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The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson

Innovation

Four Easy Ways to Exercise Your Creativity

Stimulate creative thinking from the comfort of your desk

Published: Thursday, April 6, 2017 - 12:02

Recently I was contacted by a reader asking me if I would suggest some exercises that he could use to think more creatively. That request has inspired me to write about some fun ways that you, too, can exercise your creative mind.

The purpose of these exercises is to condition your mind to quickly make new connections or combinations between two or more existing items or ideas. When this becomes second nature, you will begin to automatically notice connections that you never saw before. Some of these may even turn into money-making opportunities.

Find new uses. Select a common item such as a bottle, comb, fork, or chair, then come up with 10 or more alternate ways that you use that item. I saw a product on Amazon.com called an onion holder (for holding an onion while you slice it); it looks like someone found a new use for a metal hair pick.

Make new connections. Pick two random objects and think of a way you could combine them to come up with a new product. Start right now with the items on your desk: pen, pencil, tape dispenser, stapler, lamp, phone, paperweight, in/out box, paper, and so forth. Have fun here and be as unusual or unconventional as necessary to force these items into something new. Take, for example, the Roller Buggy, which combined a baby stroller with a scooter, and allows parents to have fun riding with baby.

One of my favorite ways to make new connections is to make up jokes from stuff I hear on the news. A joke is really just a story with a surprise ending. I especially like non sequitur jokes that begin with a logical sequence of thought then take an unexpected direction (sometimes called “being led down a garden path”), such as this one by Ellen DeGeneres: “My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was 60. She’s 97 now, and we don’t know where the hell she is.” Jokes are frequently a play on words that have two or more meanings, like this one by Natalie Wood: “The only time a woman really succeeds in changing a man is when he’s a baby.” And, then there are double entendres such as the classic “Police station toilet stolen; cops have nothing to go on.”

Solve riddles. Solving riddles exercises your creative thinking in a similar fashion to making up jokes. Riddles are not only fun, but they also stimulate your creativity by forcing you to consider the clues from a perspective that is different than normal (riddles, like jokes, often use double entendre or double meaning). Here are two that I found on riddles.com: “What relation would your father’s sister’s sister-in-law be to you?” and “What ends in a ‘W’ but has no end?” (Answers at the end of this column.)

Complete the picture. Mr. Squiggle was a television show that originated in Australia. The title character was a marionette with a pencil for a nose. Viewers would scribble a few marks on a piece of paper and mail it into the show. Mr. Squiggle would then use his pencil nose to complete the drawing into an object that children would recognize. You can do this same exercise at home or the office. Take pen and paper, and make your own arbitrary squiggles, lines, and shapes. Look at them until you can visualize a recognizable object, then fill in the lines to make the drawing. Alternatively, you can select three or four random words from a dictionary, then come up with a sentence using all of them.

In previous columns I have suggested what I consider to be the most important method for stimulating your creative thoughts. And that is to regularly expose yourself to new stimuli—in short, new experiences. Whether you take a trip to someplace you’ve never been, or take a class in something you know little or nothing about, or read something that is different from what you normally read, you will expose yourself to new information. That new information creates new neural connections in your brain, which in turn give you more data with which to make new meaningful connections.

The purpose is to get used to seeing connections where you never noticed them before. Then when you need to solve a problem, you’ll be prepared.

Riddle answers: your mother; a rainbow.

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About The Author

The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson’s picture

The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson

Robert Evans Wilson Jr. is an author, humorist, and innovation consultant. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. Wilson is also the author of the humorous children’s book The Annoying Ghost Kid, which was self-published in 2011. For more information on Wilson, visit www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com.