There is a general misconception that it takes a special breed of people to be creative. Mention the word “creativity” and, no doubt, the likes of legendary inventors Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell will come to mind.

The truth of the matter is that you too can be a creative genius. What you need to do is to apply certain mind tools that allow you to think differently about the problems or issues you face — in other words, unclog your creative thinking.

Here are some insights on how you can boost your creativity quotient:

Applied imagination

To unleash your creative potential, turn to a process called “applied imagination”. This term was first coined in the 1950s by Alex Osborn, an advertising executive and creativity theorist from New York.

He suggested that creativity stems from the human mind’s ability to look at a situation in an innovative manner.

To come up with creative solutions requires you to apply your imagination in a practical manner. To do this you need to look at the situation that confronts you and see what else you can do to make something better, faster or more efficient.

For example, canned food made its appearance around 1810, sparking the need for can openers. Many inventors tried to make better and better ones, but it took another century before Ermal Cleon Fraze came up with a different solution.

He must have asked: “What if an opening tool was added to the can itself, taking away the need for a can opener?”

In 1959, he invented the “pull-tab”, a can-opening method that would come to dominate the canned beverage market.

Convergent thinking

Many people mistakenly believe creativity is all about inventing new things. But you can come up with novel ideas that produce excellent results by engaging in convergent thinking.

This is a problem-solving technique that brings together different ideas to find the best solution to a specific problem.

Chester Carlson invented the photocopier machine in 1938.  His company would eventually be known as Xerox.  However, his early photocopiers were expensive and therefore not very popular.

By looking at the different issues involved in getting corporations to use photocopiers — financial as well as technical reasons — Xerox came up with the brilliant idea of renting out their machines rather than selling them to the companies.

This allowed the companies to use the machines affordably as well as leave the maintenance to Xerox.

Divergent thinking

In contrast to convergent thinking (which aims at solving a specific problem), divergent thinking is aimed at generating fresh views and novel solutions.

If you are looking for new ways of doing things, you can use an idea-generation technique (such as brainstorming), in which one idea is followed in different directions, leading to still more ideas.

For example, timber companies produce a lot of sawdust. At first considered a waste product, sawdust has found many other uses through the process of divergent creative thinking, including as a component of cat litter and chipboard.

Bisociation

This was a term first coined by Arthur Koestler in his 1964 book, The Act Of Creation.  What this means, in essence, is our ability to relate things that were previously unrelated.

For instance, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone and Guglielmo Marconi invented the radio.  Although these two men never met, today most of us carry a device that combines the qualities of these two inventions — the mobile phone.

George Eastman made cameras even a child could operate. Mobile phone makers put this simplicity to good use when they thought what a good idea it would be to enable phone users to take pictures anywhere,
anytime and at a moment’s notice — and without the need for a separate device.

Nowadays, the camera function is a standard feature in mobile phones.

So, spend some time thinking about how you can unleash your creative potential and be a tremendous asset to your organisation.