Creativity and innovation are abilities that can be improved with some practice. Here are a few tools for you to use to stimulate some creativity.
A Brief Video
In this 5-minute video, you will learn three strategies that you can practice to increase your creative potential. The main points from the video are summarized below, if you prefer. The video proposes a real-world example from the medica field that demonstrates how creativity can be more than a strictly “artistic” concept.
Top 3 Tips to Increase Your Creativity (From the Video)
Don’t Focus, Relax!
When we concentrate, we focus on the details of the problem itself. When we relax, seemingly random thoughts are allowed to occur, and we have an opportunity to see how they may connect together to form an innovative solution. There’s a reason good ideas often occur in the shower!
Take More Risks!
The fear of making a mistake can inhibit us from being truly creative. Brain scans of creative people like rappers and jazz musicians indicate a DECREASE in activity in the part of the brain responsible for self-monitoring during their creative process. Let the ideas flow without judging if they’re “good” or “bad” in order to be more creative.
Sleep on it!
Psychologists believe that the “incubation effect” demonstrates that the subconscious mind continues to work on a problem even when we’re sleeping.
S.C.A.M.P.E.R. – A Tool to Encourage Lateral Thinking
Lateral thinking is the solving of problems by an indirect and creative approach, typically through viewing the problem in a new and unusual light. The creativity tool “SCAMPER” is an acronym based on the principle that almost everything that is new is really an innovation of something that already exists. It lays out a series of techniques that trigger idea-generating questions.
- S – substitute.
- C – combine.
- A – adapt.
- M – modify.
- P – put to another use.
- E – eliminate.
- R – reverse.
SCAMPER is used to explore problems from seven perspectives. This holistic technique of study brings one innovation after another that in turn fuels more innovation and creativity.
Start by identifying a product/process/service/solution that you want to improve or innovate and then mentally working through this series of thought-provoking questions.
Substitution looks at the individual parts of the whole.
- What part can be substituted to create a better alternative?
- What part can be substituted without negatively impacting the whole?
- Who can be substituted without affecting the outcome?
- What can be replaced to save time?
- Can the product/process/service/solution be replaced with a simpler one?
Combining is about merging two or more products/services/etc. into a unit. For instance, today’s cell phones merged telephone and digital photography technologies.
- What two products can be combined into one?
- What steps in the process can be combined?
- What technology from one product/service can be applied to another?
- What business resources or products can be combined with a partner or competitor?
- What other combination opportunities am I overlooking?
Adapting is about adjusting or tweaking products or services for a better output. Changes can range between minor to radical changes in the whole scheme. Adapting is one of the most efficient techniques for solving problems by enhancing existing systems.
- Does each step need to be more flexible?
- What change will achieve better results?
- Can new technology be adopted?
- Should the sequence of tasks/events be altered?
Modifying looks at more than individual steps or components of the whole. It looks at the entire product/process/service to consider modifying major portions or the entire process.
- What can be removed, modified, or resequenced to save time and/or money?
- What can be added, modified, or resequenced to improve quality or add features/value?
- Can it be modified to improve appearance or appeal?
- Will a modification create another market or use?
Put to another use
This technique looks for other internal and external opportunities to use an existing product/process/service.
- Is a similar but slightly different process/product/service being used in another segment of the business?
- Can the best of both be combined to create a better process that both segments can use?
- Are scales of economy feasible?
- Has a market segment been missed that can also be served?
- Can we recycle the waste for another use?
As implied, what can be eliminated or reduced for lower costs or to save time?
- What happens if a specific part/function/feature is eliminated?
- Why is a specific part/function/feature included?
- Can we eliminate a part/function/feature/service some of the time?
- What would we do if we had fewer resources?
- What if we shared a resource with another part of the business?
- What do we do for our own purpose that does not add value to the customer? Can we eliminate it?
This can also be called rearranging.
- Will changing a sequence solve a problem or enable innovation?
- Can reversing a task sequence make things easier, faster, or simpler?
- If we reverse engineer it (take it apart to learn how it was built), will we find opportunities for innovation?
- Will we find more innovation ideas if we work this exercise in reverse?
There is no specific sequence you need to work through these techniques. You can use one, two, or all of the techniques until you develop an innovation that you want to fully develop and pursue. Using multiple techniques generates multiple ideas that might work together as well as independently.