101 Ways to Become More Creative
By Michael Michalko, Author of Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques
The ability to think creatively has been proven to be one of the most important abilities a person can possess. Along with intelligence, humor, focus and perseverance, creativity is often the missing link between out-of-the-box thinking and bland, lifeless ideas. So the next time you need a creative boost, take a look at one of these 101 ways to spur your imagination.
1. Take a walk and look for something interesting.
2. Make metaphorical-analogical connections between that something interesting and your problem.
3. Open a dictionary and find a new word. Use it in a sentence.
4. Make a connection between the word and your problem.
5. How is an iceberg like an idea that might help you solve your problem?
6. Create the dumbest idea you can.
7. Ask a child.
8. Create a prayer asking for help with your problem.
9. What does the sky taste like?
10. Create an idea that will get you fired.
11. Read a different newspaper. If you read the Wall Street Journal, read the Washington Post.
12. What else is like the problem? What other ideas does it suggest?
13. What or who can you copy?
14. What is your most bizarre idea?
15. List all the things that bug you.
16. Take a different route to work.
17. Make up and sing a song about the problem while taking a shower.
18. Listen to a different radio station each day.
19. Ask the most creative person you know.
20. Ask the least creative person you know.
21. Make up new words that describe the problem. E.g., “Warm hugs” to describe a motivation problem and “Painted rain” to describe changing customer perceptions.
23. What is the essence of the problem? Can you find parallel examples of the essence in other worlds?
24. Go for a drive with the windows open. Listen and smell as you drive.
25. Combine your ideas?
26. How can a bee help you solve the problem?
27. Write your ideas on index cards. One idea per card.
28. Give yourself an idea quota of 40 ideas.
29. What can you combine?
30. Can you substitute something?
31. Which of two objects, a salt shaker or a bottle of ketchup best represents your problem? Why?
32. What can you add?
33. What one word represents the problem?
34. Draw an abstract symbol that best represents the problem.
35. Think of a two-word book title that best represents the problem. E.g., if the problem concerns receptivity to change a suggested book title could be Involuntary Willingness.
36. Write a table of contents for a book about the problem.
37. Ask the person you like least for ideas.
38. What is the opposite of your idea?
39. Imagine your idea and its opposite existing simultaneously.
41. Draw abstract symbols to describe the problem.
42. Think out loud. Verbalize your thinking out loud about the problem.
43. List 20 ideas or thoughts into two columns of 10. Randomly connect ideas from column 1 to column 2. Combine the ideas to see what you get.
44. How would Abraham Lincoln approach the problem?
45. Write the alphabet backwards.
46. How would a college professor perceive it?
47. How would an artist perceive it? A risk-taking entrepreneur? A priest?
48. Imagine you are at a nudist beach in Tahiti. How could talking with nudists help you with the problem?
49. Can you find the ideas you need in the clouds?
50. Eat spaghetti with chopsticks.
51. Make the strange familiar.
52. Make the familiar strange.
53. What if you were the richest person on earth? How will the money help you solve the problem?
54. If you could have three wishes to help you solve the problem, what would they be?
55. Wear purple underwear for inspiration
56. Write a letter to your subconscious mind about the problem.
57. How would George Clooney solve the problem?
58. Forget the problem. Come back to it in three days.
59. Look at the problem from, at least, three different perspectives.
60. Imagine the problem is solved. Work backwards from the solution to where you are now.
61. How would the problem be solved 100 years from now.
62. Think about it before you go to sleep.
63. When you wake write down everything you can remember about your dreams. Next, try to make metaphorical-analogical connections between your dreams and the problem.
64. Imagine you are on national television. Explain your ideas on how to solve the problem.
65. What one object or thing best symbolizes the problem? Keep the object on your desk to constantly remind you about the problem.
66. List all the words that come to mind while thinking about the problem. Are there any themes? Interesting words? Surprises?
67. What if ants could help you solve the problem? What are the parallels between ants and humans that can help?
68. Create a walk that physically represents your problem.
69. Talk to a stranger.
70. Keep a written record of all your ideas. Review them weekly. Can you cross-fertilize your ideas?
71. How would an Olympic gold medal winner approach the problem?
72. Read a poem and relate it to the problem. What new thoughts does the poem inspire?
73. What associations can you make between your problem and an oil spill?
74. If your problem were a garden, what would be the weeds.
75. Change your daily routines. If you drink coffee, change to tea.
76. List your assumptions and then reverse them. Can you make the reversals into new ideas?
77. Make something that symbolizes the problem and bury it.
78. Draw the problem with your eyes closed.
79. Create a dance that represents your problem.
80. Mind map your problem.
81. Become a dreamer and create fantasies that will solve the problem.
82. Become a realist and imaginer your fantasies into workable ideas.
83. Complete “How can I _____?” Then change the words five different ways.
84. Suspend logic and think freely and fluidly.
85. Learn to tolerate ambiguity.
86. What have you learned from your failures? What have you discovered that you didn’t set out to discover?
87. Make connections between subjects in different domains. Banking + cars = drive in banking.
88. Immerse yourself in the problem. Imagine you are the problem. What would you feel?
89. What are the parallels between your problem and the Viet Nam war.
90. Hang out with people from diverse backgrounds.
91. Create a funny story out of the problem.
92. Make analogies between your problem and nature.
93. Imagine you are the opposite sex. Now how do you perceive the problem?
94. Force yourself to smile all day.
95. Use mashed potatoes to make a sculpture of the problem.
96. Sit outside and count the stars.
97. Walk through a grocery store and metaphorically connect what you see with the problem.
98. How would you explain the problem to a six year old child?
99. Cut out interesting magazine and newspaper pictures. Then arrange and paste them on a board making a collage that represents the problem.
100. Write a six word book that describes your progress on the problem. E.,g, "At present all thoughts are gray," “I am still not seeing everything.”
101. Still can’t find the answer? Buy a copy of Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques.
Michael Michalko is the author of the highly acclaimed Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques; Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius; ThinkPak: A Brainstorming Card Deck and Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work.
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