Twenty Preliminary Igniters for Creative Thinkers

31 08 2009

1.  Surround Yourself with Creativity

Surround yourself with creative people and reminders of creativity.   Decorate your workplace with peripherals of excellence and catalysts for creativity.  These could be pictures, quotes, or past projects.  This can be called the Ray Bradbury approach or the Sistine Chapel approach.  Find or create the work environment that ignites your creativity.  Just as important are the people that surround you.  People become more creative when they surround themselves with stimulating and creative people. This is true in the lives of Michelangelo as well as Einstein.

2.  Watch for Brain Traps

These are the emotional triggers that turn off the creativity in your mind. They could be the snap judgments, statements of fear, confusion, frustration or the prison guard of Brain traps-“I can’t”.  Try putting up a sign in your class that says, “No brain chains allowed”.

3.  Target Your Goal

There will be a time that creativity must be focused.  Ideas without goals are like climbing stairs without progress. Do you have a well-defined goal?  Keep the main thing the main thing.

4. Lean into Your Challenges

Learn to take intelligent risks in your thinking.  Bob Metcalfe (Founder of 3Com and Inventor of Ethernet) said, “Innovation requires gambling and risk taking.  We tell each other to make at least 10 mistakes a day.  If they are not making ten mistakes a day, they are not trying hard enough.”   Michelangelo’s motto in life was, “I took it as a challenge” when his father opposed his low career as a sculptor, when he carved the colossal David from a ruined piece of rock, and when he painted the Sistine Chapel.

5. Crave Inquisitiveness

Naquib Mahfouz (Nobel Prize winner) said, “You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.”

Isaac Newton

by Calvin Miller

Sir Isaac Newton sure was smart,

Beneath the apple tree.

When one fell off and hit his head,

He said, “Wow, gravity!

For Newton was a genius

And not a common slouch.

A genius cries, “Gravity!”

Most others just say “ouch!”

6. Challenge Assumptions

Often we are hindered in our creativity because of assumptions we make.  Ask what you are assuming and challenge it.  “The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

7.   Generate Alternatives

Emile Chartier said, “Nothing is more dangerous than one idea when it’s the only one you have”.   A Monomaniac is a person who has an inordinate or obsessive zeal for or interest in a single thing, idea, subject, or the like.  Expand your reading and interests.  Look for the second right answer. “If the only tool is a hammer you’ll see everything as a nail.” Abraham Maslow

8.  Lavish Symbolic Attention

If you want creativity, talk about it, talk it, and promote it. Find many ways to research and talk about it.

9.  Adjust Your Mental Blinds

Charles Kettering said, “You’ll never get a view from the bottom of a rut”.  Problems cannot be solved at the same level of consciousness that created them,” says Albert Einstein.

10.  Discern Similarities

Make connections and associations between topics and ideas.  Ask, “How is this like that?”

11.  Slice Up Your Elephant

Learn how to break down large dreams, problems and tasks.  When asked “Can you eat this elephant?” You can if you have the desire, time and when you slice it up into bite-size pieces.

12.  Juggle Peripheral Thinking

Learn not only to tolerate but enjoy ambiguity and complexity.  Learn to live with the unresolved.  When you think, plan to cook ideas on the side burner and the back burner. Sometimes you mind is on a ‘searching’ mode and then, while you are consciously thinking of something else your subconscious mind is on the ‘finding’ ode.

13.  Develop Ancillary Use Thinking

Ask yourself “What else can this be used for?” George Washington Carver found 300 uses for the peanut.  He called this “chemergy”.  Let the raw materials from unusual items and places combine into something creative.

14.  Abandon Conventional thinking

One person made this observation about Einstein, “Part of his genius was his inability to understand the obvious”.  Practice iconoclastic thinking and learn to trust your crazy ideas.

15.  Plan Serendipitous Developments

Many of the great inventions and discoveries were accidents.  But many of these so-called accidents were after hard work and an open mind.  Be open to new directions.

16.  Listen Naively

Listen without expert ears.  Stop thinking or saying that you have heard an idea before.  Listen as if you are hearing an idea for the first time without prejudgment.  Talk to someone outside of the field who is not familiar with the project.

17.  Latch on to Breaking Trends

Catch the wave of futuristic thinking.  “The best ideas are not years ahead of their time but 15 minutes before their time.”  Woody Allen

18.  Make Innovation and Change a Continuous Event

Be prepared and create innovations which are large sweeping and dramatic changes as well as Kaizen (From the Japanese Kai meaning change and zen meaning good) which are continual incremental improvements.

19.  Revitalize Procedures

Learn the difference between effective and efficient   Effective is accomplishing a task decisively but with possible excess of time, material, and/or effort. Efficient is accomplishing a task with precision, economically with little or no excess of time, material and/or effort. Learn when it is the right time to use each of these.  What time wasting activities keep you from creativity?

20.    Cultivate the five powers of mental concentration


The mental act of deciding, establishing and adherence to an aim


Persevering in an effort for a considerable time regardless of seeing results


Hold firmly to a course or direction


Sticking to the focus of the goal


Sustaining one’s spirit following defeats



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