According to Wikipedia, creativity is described as a “mental process involving the discovery of new ideas or concepts, or new associations of the existing ideas or concepts, fueled by the process of either conscious or unconscious insight.” Said in simple terms, it’s thinking outside the box.
In this lesson, I am going to share with you my best technique for being creative. Implementing this strategy throughout my career and personal life has forced me to be innovative when it would have been easier to choose a more standard approach.
What do you do?
Before I share my strategy with you, I’d like you to consider your own. When you go into problem-solving mode, how many different options do you generally consider? When you search for a better way to do something, do you make a list of your choices?
If you’re like most people I’ve met, you probably consider fewer than 5 options and these are the ones that immediately come to your mind. Are there others? Where are they? Deep in the recesses of your brain? It’s time to bring them out!
Make a list of 20 options
The next time you need to solve a problem or explore a better way to do something, compile a written list of 20 options. Not 5, 10, or 15. I said 20!
The first five things you think of will be the tip of the iceberg. They’ll probably be the same five things everyone else would think of in a similar situation. They are the most obvious answers. The key here is to stretch yourself to think of 20. You will struggle to get up to 13 or 14, but your biggest breakthroughs will come when you push yourself to 18, 19, and 20. Oftentimes, it is in those final three where you will find the hidden jewels.
Here are some circumstances where you can apply this lesson:
- Where your family should go on vacation next year
- Evaluating where you want to move
- Considering restaurant options for a special occasion
- Your career options
- Ways to cut expenses
- Making investment decisions
- How to stand out from the crowd in your profession
- Strategies to drive sales
- How to provide a higher level of service to your customers
- Choosing different incentive programs for your sales team
- Improving your ability to reach your target market
- Finding a babysitter on New Year’s Eve
These are just a few examples of what I suspect are hundreds of opportunities that could benefit from this creative exercise.
The biggest challenge you will have is sticking with the process. It takes more effort than you think to make a list of 20 options. I can think of several occasions where I had to really press myself to think of 20. My head hurt so badly that I had to take a break and come back to it. But the intense focus always opened my mind and forced me to ponder things that I normally wouldn’t have considered.
Here is my recommendation to you: the next time you have to solve a problem or think of a better way to accomplish something, sit down with a pad of paper and a pen and make a list of 20 options. Don’t stop at 17. Push yourself to 20.
Your next step is to make a list of the pros and cons of each option. From there, narrow your list down to your top options and study them. If you remove emotion from your decision and focus on the facts, it’s likely you’ll make the best decision. And at the very least, you’ll feel confident that you’ve explored all of the available options. You might even have fun in the process.
So, is there anything going on in your life right now where you can apply this lesson? If the answer is yes, grab a pad of paper and get started.
To be creative, you must go where you have not been before. You must expand your mind to new ideas, opportunities, and a fresh way of thinking. Only then will discover a new world of possibilities.
Creativity, Entrepreneurship, Sales, Things you were never taught