Pallavi Pinakin analyses the need for creative thinking in today’s milieu

Creative thinking has never been more relevant than it is today. The mercurial market landscape and threat of becoming obsolete have made innovation the need of the hour, for both individuals and organisations. Creativity also boosts a sense of purpose, joyfulness and satisfaction – facets we could all use more of these days.

According to the Co-Director of the Yale College Emotional Intelligence Project Emma Seppälä, modern life has made it fairly difficult to be creative because our constant busyness and overburdened schedules present an obstacle to creativity. The human brain needs to be idle and unfocussed or engaged in play and learning, for new ideas to emerge and take shape.

Since we need to make space intentionally for innovative thinking, here are a few ways to nurture the creative spark within you.

EXPERIMENTS Author Malcolm Gladwell famously outlined the ‘10,000 hour rule,’ saying that you need at least 10,000 hours of practice to achieve greatness in any discipline. However, this rule has its limits especially in fields that are constantly shifting and evolving.

Many experts now suggest that instead of repeatedly doing the same thing in like manner, it may be better to do the same thing in a number of different ways. Research shows that high creativity rates are linked to the sheer number of experiments conducted – because amid
a slew of bad or unrealistic ideas, a few golden thoughts will emerge.

Conduct small experiments daily to generate new ways of doing things and glean valuable knowledge. These experiments can be about anything you find interesting from business models and fitness routines to interpersonal relationships.

Follow your curiosity and make a list of tests at the start of the week, and identify a few questions you want to explore. Try to address the same question over and over in several different ways. Collect information, investigate the results and learn lessons.

COMBINATORY PLAY Popularised by Albert Einstein, ‘combinatory play’ is the act of opening up one mental channel by dabbling in another. Simply put, it means combining two unrelated things to trigger new ideas.

If you work in finance, why not try immersing yourself in photography; or if you’re an artist, how about dipping into the world of hard sciences? Opening your mind to an entirely new system of knowledge and thinking is a great way to foster creativity.

NEW ENVIRONS Viewing things from a different angle can be incredibly liberating and eye-opening. It breaks down preconceived notions and unlocks new perspectives.

Whether you immerse yourself in a new culture, take your laptop to the nearby park or beach, or simply lie down on the floor to change your vantage point, shifting your external environment is one of the easiest ways to shake up your brain.

TAKE A WALK. Believe it or not, there is a strong connection between long technology free walks and creative thinking. In a way, walking is a meditative act because it unclutters your mind and allows it to be idle and relaxed, creating the optimum state for new ideas to start fermenting.

It was while walking with a friend and soaking in the sunset that Nikola Tesla had his game changing insight into rotating magnetic fields, which led to the modern alternating current electrical mechanism.

TIME FOR PLAY Most adults have forgotten the art of play, which is a pity because games are closely linked to inventiveness. This is a lesson that many tech startups have harnessed, and created space for downtime and play in the workplace.

Brainstorming coach Marilyn Barefoot explains in her LinkedIn article: “I recently received a call from a client who asked me to facilitate a brainstorming session for her team… But she didn’t want us to ‘waste any time doing those silly games and creative exercises you like to do.’ I had to decline. I explained that no one in the history of brainstorming has ever come up with a new breakthrough idea by sitting in a boardroom reading and rereading a brief.”

MESSY IS OKAY In a world obsessed with Marie Kondo and minimalism, clutter has become something of a villain. In reality however, certain personalities such as Steve Jobs thrive in messy environments.

If you’re one of those people, throw out those decluttering books and embrace the chaos. The higgledy-piggledy nature of your surroundings can spark novel connections and nonlinear thinking, both of which are vital to generating unconventional ideas.

PEAK PERIOD Each of us has a window of peak productivity during the day when the mind is at its sharpest and most focussed. Identify this period so that you can protect it for tasks that demand deep creative thinking.

Don’t waste these precious hours on rote work or administrative tasks that can easily be done during a lower energy period.