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Leveraging Your Creative Edge

99 tips, ideas, and activities to get your mind racing!

Sally Fagan

Illustrations by Kevin Becken

Abstract: As well as being for those who would like some

fresh ideas on pushing their creativity, this article is for
those who perhaps feel that they are not creative at all
doing the exercises here, following some tips, and examining
your self-belief will help to dispel that feeling for good and
put you on a path to self-discovery and a new creative you!

Keywords: bravery, connections, creative, Creativity, cu-

riosity, ideas, imagination, initiative, innovation, innova-
tive, inquisitiveness, levity, links, observation, reflection,
self-belief, tips

What Is Creativity?
It always helps to start an article like this with a defi-
nition of what we mean by creativity. A dictionary is a
Sally Fagan has extensive experience good place to look, and I picked out the following words
in business and management from the section starting create:
development both in the United
Kingdom and overseas. As someone
who never used to consider herself as to bring into existence out of nothing
creative, and who used to hate having to originate
to write imaginative English essays to produce
at school, she firmly believes that
However, this is my favorite:
creativity is a skill that can be learned
(or re-learned!). Constant practice and any original production of the human mind
being around creative people have
definitely helped, as well as learning Note that this definition doesnt talk about things that
how to ask good questions. Sally has we make with our hands. Many people immediately re-
written one pantomime, six plays, and
several e-books; has ghost-written a
spond to the notion of creativity by saying Im not very
book on leadership; and contributes creative, alluding perhaps to their belief that they are
as an author and subject expert for not particularly good at drawing or other artistic skills.
various magazines and learning Creativity goes much further than that, and in this ar-
ticle we shall be exploring how you can develop your
mind to produce more original ideas to solve business-
type problems and issues and to find more ways to carry
out a project or day-to-day tasks. We are taking the word
original in this context and in the dictionary definition to
mean original to you or original in its context rather
than something that has never been thought of before.

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Leveraging Your Creative Edge

We shall also be exploring how you can the test come flooding back into your con-
open up creativity, or alternative think- scious mind. You suddenly remember the
ing, in other people. constant checking in the mirror, the right
What we are suggesting here is that it is way to hold the steering wheel, and realize
not just the actual doing that is creative, but the bad habits that you have fallen into.
the thinking behind the doing, that is, the
produce of the human mind. If you have
ever decorated a room, then you were being
creative under the definition of producing.
However, the original thought and decision
on how to decorate the room can also be
counted as being creative, even if someone
else actually did the decorating. Deciding
what to wear, deciding what to cook, plan-
ning a holiday, or even just daydreaming,
are all examples of being creative as well.
I am not intending this article to be a de-
finitive work on creativity. However, I do
intend it to be a quick and easy read, some-
thing to dip in and out of, and something
you can keep handy to remind you of some
simple things you can do every day to de-
velop your creative thinking.

The future never just happened. It Let us take the driving analogy one step
was created. further and think about those who push the
Will and Ariel Durant limits of driving to the extremes. Take the
police, for example, whose skills allow them
Creativity of thought can just come to to give chase to another vehicle without los-
us as our minds wander and we start to ing control of theirs, or a F
ormula One rac-
make involuntary connections from things ing driver, who drives competitively on the
we hear, see, smell, touch, or taste. When edge. Both these groups of people have an
we know we need to be creative to solve intimate knowledge of how their cars can
a problem or a difficult situation, then we be maneuvered to the limit of their capabil-
have a specific requirement or desire to do ity without going off the road. They stretch
something differently. Just when we need themselves constantly. It takes bravery and
to be very creative, its possible our minds inquisitiveness, but knowing the system al-
go blank. This article should help kick start lows them to achieve more. Using creativ-
your brain into action. We are, in fact, be- ity is doing something similar with your
ing creative all the time whether that is, for mind. It allows you the freedom to stretch
example, when we choose what to wear in your mind further and be creative in a way
the morning or something more compli- that you have not been before.
cated like completing a project. However,
we just dont regard these simple everyday Mans mind stretched to a new idea never
tasks as being creative. Its a bit like learn- goes back to its original dimensions.
ing to drive a car or ride a bike. Once you Oliver Wendell Holmes
have mastered it, it passes into the sub-
conscious mind. Now let us imagine that There is another step to creativity, and
you are teaching someone else to drive. that is putting it into practice so that our
All those things that you learned to pass wonderful creative idea fulfills its potential
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Leveraging Your Creative Edge

and achieves what we want it to achieve, How strongly do you believe you con-
be that saving money, saving time, or tribute to innovation in your company?
getting us round a seemingly impossible
Not much 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Very much
situation. We all have different personal-
ity traits, and it may be that in your team How much do you, personally, continu-
you are the ideas generator, whereas ally improve all aspects of your customer
someone else acts as the implementer. In service/contact/offering?
other words, they hear what you say and
Not much 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Very much
immediately offer their services to make
it into a reality. You know that they can How often do you ask what will my cus-
take an idea and make it happen, and you tomers (internal and/or external) needs be
know you can rely on them to do so. That in 3 years/5 years time?
is great teamwork! In reality though, if we
Not at all 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Very often
want to establish a name for ourselves, and
not be branded as someone who is all hot How strongly do you believe that you
air and who is always talking a good talk engage yourself in the development of
but never doing anything, then we have any/all aspects of your business?
to make sure we follow through our good
Not at all 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Very strongly
ideas and make them work. This may be
easier said than done. Sometimes there How much do you consciously develop
is a big psychological elephant sitting in your own creativity so that your thinking
the corner of the room, which is a massive continues to be fresh?
impediment to following through your
Not much 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Very much
wonderful idea. This elephant is called a
lack of self-belief. If we have a wonderful How strongly do you believe that if
idea but dont believe that we can achieve you had to adapt a product/service for
it for whatever reason (e.g., the market a
customer/in response to a customer
isnt right, my boss wont allow me, I dont complaint you would be able/allowed to
have the time), then I can assure you that do this?
the likelihood of anything getting done
Not at all 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Very strongly
is virtually nil. All your wonderful ideas
will be wasted. If you recognize yourself How often do you search for new tech-
here, then have a look at Activity 5, which nology that is relevant to your industry/
should help you. market to see how this could be used to
To get started, we need a baseline to support product/service development?
know where we are now. Here are two ex-
Not at all 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Very often
ercises to make you think closely about
where you are now in terms of creativity. How regularly do you benchmark your-
self against creative individuals to see how
Activity 1: Assessing your Own your performance compares?
Creativity Not at all 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Very often
I have chosen two assessments to include.
In line with the rest of the article, the dif- To calculate your average score, add
ference is between assessing your own your marks together and divide by 8.
current creativity and assessing how you How satisfied are you with this score?
enable others to be creative. For this as- In which area could you make the big-
sessment, circle the score that you believe gest difference? Define yourself a goal to
is most appropriate. For a more accurate improve your score in one of the areas
reading, ask one or more colleagues to as- and write it here. Make it as SMART as
sess you as well. you can.
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