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Monday, August 10, 2020

Executive Education

The Power of Thinking Like a Child: Reclaiming Your Creativity

Nir Bashan

As children, we are encouraged to explore our creativity. Sometimes this happens in a traditional “art” sense of drawing or painting. But not always. Because creativity influences just about everything a child does. Whether through using toys, blocks, pots and pans, a couch cushion, or only their imagination, children are naturally inclined to think creatively, see creative possibilities, and apply creativity as a solution to problems.

As adults, we find ourselves relying on the practical and the analytical. Because that’s what we’ve been taught in the classroom, in the workplace, and by society to value. For years, the analytical side of our brain has been on overload, inundated with the love of quantification, multitasking, technology, and data. We are so heavily skewed toward the analytical that the creative part of our brain has been left to wither away like a plant that is not watered.

We can’t imagine building plain wooden blocks into a fortress or castle. Seeing a couch cushion as anything other than a couch cushion seems preposterous; it’s just something to sit on. We have forgotten what it is like to taste the freedom that comes with creative thought and take the weight of unrelenting reason off our back.

But we haven’t completely lost our capacity for creativity. It’s still in our brain. We don’t need to learn how to be creative. We need to re-learn how to be creative.

This is not about drawing. Or painting. Or art. Or music. It’s not about the kind of talents typically associated with “creative types.” Re-learning how to be creative is about allowing yourself the freedom to look at the world as it could be, not what your skeptical adult mind tells you it is. It is about relying on creativity to see different perspectives, explore fresh possibilities, and find solutions to the problems you’re dealing with as an adult.

You can train your mind to think in a creative way and still keep your grasp on logic. Creativity isn’t some mystical force or magical gift. Creativity is a tool. It’s a tool you can apply to every aspect of your life, including work. Like any tool, you’ll get better at using it with practice. Practicing creativity builds muscle memory just like working out or learning a new language. In the process, you’ll rewire the structure of your brain to think creatively. You’re never too old to start. As scientists recently discovered, the human brain has the amazing ability to change—a quality called neuroplasticity. You have the power to tap into your brain and awaken your long-neglected creativity.

So, what are you waiting for? Follow these steps to start training your mind to think creatively about solutions to your problems:

See.

Think about a persistent problem. It could be that your business is struggling. It could be that promotion you are after and not getting. Think about that problem and make sure it’s clear in your mind. Then, pick up a pen and write it down. Look at the words you have written. Look at the shape of the letters. What do the letters look like? Block letters? Cursive? Uppercase? Lowercase? Now study the look of the letters. See how each line connects. See how big or small the letters are of the problem or issue you have written down. Remember, you are now re-learning how to think creatively, so take your time. As you focus on the words you wrote down, some type of thought will begin to spark. Don’t bury it! Are you thinking of something unrelated? Something that has nothing to do with the problem? Great! You are starting to look at the issue creatively. Are you thinking of what you wrote down, literally? That’s great too. Let any and all thoughts wander into and around your brain. Do not edit them—that is your childhood creativity trying to come back out. There is a creative solution for any issue. You just have to open your mind to seeing it.

Listen.

That voice in your head—it occasionally pops up with something unexpected, something fresh and exciting. Even though you quickly shut it down, that voice is the creative side of the brain speaking up. Listening to what it is telling you is priceless. It can pop up any time—in bed at night just before falling asleep, in the shower, while taking a walk, or during a meeting. It usually comes across as an idea that strikes you as too wild or crazy to take seriously. An idea you don’t share or execute because you worry about what might happen. Or worse—you worry about what people might think. Make a choice now to change those patterns. The next time that voice in your head pops up, listen. That wild and crazy idea just might work. It might solve your problem. It might advance your career. It might save your business. It might open the door to something incredible.

Trust.

As you gain comfort with thinking creatively, you will see a new approach to genuine authenticity. An authenticity that most professionals and businesses want but few know how to achieve is revealed through the lens of creativity. With practice, focus, and trust, you will learn how to achieve the holy grail of innovation. Because it’s not those lightbulb moments of inspiration or secret sorcery that create innovation. Instead, innovation is something you can learn to create. And it all begins with getting in touch with the creativity you had as a child.


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Nir Bashan
Nir Bashan, founder and CEO of The Creator Mindset LLC, teaches business leaders how to harness the power of creativity to improve profitability, increase sales, and find more meaning in their work. His clients include AT&T, Microsoft, Ace Hardware, NFL Network, EA Sports, JetBlue, and many others. He has also worked on numerous albums, movies, and advertisements, winning a Clio Award and receiving an Emmy nomination for his creativity, and was one of the youngest professors ever selected to teach graduate courses at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He lives in Orlando, Florida. His new book is The Creator Mindset.: 92 Tools to Unlock the Secrets to Innovation, Growth, and Sustainability (McGraw-Hill; August 2020). Nir Bashan is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.