Everyone has the capacity to improve their ability to think creatively and to come up with innovative solutions to problems they wish to solve. After almost three decades in product development consulting, we have found some keys to being an innovative thinker. Here are five points that can help you become more creative in your thinking:
- Gather knowledge and experiences from a variety of places. In order to be more innovative, you have to go beyond how you currently think. Being innovative means having the ability to come up with ideas that are unique and different from the norm. One way to help that happen is to acquire knowledge from areas outside your normal life experience and professional arena. Having a broad knowledge base and diverse experiences are great ways to open up the mind to creativity. When the mind is open, interested and optimistic, we have found that unique ideas come more easily. Read articles and research topics that are new to you. Keep a journal of images or information you find interesting and periodically go back and review it in order to refresh your memory. Take opportunities to try new experiences and activities. And do these things habitually. Make the exploration of knowledge a regular behavior.
- Practice noticing connections and patterns. Once you increase your knowledge base, try seeing connections and patterns in your life. Become aware of how things work around you and really observe your surroundings. You will be amazed at what you see. Being able to make connections that others have not noticed is a key point in innovative thinking. Recognizing where a piece of information from one area can be used effectively in another is a great asset. For example, understanding people’s behavior in one area of their lives could be a predicator for certain behavior in another area, and could lead to innovative ideas and solutions.
- Be aware of situations where improvements are needed. Observing problem areas is a critical step in being a creative thinker and most often it takes a bit of discipline in order for it to come naturally. Train yourself to ask the question “Is there a better way to do this?”Once you know the problem, you can go about looking for a creative solution. Just like muscles, your brain and thought patterns work faster and easier when exercised, so looking for solutions, even as just a mental exercise, has value. Practice being innovative in your thinking. For example, if you are doing an action or using an object, and you are not satisfied with how it works, ask yourself what would make it better.
- Become confident in your ability to innovate. As in everything, confidence is the key. The more confident we are at anything in life, the more we are in alignment with it and the better we perform. The trick is how to achieve this state when something is new to you. That is where the above three steps will help. As you increase the diversity of your knowledge base, practice noticing connections, and look for areas of improvement, innovative ideas will start to come more quickly and confidence will build. Also, more information in means more ideas with which to work. True creative intelligence comes when you can take facts and information and put them together in ways that solve real problems. Begin thinking of yourself as a creative thinker. The more you can identify with this the more innovative you will become.
- Keep the emotion out of it. The saying goes, “Never fall in love with an idea.” The point being that once you become emotionally vested in an idea you can put too much effort into it, at the risk of ignoring fatal flaws. The converse can also be true. An idea may seem ridiculous, but it may lead to a better solution. One that you would not have found if you emotionally reacted to the initial thought. Approach each idea with an open, but rational mind, assessing both the upsides and downsides. Once you have a range of ideas, you can assess each one on its merits and choose which direction is the best.
Innovative thinking can be fun and yield great results. We believe that if you use these five points, you will see results in the form of new and unique ideas. And contact us at Driven if we can help you with your next innovation project!