Fame
You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have. Maya Angelou
The heart of creativity is discipline. William Bernbach, member, Advertising Hall of Fame
If you are writing about baloney, don’t try to make it Cornish hen because that is the worst kind of baloney there is. Just make it darned good baloney. Leo Burnett, member, Advertising Hall of Fame
Fun without sell gets nowhere, but sell without fun tends to become obnoxious. Leo Burnett, member, Advertising Hall of Fame
Yes, I sell people things they don’t need. I can’t, however, sell them something they don’t want. Even with advertising. Even if I were of a mind to. John E. O’Toole, member, Advertising Hall of Fame
Big ideas are so hard to recognize, so fragile, so easy to kill. Don’t forget that, all of you who don’t have them. John Elliott, Jr., member, Advertising Hall of Fame
There is no material with which human beings work which has so much potential energy as words. Ernest Elmo Calkins, member, Advertising Hall of Fame
4 Ways Combinatory Play Gets You Out of a Brain Rut, Plus Helps One Deal with a Crisis.
Now that you see how the human brain can get stuck in a rut thanks to neural pathways and a fondness for the familiar, how can you free your brain and lead it on a path to innovation? Based on research and real-life examples from great minds, here are four ways Combinatory Play can to get you out of a brain rut:
1. Cross Train Your Brain
Each cross-training activity works a different, but complementary, part of the body that will help get you stronger in the overall event, task or project. In other words, if you’re a novelist, try your hand at poetry. If you’re a painter, dabble in sculpting. If you’re a computer scientist, play around with web design.
For instance, how did playing violin help Einstein theorize about matter and energy? A study from UC Irvine and the University of Wisconsin found that giving piano lessons to preschoolers significantly improved their spatial-temporal reasoning— a key skill needed for math and science—much more than giving computer lessons, singing lessons, or no lessons at all.
So try a new activity within your field or related to it; you’ll expand your neural connections and strengthen your brain overall.
2. Take a Shower, Go for a Walk or Do Some Other Mundane Activity
First, creativity and relaxation could be linked. I’ve found that whenever I’m really tired, my creativity just hits a wall. Trying to go on is fruitless. Wrap it up and go to bed or walk away from whatever it is you’re working on and come back to it in several hours or the next day.
Depending on when you’re doing this, try something boring, like showering or taking a walk (though some folks would argue that this exercise is not boring) or go for a swim. These tasks don’t require substantial cognitive effort, so our brains are free to wander. And contrary to popular belief, a brain “at rest” isn’t really resting at all.
Second, distractions may boost creativity. Research by Harvard professor Shelley Carson found that high creative achievement was associated with low latent inhibition, or the capacity to screen out irrelevant information, especially if the participants had a high IQ.
For the creative mind, inspiration can be found everywhere. Sometimes, you just need to distract yourself long enough to notice it.
3. Sleep On It
Regarding the process of discovery, scientists have proposed that there is an incubation period during which “unconscious processes contribute to creative thinking.” In his memoir, A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway reveals how he safeguarded his creativity through such a process:
“I learned not to think about anything that I was writing from the time I stopped writing until I started again the next day. That way my subconscious would be working on it and at the same time I would be listening to other people and noticing everything…”
And in a later chapter:
“I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing; but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.”
In 2009, a study out of the University of California San Diego was published suggesting that sleep may assist combinatorial creativity. In particular, researchers found that study participants who were allowed to slip into Rapid Eye Movement sleep (REM)—the stage during which we dream—showed an almost 40% improvement over their earlier creative problem-solving test performances, while those who had only non-REM sleep or quiet rest showed no improvement.
The authors of that study hypothesized that when we’re in REM, our brains are better able to integrate unassociated information, which is essential to creative thinking (it explains why dreams are so bizarre).
As mentioned earlier, when you’re stuck on a problem or the creative juices stop flowing, try going to bed. You’ll have a refreshed and different perspective the next morning.
4. Feed Your (copy) Cat
Is anything truly original? Uh, doubtful. In fact, according to artist Austin Kleon, the answer is no. Kleon presented a TED Talk “Steal Like an Artist” and a book of the same name, in which he asserts that nothing is original and all artists build upon previous work.
With this in mind, don’t plagiarize someone, but get inspired by and improve upon someone else’s creations. In this Age of the Internet, one can’t help “borrow” from someone else’s idea. That’s in part why I’m both sharing this article from Amy Rigby and the Trello blog but also adding some of my own perspective.
If you’re suffering from writer’s block, buy a pack of those word magnets and rearrange them until you come up with creative phrases on your fridge;
As previously mentioned, break your concentration, especially when it’s hard for you to focus, and go for a walk or go to bed (depending on the time, of course);
If you’re not sure how to move forward on a project, bounce ideas off of your teammates and see if you find any hidden gems in their suggestions;
If you’re building a product and stuck in the design phase, search for competitors who have made similar products, find where their customers are unhappy, and design something new that solves the problems your competitors failed to address;
Step back from your computer or tablet or canvas or whatever tool you’re using and try and get a bigger or completely different picture of what you’re doing. Go wherever your mind wants to go. Although you may want to continue working on a particular piece of creative, your mind may not. Try doing what it wants. You’ll end up with a different perspective, and, maybe even a new project or topic.
During crisis times, our emotions seem to be at their peak. Don’t let them get the best of you, but learn from them. You’re already jacked so let your new-found motivation help guide you to your (new) goals; what was important yesterday may not be as important today.
We all get stuck in a rut at times, even the greatest minds in history like Einstein did. If you need a new way of thinking, use Combinatory Play to give your brain a boost:
Participate in creative cross-training to expand your brain’s neural connections;
Let your mind wander by doing something mundane or even boring;
Go to bed and let your subconscious mind connect the dots during REM sleep;
Use another person’s work as a springboard for inspiration and improvement;
Go where your mind wants to go and gain a different perspective.
Emotions tend to peak during crisis times; learn from them.