Ask KL: How to Be More Creative

Today’s economy revolves around ideas, not things. Whether you identify as “the creative class” or not, creativity is a hot commodity. The good news? Creativity can be learned.

Related: What Is Creativity?

Change Your Perspective

True creativity requires flipping your perspective to that of someone else. When we say “out of the box” or “color outside the lines” what we’re really looking for is the ability to do things differently.

It’s easy to get stuck in your routine. They’re comforting and help decrease the amount of decisions we make every day. Changing your perspective doesn’t mean arguing against what you believe; rather, it can be as simple as brushing your teeth with your left hand instead of your right, according to this article from FastCompany.

Switching up small things in your daily routine forces you to experience the world differently, and this translates to how we approach common problems. Yeah, standing on your head in a meeting might be “weird,” but if you don’t go for something against the grain, you’ll never find a creative solution.

Learn As Much As You Can About Everything

As daunting as this might seem, the more you can learn, the more creative you’ll be. Creativity is often building connections between two seemingly unrelated fields, tasks, or solutions. That’s the building blocks of a liberal arts education (so yes, I’m biased). Understanding the laws of physics can help you make sense of a painting. You can apply major design principles to business decisions.  Whether you’re studying political systems or pentagons, much of human knowledge is more related than you think.

That doesn’t mean you need to suddenly drop everything and read for the rest of your life (if you do, try this one on creativity.) Listen to a podcast on your way to work. Read one blog post each morning on something completely unrelated to your role. Ask a friend in a different department to lunch and ask what they do or what they read.  

Put Your Ideas Out There

Adam Grant talks a lot about this in Originals. So does Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers. A common theme among creative genius is volume.

The most creative people you think of—Steve Jobs, John Lennon, Michelangelo---are so because of the sheer number of ideas they produce. To be creative, you must create.

Yes, a lot of it will be crap.

To hit on that perfect idea, the one that is truly “out of the box,” you have to put your ideas out there and let them fly. 

If you're as fascinated about this as I am, Radiolab did a fantastic podcast on grappling with "The Muse" that's worth a listen: 

Creativity is sometimes wrestling with an idea until it can come to life. That can take many, many tries to get right. But you’ll never know if you don’t start now.