How to Flex Your Creative Muscles

Tara recently had the honor of judging a short story competition. As she read story after story centered around the theme “tree,” she began to see some commonalities emerge. By the fourth story told from the perspective of a tree, she began to suspect that… maybe sometimes we’re not as original as we think we are.

And that’s okay. An idea doesn’t have to be completely unique to be implemented well. But there are ways we can enhance our originality and learn to think more creatively.

According to organizational psychologist Adam Grant, original thinkers have three surprising habits:

1) Originals take their time.

People who are moderate procrastinators tend to be rated the most creative. Why? A bit of procrastination can let your ideas percolate in the back of your mind, allowing you to make unexpected connections and new links. 

(We at Emerging Perspectives call this slowing down to create space.)

2) Originals improve on existing ideas, as opposed to trying to create entirely new ones. 

Originals open themselves up to something new. Being open allows you to look at old ideas with new eyes. According to Adam Grant, Vuja de is the opposite of déjà vu. Vuja de is when you look at something you’ve seen many times before and all of a sudden see it with fresh eyes.

Our perspectives and development can be limited by our assumptions and past experiences, creating habits of thinking and reacting. Cultivating openness can help us become more comfortable with uncertainty and prime our brains and nervous systems for out-of-the-box thinking and to be more expansive. Being open allows us to look at an old idea in new ways. 

“New ideas come from interconnections among old ideas.” 

-Robert Epstein, research psychologist

3) Originals are afraid of failing, but they try anyway. 

The greatest originals fail the most because they try new things the most. They generate more ideas. Some ideas will work, some won’t. The more you create, the more you find the really great ideas. 

This is where imagination comes in handy. Expanding our capacity to imagine alternatives and possibilities before taking action generates more options and confidence for moving forward.

Want to learn more about creativity and being an original thinker?

Watch Adam Grant’s TED Talk The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers here

Build on an existing concept and learn to Steal Like an Artist

Read about five science-backed ways to be more creative

Here are six more things you can try to boost your creative thinking

Learn more about the neuroscience of creativity in this Q & A.

Learn more about how Emerging Perspective’s approach to cultivating openness, curiosity, imagination, focus, and reflection can help you be more creative and approach your work or projects in new ways.