How to spark your creative mindset
Few people embody creativity more than Salvador Dalí – the owner of some of the most original facial hair in the history of art, and a man who had a lot to say about innovation. However, while eccentric painters are often seen as the pinnacle of creativity, being imaginative and original isn’t bound by vocation.
The truth is that we can all tap into our creativity, whether we’re working in the arts or just simply working behind a desk. Those of us working in HR and employee comms can channel creativity too and use it to inspire others.
On World Creativity Day, I want to share three of Dalí’s genius insights into imagination and invention and show how you can use it to spark creativity in your organisation:
1. To gaze is to think.
Genius because... Gazing is all about paying attention to things that interest you. When you’re focused and interested, ideas come to you. You’re able to make connections that sit at the heart of all forms of creativity.
It’s important to take a bit of time out to work on challenges and try to solve problems. After all, nothing is more likely to stifle creativity than a deadline.
Some well-known companies have a workplace culture that encourages employees to explore and experiment. For example, 3M – a manufacturer of consumer products – encourages their employees to spend 15% of their time engaged in pursuing ideas that excite them. Out of this came the humble post-it note.
2. Whoever wants to engage people’s interest must provoke them.
Genius because...The thing that makes something creative – whether it’s a piece of art, or an inspiring piece of employee communication – is that it engages its audience by surprising them, catching their attention, and making them want to explore further.
This doesn’t have to be the Dalí-esque level of making people see the world in wholly new ways. Sometimes all it takes is a simple twist: an unexpected headline, a striking visual, or an alternative way of delivering information. Out with the newsletter, in with podcasts.
A corporate podcast is a fantastic vehicle for telling stories and because stories use a narrative and build suspense, they keep us interested.
As more and more of us are increasingly burned out by email, a podcast could be a good way of reaching remote workers and a disparate workforce. Not only that, but you can invite employees to vote on topics and get creative with ideas too. As Dalí would have advised, don't be afraid to be provocative.
3. Mistakes are almost always of a sacred nature.
Never try to correct them. On the contrary: rationalise them, understand them thoroughly. After that, it will be possible for you to sublimate them.
Genius because... To truly be creative, you must have the courage to try things and keep going when you fail. Some of the best campaigns, and the most inspiring, memorable work gets done because somebody says, ‘Let’s just give it a go.’
That creative mindset is one that will take chances, embrace mistakes as an opportunity to understand, improve and refine, and is willing to experiment and stand out from the crowd.
Arianna Huffington’s book was rejected 36 times before she went on to build her publishing empire. Meanwhile, Google has often been in the news for rewarding employees for their failures. The plain fact is that you won’t hit upon a truly audacious, innovative idea without a few mistakes or should we say learnings along the way.
Create an office culture where mistakes aren’t the end of the world, and you’ll end up with a workplace where people are comfortable taking risks.
Okay, I don’t have Dalí’s stylish moustache, or his artistic genius, but I am really passionate about the importance of creative thinking, and the way that it can elevate the way we communicate.
So, having given you Dalí’s top three tips for World Creativity Day, here are mine:
1. Give yourself time and space to play with ideas.
Don’t sit at a desk trying to be creative. Get outside and go for a walk. Wander around a library looking at book titles. You could even try knitting. You need to give yourself the freedom to be in a relaxed state of mind, so that disparate ideas can float and percolate through your mind.
Moreover, allowing employees a bit of downtime increases their wellbeing and happiness. A recent poll of HR professionals revealed that an overwhelming 86% of them felt that their employees needed more wellbeing and support.
Aetna, the global insurance company, is one of the most high-profile examples of how to introduce wellbeing at work. The company has a dedicated mindfulness officer who promotes programmes to help employees feel less anxious and stressed. And this in turn leads to more creativity.
2. Keep a journal for inspiration.
When you see things that catch your eye – quotes, adverts, items of clothing, song titles, anything – jot them down. Take pics. Think about why you like them, or what it was that made them stand out. Over time, you’ll build up a bank of ideas that will help spark your creative thinking.
Richard Branson is one of the many famous people to keep a journal and swear by it. The founder of Virgin once said: “Some of Virgin’s most successful companies have been born from random moments – if we hadn’t opened our notebooks they would never have happened.”
So, take a leaf out of Branson’s notebook and start writing things down when inspiration strikes.
3. Get ideas from other people.
Creativity is often born out of different ideas coming together at just the right moment. It’s rarely the product of complete isolation. So be inspired by, and learn from, others.
There are lots of fascinating resources that focus on creativity and the creative process. Two of my favourites are a book called The Art of Noticing by Rob Walker (£12.99, Ebury Press) and the Creative Pep Talk podcast.
How will you spark your creative mindset? Let me know what sparks your creativity.