The accepted wisdom that creativity is inherit and not something we can develop has been replaced with the idea that creativity is within all of us to some extent. It is a skill we can develop. Let's look at some ways to increase your creativity.
Attribution: Flickr - Alice Popkorn
Do something you have never done before
In comedy writing classes a common activity is to get students to do something that they have never done before. I think this should also be a common part of creativity and personal development classes.
Doing different things stimulates your creativity. Try new foods, go to new places or take up new activities and interests. Many people compile a bucket list of things to do in their life at least once.
It is rare to see creative people following a regular routine, but instead they are always prepared to try new things.
Do anything in a different way
You may be familiar with the scene in the movie Dead Poets Society, where a high school English teacher asks his students to stand on their desk. The reason is to see the world differently.
Attribution: Flickr - Nina Matthews
Do anything in a different way and you mind will become more creative. Take the bus instead of the train to work, eat your breakfast on the front porch instead of the kitchen table or shop in a supermarket you are not familiar with.
Our routines keep us safe from change and new ideas, and by breaking out of them we will see what is familiar in a new way.
Find a creative environment
It is difficult to be creative when every new idea is rejected out of hand or if each new idea is debated endlessly. Also many people are their own worst enemy and do this to themselves.
Attribution: Flickr - moodboard
To be creative you need to be in a creative environment. You need people to support your ideas, though also to challenge your thinking.
Creative people tend to have a very diffuse attention and are often easily distracted. When we are stressed our attention becomes more focused so that we are less creative, and if we relax then the ideas will flow.
Attribution: Flickr - Darla Hueske
In creativity sessions I tend to ask people to get up, stretch and shake the stress out of their limbs. Actually I usually wait first until I have put forward the creativity problem and ideas are not flowing. Then I ask them to stretch and relax. The result is usually a burst of ideas.
Stimulate your brain
Creative people tend to have a wide focus of attention, dragging in ideas from everywhere (like the story of the person who invented the combine harvester while getting a haircut.) In fact, put someone in an empty room they will come up with fewer ideas than someone in a cluttered room.
Attribution: Pixabay - geralt
The blank sheet of paper
In contrast to the stimulation process there is the blank slate approach. Hand someone a blank sheet of paper they could do anything with it.
Attribution: Pixabay - PublicDomainPictures
There is nothing wrong with being stimulated by new ideas, but you don't want to let existing ideas prevent new ones. Push all the old thinking to the side (don't throw it away) so you starting point can be the beginning.
Accept that you can do better than others
When studying my honours thesis in Psychology I noticed that many other students always felt that they could solve any problem by finding the answer in a book. They often weren't prepared to come up with their own solution.
Sometimes the best answer comes from within ourselves, and even if it is not original it can take less time to work out our own answer than to research an existing solution.
The best example of this is a student mathematician who arrived late at a lecture just as it was finishing. The lecturer had put up a problem on the board which no one had ever solved as an example of a possibly impossible problem. This student mistook it for his homework and dutifully handed in the solution the next week. It just goes to show what we can do if we don't realise it is impossible.
When brainstorming I usually give people sheets of paper with the numbers 1 - 20 on them. Most people complain that 20 ideas are too many. But that is the point, to push them to come up with more. Often groups will come up with 1 or 2 ideas and stop because they have done enough. Instead we want to keep thinking and keep bringing out ideas, which is why we aim high.
Attribution: Flickr - Nimish Gogri
Don't just think in terms of numbers of ideas, but it terms of the quality. For creative people nothing is every good enough and they keep trying to improve everything.
Creativity is incredibly useful
There are lots of problems where being creative isn't likely to give you the best result. A quick search on Google will only solve many of our problems. Yet when we can't use derived solutions or we want to do better, we need to ramp up our creativity.