Want to be creative? Here's a way.

Ope Adeoye 4 minute read

We'd all like to constantly express creative ideas or come up with solutions to specific problems that are perceived to be brilliant. Since becoming familiar with the Newton and apple matter, we secretly wish an apple will drop on our heads and spark some innovative idea...

[image credit - Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig]

In my short experience, I have realized that being creative is much more of grunt work than a flash of inspiration that drops on you out of "nowhere". Here's a process I found that works... At least for me...

1. Be constantly learning

Load yourself with plenty of unrelated data. Read a lot. Engage in lots of conversations about diverse topics. Guzzle lots of seemingly irrelevant and unrelated stuff. The more you take in, the more you want to dive a little deeper into that topic and find something related to it. Or another person's perspective of the same subject. Ah yes, especially try to get dissenting opinions to things that are perceived as the norm. 

2. Think a lot

See those things you've been reading and learning? Constantly be synthesizing that data. Chew on them, ask questions in your head. Wonder whether the writer knows what she's saying or he's just yarning dust. Ask "why", "why not" and "what if" questions about the things you've learnt. Then file away conclusions and patterns in the corners of your mind and move on.

3. Take it slow

When a situation then comes up that requires a "creative solution", try not to rush to come up with one yet. Think deeply about the problem you are trying to solve or the people you want to solve it for. Don't dwell too much on possible solutions. Then drop it and let it simmmer.

4. That's when "eureka" happens

When you are in the shower or under the agbalumo tree, a great idea or possible solution will drop in your mind, that you will "feel". Write it down, test it against the "patterns" and "data" you have filed away quickly. Then go off and try it in real life. 

5. Execute like a maniac

Ideas are a small part of any solution. Even when at face value the idea or proposed solution looks really cool or innovative. The real do is when you try to make that idea see the light of day. New facts will come up. It will get adjusted. You will get discouraged. In fact, you may find that the idea is largely impractical. Maybe even stupid. The real magic happens when you get it done. Or at least a variant of it. But double down and get s**t done.

This is the formula that I have tried to employ. At times it works. Many times it doesn't.  

Something to note: These things take time. Especially steps 1 & 2. It takes time to accumulate lots of data and patterns. But as you practice the process and build a bigger "database" in step 2, you can execute steps 3-4 faster to the point where people begin to think you are just bustling with brilliant creative ideas that you can whip out at will.