How to find daily creativity in uncreative jobs
We often think that creativity is reserved for artistic pursuits. Even in agencies, “creative” often means those who work on design and copywriting. But creativity isn’t owned by any role, department or job description; it’s a process that everyone goes through. We all need to create new ideas, connections and solutions. As such, it’s important that everyone – not just the “creatives” – keeps themselves trained as creative thinkers.
Why creativity matters
The ability to communicate, negotiate and organize is considered a must-have in the workplace. Skills like communication, negotiation, and organization are often seen as must-haves in the workplace. But creativity is an essential skill too.
You don’t know when you’ll need it, so it’s best to be ready.
You can’t predict when you’ll need to tap into your creativity, so it’s best to exercise it to keep yourself sharp. Also, as you become more used to thinking outside the box, and doing it regularly, there will be less cause for panic when a creative task or problem is suddenly assigned to you.
If you can’t move forward, you often need a creative workaround.
Almost everyone has experienced having a creative idea shot down by a colleague, a boss, or a client. This is because most people are actually biased against creativity, especially when it comes with uncertainty. During uncertain times, they might prefer more practical ideas. It is during these times that you’ll need to walk the extra mile either to figure out how to “sell” your creative idea or to find a workaround that gets the job done without seeming too risky.
It can help you make the tough decisions.
As we mentioned in a previous post, making decisions requires expanding how you frame the problem, as well as thinking of hypotheticals like “What would ______ do?” Taking both these perspectives requires creativity, since you’re forced to go beyond your routine way of thinking.
Almost any job forces you into situations where you encounter unexpected problems, have to come up with unique workarounds, and make tough decisions. If creativity is an essential part of getting through these situations successfully, then it makes sense to practice it like you would any other skill that you use at work.
Creative challenges to try
If you’re looking to get more creative, especially at work, here are some simple challenges that can help you get started:
#1 – Participate in timed challenges.
Make some time to participate in collective creative challenges with deadlines. Some examples are National Novel Writing Month, Inktober, 24-hour Comics, or even a daily writing or doodling practice. This is crucial especially if you have any creative hobbies or skills that you don’t really get to use in your job. A study published in the Harvard Business Review found that these high-pressure environments work really well in yielding creative results when matched with focus and meaning.
#2 – Capture creative ideas as they come.
Psychologist Robert Epstein suggests capturing your creative ideas as they come – and usually they come in the most mundane moments, which he calls the 3 B’s: the bed, the bath, and the bus. “The main thing that distinguishes ‘creative’ people from the rest of us is that the creative ones have learned ways to pay attention to and then to preserve some of the new ideas that occur to them. They have capturing skills,” he wrote in an article for Psychology Today. You can easily do this with a note-taking app on your smartphone, or even a traditional notebook.
#3 – Think about the meaning of your work.
This may sound too profound or existential, but a study published by the Creativity Research Journal (Cohen-Meitar, Carmeli, Waldman. 2009) found that meaningfulness in the workplace can foster creativity. But you have to think about this meaningfulness in a concrete way. For example, think about what your organization means. What’s your brand identity? Is it prestigious? How challenging is the environment? How much autonomy do you have? Start considering these questions and see how valuable your organization is, as well as your own role in it.
#4 – Take the “ultimate problems” challenge.
Another way to exercise your creativity is by giving your brain a difficult puzzle to work on, especially one that you’ll probably fail at, suggests Dr. Epstein. This is where the “ultimate problems” come in. These are the challenging, complex problems that you encounter in the workplace, and it’s unlikely that there’s even a real solution for them. Because they’re hard to solve, we often don’t have the time and energy to come up with a solution, or we often think that the problem is “above our paygrade” or too large for us to solve ourselves. By spending a few minutes a week solving one of these problems, you’re already rehearsing your mind for solving the real problems that you face regularly in the workplace. Here are some examples of ultimate problems you can think about:
- Think of the number one obstacle that’s getting in the way of your progress at work. You have one hour to fix it. What would you do?
- What would you do if you were tasked to double the company’s revenue in six months? What about if you were tasked to slash the expenses in half?
- If you were tasked to do a creative project for your organization, such as design a print ad or write long copy, and you only had 15 minutes to do it, how would you go about it?
#5 – Talk to someone from a different department and get to know their work better.
Getting another person’s perspective can help you get distance from your problems and obstacles – and obviously the right ally can help you come up with better solutions. What’s their perspective on how your organization works? How has your discussion changed your perception of their role in the company? From the things you’ve learned from them, what can you take away and apply to your own work? You can also go back to the “Ultimate Problems” listed above and try to answer them from the perspective of others. What would they do if they were tasked to get rid of your primary obstacles? How would they approach it?
#6 – Get into the walking habit.
Walking regularly isn’t just for physical fitness, it can have cognitive benefits as well. Research from the Stanford Graduate School of Education shows that walking while thinking can inspire a 60 percent boost in ideas, even if you sat down and rested after the walk. So if your office gives you many opportunities to walk, whether it’s walking to lunch or taking the stairs rather than the elevator, take advantage.