What is Creativity?
It is the ability to solve a problem, see something that others do not see, represent a commonplace thing or notion in a new or novel way.
It is the ability to spot an ‘angle’ – some unexpected or beneficial attribute that has the potential to produce a desirable outcome. It does not have to be completely original, except in the way it applies to the current situation.
Here are some pointers to awaken your own creativity. It can give you the edge in business.
The Art of Problem Definition
Technical people are often self-limiting: they believe that the facts speak for themselves. This is known as the ‘engineer’s mentality’.
Engineers, however, need to be creative. They need to look for new solutions, and use their training to solve riddles and substantiate their findings.
Marvin Minsky, co-founder of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, believes creative thinking involves two components: courage and critical thinking.
Burt Swersey, lecturer in mechanical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic, teaches students a methodology for creative product development, including these steps:
1. Define the problem. Get past the obvious, and find answers that are valid all the time.
2. State the objectives. Don’t limit yourself by considering only what seems possible. Be visual, create flow charts.
3. Generate multiple alternatives. What other means are there of achieving the same result?
4. Evaluate alternatives. Create models and determine how each meets customer needs.
5. Build. Turn theory into practice.
A good starting place is to sit with another person somewhere other than your usual desk, (a) to get free of your ‘usual’ mind set, and (b) to get someone else’s perspective on the issue. Choose a topic that excites you, or a problem you need to solve.
Next, write the topic at the top of a sheet of paper and brainstorm the matter together, writing down all the ideas that you can think of in relation to that topic. No editing (i.e. reject nothing at this stage), as that can interrupt the creative flow. See what emerges.
Practise brainstorming regularly. It will open up your creativity.