It was a dusky afternoon. I was having a coffee with my friend, and we were discussing my next innovation project. The challenge was how we could improve the in-store user experience by connecting online and offline worlds. It was 2007, and at that time, Amazon Go was nowhere on the map.
I was excited to share what was on my mind — the Amazon-like experience of combining physical and digital elements to enhance user experience phenomenally by using smartphones. I rambled on with the details, describing some loose ends and unrealistic goals with the project that our team had thought of. My friend was impressed by that futuristic scenario.
“Wow, that’s indeed very creative. I’m fascinated to know more about how you came with this idea.” His eyes were beaming.
I smiled and said, “Not really. Our team connected the dots.”
And that was the truth. Creativity is not a light bulb that illuminates like a switch, unlike what we usually show in cartoons. You might have come up with multiple ideas many times but must have discarded all of them under the umbrella of being “not creative enough.”
You see, creativity comes with connecting experiences, analyzing insights, observing the environment, listening to new ideas, leveraging on your findings, and then joining the dots to create an ingenious solution.
Have you witnessed how a room of people brainstorm a myriad of explosive ideas when they are given the correct framework? Interestingly, creativity comes in a bunch. At least, most of the time.
A small tale of creativity
Another day, my 6 years old son came up to me and said, “Mom, I want to build a bridge to ride my toy cars. Can you give me some ideas? I am quite blank right now.” I was busy doing household chores, yet I couldn’t send him away empty.
I decided to leave things for the while, motivated to practice with my son the art of connecting the dots.
I told him, “Sure, let’s do this together. Where do you want to build the bridge?”
“Here, on the carpet.”
“What do you want to do with that bridge, exactly?” I walked over to the carpet with him.
He pointed at the cars and a spot someplace away. “I need these cars to pass over here.”
Even if I had some ideas, I wanted him to learn how to connect the dots. So, I asked him to sketch that bridge to understand it better.
“Now, tell me, what we can use to make this sketch real?” He looked around and found Lego, a carton, and some sticks. In a matter of minutes, my son and I had built a great-looking toy bridge, and he was happily engrossed in a new game of Fast and Furious. I went back to my duty, satisfied.
The purpose of telling this tale is that we don’t have to limit our resources. Instead, we can emphasize the importance of teamwork in improving our creative skills. My son had no ideas when he had come to me for help, and I was nowhere near creative when I was doing the laundry. Working together to connect the dots made us come up with a solution. We had done it in no time.
Therefore, now let’s explore the top 3 tested tips that boost your creativity and improve your craft without further ado.
Enhancing your creativity: the tried & tested tips
1. Connecting the dots
As we reflected earlier, the first step towards improving creativity is keeping a broader perspective of the challenge at hand, combined with your experience. People who are known to be creative are keen observers; they are constantly gaining exposure to new environments, ideas, and people’s perspectives. If I put in my two cents for each new project, I always start by conversing with users, exchanging ideas with stakeholders, and seeking new surroundings. Building a broader ecosystem around me helps keep my creativity up.
2. Keeping a journal to pencil the dots in
Once you have identified the dots, it is equally important to pen them down, so you do not forget them randomly any day. Keep a journal or a word document or a Google doc where you can easily type it in or pencil in and access it anytime.
Make sure you save all your notes, your new highlight of ideas, any contradictions, and trends that you have noticed. Feel free to go over the top and jot down the craziest and most absurd ideas as well. Your dots may appear lone and unconnected at the beginning. Have patience. It will all connect later on.
Your notes can also be visuals like photos, images, and sketches that capture your attention. Thanks to technology, now it is effortless to take pictures and bookmark any valuable links. I make it a point to use pocket.com and tags to keep track of new sources for each one of my projects.
3. Harnessing the power of teamwork
Teamwork, conclusively, is another factor that can make your creative flow. If you have the opportunity, always prefer to collaborate, work in a team, and exchange ideas with others. There is no point being the superhero — things don’t work like that.
When I am stuck, I always connect with experts and ask questions; “How do you manage this?” “What do you think of it?” Taking the perspectives of others — especially if they are experts in the field — can automatically give you tons of ideas.
I also like to use a brainstorming technique called analogous thinking. All you have to do is connect the dots but keep looking into what others are doing, independent of the industry or the sector. In many cases, this is another proven way of getting inspired.
So, if I may ask, what’s your next move?
Keep looking — you are only a step away!
Experiences — or rather, the ability to capture experiences in our hippocampus — are raw and powerful sources of inspiration. Whenever you are looking to get inspired, look around you and look for insights. Importantly, this realm is not limited to your area of work only. You can gain and leverage the experience of any setting and subject without any boundaries. For me, walking my dog is a source of unlimited inspiration.
Since the day I started mentoring entrepreneurs, I have been meeting people from all walks of life. I have conversed with experts and amateurs from different industries facing different challenges. I have been exposed to numerous environments. And in all these times, I have always done one thing on the front: cross-pollinating different people’s ideas to bring more value.
Conclusively, I would advise all of you to keep growing and thriving. Head outdoors, gain exposure, connect the dots, and write them down. Step by step, you’ll get to your destination, if you haven’t already!
Share your story about any instance when you connected the dots, and it turned out genius. I’ll be reading them all.