| Feb 16, 2022

Letting Creativity Out of Its Box

We’re often told that being creative means thinking outside of the box, but are we the ones keeping our creativity in the box?
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It’s common to think of the ability to be creative as a talent given to a lucky few. However, thinking that way keeps us from accessing the inherent creativity that is in all of us. If you change the way you view creativity, you may find that you’re far more creative than you thought.

Forget about creativity being a left-brained or right-brained activity. Science is now showing that being creative engages both hemispheres of the brain in different ways — because creativity is so much bigger than the tiny boxes we’re used to squeezing it into.

Most people want to be creative, and I’d bet the majority of them already are — they just don’t know it. Last summer, I had a young, bright intern who I worked with closely. During one of our conversations between meetings, she shared that she didn’t think she was very creative.

I was surprised and asked her to clarify. She said that she could never put together the eye-catching PowerPoints produced by marketing or create art like some of her friends did. Specifically, she said she’d never been “arts-and-craftsy.” I listened and realized she just couldn’t see it yet. After a few moments, I asked how many times she had solved a problem in our office? Or how often she’d created something new? She was able to list numerous examples, all of which required great creative effort on her part. I told her that is creativity, and we had a good discussion. She needed to expand her way of seeing herself and the possibilities.

She contacted me the other day about an article related to creativity, and I asked if she thought differently about creativity now. Her reply? Absolutely. She just needed to change her mindset — maybe you do, too.

Understanding Creativity – It Means More Than You Think

Most of us equate creativity to things like art and writing and music, but I’d like to propose an additional definition. Creativity can manifest in harnessing innovation, seizing an opportunity, or solving a problem within a confined space. The best doctors come up with creative treatment plans for their patients. A construction worker can solve a technical problem an architect may not have foreseen. Creativity manifests itself in innumerable ways. Even as you read this, you’re likely coming up with examples in your own field.

There’s so much more to creativity than the tiny box we so often use to contain it, and expanding your personal definition can unlock your potential. Marketing creativity often comes in the form of innovation of an idea that’s already there. The best team leaders are excellent at fostering brilliant group brainstorm sessions — which are their own form of creativity. Every career has potential for creativity, as long as we recognize it for what it is. Rather than a gift, creativity is a decision.

Don’t Believe You’re Creative? Think Again

“I’m not creative.” I hear it all the time — and it’s rarely true. Not only are you creative, chances are you’re already utilizing your creative side without even realizing it. Do co-workers call you a problem solver? Are you a consistent contributor in huddle meetings? Creativity can be found in unexpected situations if you look for them.

I have an activity I like to suggest to people struggling to feel creative. Ask yourself, or even friends and family, to name ten times you were the one to come up with the solution to a problem. Maybe you’ll be surprised. Maybe you won’t stop at ten. Creativity is an essential part of a successful career in any industry, and once you open up to the idea that you are creative, you’ll tap into that part of yourself more and more frequently.


The Keys To Setting Your Creative Side Free

Creativity requires space. I often get my best ideas during a hot shower or while on a slow walk or a commute.  These activities inherently create mental space. It’s not so much about making yourself be creative as it is about letting yourself, although that’s not always natural. We tend to wake up in the morning and immediately look at our phones — filling up that mental space. Our days are spent surrounded by people, and often in meetings. In the evenings, we frequently plop down in front of the TV until it’s time for bed. When do our brains get a chance to be creative in the midst of so much activity? Most of us aren’t handed free creative time — we have to carve it out.

So what’s the best way? You might have to experiment to find out because, just like your creative potential, the method to unlock it isn’t one-size-fits-all. But one critical element that works for nearly everyone is to simply slow down. We spend so much of our time racing around, amped up on adrenaline that we never give our minds room to breathe and expand, which isn’t good for any kind of creativity. Slowing down and giving yourself more free time to think about things other than the problem you’re trying to solve or the marketing campaign you’re stuck on can feel counterintuitive, but you may find it actually makes you more efficient.

When you give your creative mind the space it needs, epiphanies can happen in the most unexpected moments. For example, when I’m stuck on a problem, I’ll get as far as I can with it, then I’ll walk away and do something else for a while — something less thoughtful like cleaning or filing. When I come back, it’s almost as if my subconscious was working on the problem in the meantime, and I have a solution or a framework. I often do this with presentation development or writing — I’ll do the leg work of creating the template, then I’ll walk away and come back to it with a more formed idea of the flow. Try things like a lunchtime walk or minute meditations. And don’t be shy about bringing your creativity tools into the workplace. What works for you might work for your team as well.

Make a Plan and Have Some Fun

You are creative, I promise! Everything begins by making that decision for yourself. The more you believe that, the more you’ll utilize it. Like anything else in life, you’ll get better with practice — so give yourself permission and dive in! Try approaching it like a business plan, if that feels more comfortable.

Have a creative goal in mind, with a path toward success. Experiment with ways to give yourself the space to be creative and figure out what works for you. Turn off the television and turn on your creative juices. Most importantly, have some fun! Creativity is best in a fun environment.

The key to unlocking your creativity is to first decide that you’re going to approach your work creatively. After that, it’s simply a matter of recognizing and understanding what your creativity looks like — then making space for it to flourish.

Amanda E. Rogers
Executive Author

Vice President, Marketing & Innovation, Merchants Fleet

Amanda E. Rogers serves as Vice President of Marketing & Innovation at Merchants Fleet, where she oversees innovation & ESG initiatives and all marketing activity for a nearly $2 billion asset company view profile


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