Even since a young age, I knew that I had a creative side. I remember doing oil paintings at the age of 10, sketching Morro Bay with Prismacolor pencils during family trips, and continuing this love for art throughout college. I ultimately majored in business with a focus in marketing—the perfect way for me to harness my creativity and combine it with my expertise in business. It is this fusion of creativity and strategy the guides me every day.
I’ve met many people who do not consider themselves to be creative. Yet, I continuously see a spark that even they don’t see. We all have a creative side. We just have to be open to it and expand our idea about what creativity is. To me, it’s all about looking at things through a brighter lens and from a different angle. It doesn’t have to be artistic or radical. It can be a small change that piques the interest of others. It can be a simple graph to communicate a complex issue. It can be a clever choice of words. It often takes putting ourselves in the shoes of others. In a recent training in health advocacy, I pitched a simple call-to-action that had a dual meaning: “Join Us and Get Active!” These five words speak to the importance of health while also inviting residents to become leaders.
1. Show Me, Don’t Tell Me
By definition, creativity is aligned with fostering ideas that are new and different. Yet, one of the strongest ways to get there is to study old ideas and be as knowledgeable as possible with the ideas of others. So read…not just new articles but old principles. Throughout college, my bible was Hank Seiden’s book,Advertising Pure and Simple.I still refer to it. Sure, the slogans are outdated, but the principles still ring true. Take for instance the simple notion: Show Me, Don’t Tell Me. Great brands are masters at this. With often little or no words, they evoke feelings. I subtly applied this principle in the article you’re reading. I didn’t just say I was creative, I showed the actual sketch of Morro Bay mentioned in the opening paragraph. Next time you are pitching an idea, try showingrather than just telling. Come up with five different ways to communicate your point with as little words as possible, then choose the best one.
2. Be Constantly Curious
Another important factor in creativity is to be constantly curious. This involves deep interest beyond our work. Be open to learning opportunities that occur every day in the world around us. In daily conversation, reply withopen questionsrather than comments that turn it back to you. Open questions are those that invite the other person to reply beyond just one word. Be intentional about this. It’s tempting in conversations to bring it back to us andourexperiences. Instead, be genuine and curious about what the other person is saying. Not only does this show deepen your connection, it often unveils new ideas.
3. Keep a Discovery Journal
You’ve heard of writer’s block. This speaks to the idea that we can’t force creativity. I do believe we can certainly make ourselves more attune to creative opportunities that expand our thinking. While some people keep a personal journal, I keep a “discovery” journal. I make it a point to write down at least one new thing I learn every day. It could be something I hear in a conversation, see on a billboard, read on a Twitter, feed or discover in any number of other sources. Try it. Download an app that allows daily entries and make the commitment to write down at least one new thing you’ve learned each day.
However you define it, creativity is not something that we do, it is something that happens. Be a sponge to ideas that occur both inside and outside your interests. This helps provide fertile ground to discover new ideas. Often times, a simple shift in thinking can lead to massive impact, an approach I talk about in my book One Degree. Do you always strike gold? Hardly not. But the process of exploration is worth it. Take enjoyment in jotting down new learnings every day, especially those that come from unexpected sources. I think you’ll find the right side of your brain sparking new ideas in unexpected ways. Enjoy your creative expedition.