23. March 2016 · Comments Off on 5 Killer Creativity Tips to Make Yourself Happy · Categories: creativity · Tags:

Being creative is closely connected with being happy. Think about the times when you’ve been most creative. The times when hours have passed in the blink of an eye, when you’ve been completely lost in your creativity, highly focused and flowing freely. Happy times, yes?

So how can you reach this kind of creativity more often? Here are 5 killer tips to help you be more creative, and therefore make yourself happy:

1. Create what you want to create right now. When you choose a new project to start on, do you go through a list of possibilities that you started years ago, and feel obliged to work through them all one by one? Creativity thrives on energy and flow and your current waves of inspiration. If you can’t get motivated about a project you thought of years ago, but a new idea you had yesterday fills you with excitement, then GO with the natural flow, follow that new idea, and create what makes you happy.

2. Acknowledge your creative achievements. It’s so easy to overlook all you create because you’re with yourself all the time and lose objectivity. Keep a notebook or chart of all your creative achievements. They don’t have to be huge things like writing a novel or recording an album. Record all creative acts, from writing a few lines of poetry, to cooking a delicious meal, to taking a new series of photos. Then when you look back at the end of each month you’ll be amazed at how creative you’ve been without realising.

3. Support others in being more creative. If you’re struggling to be creative, the tendency is to want to preserve all the energy you have for yourself. But ironically, it will actually work against you. If however you freely encourage and support others in being more creative, you’ll find you’re naturally more creative yourself, and your energy, ideas and enthusiasm is rejuvenated by seeing how others have progressed with your kind encouragement. Everyone’s happier, everyone’s more creative!

4. Develop creativity habits. Many of us feel we can’t be tied down by anything so restrictive as a daily habit or routine. We’re creative artists, we must be free! The truth is, the key to being your most creative is to find the patterns and habits of creating that work best for you. We each have a unique formula for creativity. Experiment, find what works best for you, the ways you’re most happy creating, and stick with it for as long as it continues to work.

5. Shake off the “shoulds”. Do you feel all you ever create is what everyone else thinks you should create? Your family, friends, teachers, role models, peers? This is always going to end in disappointment as your motive for creating is based on someone else’s dream and desire. Shake of the shoulds, listen to your own creative dreams, and create what you know you need to create. Creating what makes you happy is the best thing you can do for yourself and for everyone else.

28. February 2016 · Comments Off on Tips for Tapping into Your Creativity · Categories: creativity · Tags: ,

Waste materials. I have a really hard time with this. I know I need to waste materials in order to practice any sort of craft, especially when it comes to things like experimenting with my Silhouette Cameo and learning to sew. I want everything I do to have a resulting use and purpose. If I’m going to take the time to do it, I want to have something decent to show as a tangible result. But? This really isn’t practical. There need to be “oops” projects and a stash of practice materials.

Don’t push creativity into your free time. Make it a priority and schedule time for it. Oof, this one hits hard! I’ve been trying to schedule craft and blogging time in the evenings after I get home from work. But add in dog-walking, working out, cooking dinner, etc, and before I know it, it’s 10 p.m. and I’m scrambling to finish tomorrow’s post (ahem—that’s exactly what I’m doing now—ahem).

Don’t rush. This one is a direct result of the point above. And I am Oh. So. Guilty. I am constantly thinking of what comes next; check this task off the list so I can keep going, going, going. I am working on slowing down. But it doesn’t come as easy.

Try a different routine. I am an extreme creature of habit. I love schedules. I love to know what’s coming next. But I also know that changing things up can result in a new point of view. And I should make a more concerted effort to shake my usual routine and try something differently.

Relax and get out of your own head. Enough said here.
Create for yourself. Everything else will fall into place. Oh my golly, this is such a good mantra. Why do humans feel it necessarily to constantly compare themselves to others? I do a lot of self-comparing. Maybe not aloud (maybe just aloud to Tom), but definitely inside my own head. I need to shut that voice down.

Do. Not. Multi-task. This is by far the hardest habit to break! Modern technology makes it SO hard to focus for any period of time, whether it’s 15 minutes or 5 hours. I’m drawn to the idea of shutting down my phone for an afternoon and seeing where life takes me. Or maybe a whole weekend!

15. February 2016 · Comments Off on 6 Tips to Help Ignite Your Creativity and Increase Your Success · Categories: creativity · Tags:

The list of 6 pointers below which I’ve compiled from various successful people will help ignite your creativity and re-charge your motivation:

Try something new for 30 days
This is a great suggestion which I recently heard in a presentation from Matt Cutts who is a search optimization engineer at google. Trying something new for a month is a fantastic way to re-build your creativity and whet your curiosity. This can also help you discover the thing that you love doing in case you weren’t sure what it was to begin with.
In terms of the Internet there are countless of free and premium courses and products available in which you can learn or discover a new skill which you can use to enhance your creativity.
Do what you love
People who make a living from doing what they love instantly have a head-start on those who hate or are indifferent to their jobs. Apart from the fact that you feel good doing what you love, you also have no negative baggage which comes from the stress and resentment of doing something you don’t like.
If you don’t know what you love doing, then maybe applying point 1 above might help you.
Keep your goals to yourself – at least in the beginning
Sometimes when you decide to muster up the courage to try something new it’s a good idea to keep your goals a secret initially. This may sound counter-intuitive because most people think that by making their intentions known they can increase their visibility and hence their chances of success because somebody out there might offer some help. Well that’s true to an extent but in a lot of cases the people you might be sharing your goals with might not have the same enthusiasm and mindset as you, and quite often they will try to talk you out of your “crazy ideas” and tell you that it’s just too hard.
Therefore, unless you’re certain that you are talking to people with a similar attitude as yours, hold on to your goals and plans until you’ve put them into practice.
Be curious
When you start digging deeper into something out of curiosity, you usually find that not only do you enhance your knowledge about that thing, but sometimes you might come up with creative ideas which you would never have thought of if you hadn’t indulged your curiosity.
So next time you are reading or watching a tutorial about how to do something for your blog, why not delve deeper and experiment with what you’ve learnt and see what happens.
Improving yourself both in terms of knowledge and in general can only serve to benefit you and those around you. Most of us are increasingly becoming aware of the huge economic changes sweeping the world’s societies in terms of employment and what it means to be financially secure. Having a regular job for 20, 30 or 50 years until you retire is a thing of the past. The new reality is that people who can re-skill quickly and who regularly add to their existing skills will be better off in today’s economic climate.
The ability to focus determines the outcome of the task you are trying to accomplish. Therefore whenever you set yourself a task, see it through to completion by doing regular highly focused little chunks at a time. Doing small manageable chunks can make the highest mountain seems like a mole hill.

08. February 2016 · Comments Off on 12 Unusual Ways To Spur Creativity During Meetings · Categories: creativity · Tags: , , ,

Ask Your Team To Think Fast!

Encourage thinking on your feet, so every meeting typically includes a spur of the moment prompt, where each person quickly throws out an idea that comes to mind. Crazy is OK.

We then document these and decide which to go deeper on as a group. Don’t focus on what isn’t possible or what’s hard; rather, focus on how we can solve it. Execution is a function of a decision to commit to a project, then the discipline to follow through.

We record our actions and the teammate briefs the team weekly until complete. This keeps us all accountable to one another.

Show Gratitude
In order to get the most out of my team for a brainstorming session, we ask everyone to reach out via phone to someone they are grateful towards prior to the session. When we start the meeting, everyone comes in with a positive and open mind. The results are spectacular.

Ask For The Worst Idea In The Room
When creativity is at a standstill or a project is particularly difficult, I like to challenge our team members to come up with the WORST idea possible. Sometimes we even make it a competition, trying to one-up each other with even more ridiculous and off-the-wall ideas.

This is a great way to infuse fun and laughter in to what might otherwise be a stressful and tedious meeting. Usually after a few minutes of sharing terrible ideas, someone will have a breakthrough. In fact, some of the most successful ideas can be re-imagined versions of the off-the-wall ideas someone posed just minutes earlier.

At the end of every brainstorming meeting, we assign next steps, go around the room to ensure everyone knows her individual follow-ups, and set clear next steps for regrouping.

Know Your Team
One thing that helps to spur creativity is to have your team take a personality trait test and share their test results amongst their peers at a meeting. It’s a fun and different way of helping to foster a deeper understanding about each team member that will incite new and more effective/creative ways to think collectively.

Make It A Team Effort
To spur creativity, we play “Yes… and….” For a given problem each team member provides a solution that is not to be judged by anyone. Instead, another team says, “Yes I like this idea because…. and we can also….”

Slowly the team will loosen up and come out with a long list of creative approaches. Of course, not all will be practical in the end. However, some of the most creative solutions can be gathered this way. Once we pick our way to go, we use transparency of progress as a way to create accountability.

Incorporate Humor
Humor is brain juice. Dopamine and endorphins keeps tension low, morale high, and bring people toward a state of engagement. Everything in a brainstorm session should be fair game for making FUN of. Bring people into the room who can make people laugh.

Extra credit points for having Play-Doh and other fun tactile objects that stimulate various regions of the brain. Also make sure people are fed. Forming new ideas takes up a lot of chemical resources.

Know When To Stop
Sometimes there’s only one right answer to a creative conundrum, from how the trade show booth should look to the headline and font for the new campaign. The simple, elegant, smart choice wins, and often the best answer comes up early on because it didn’t require too much thinking.

“Let’s feature our customers” makes perfect sense for a barbershop looking to deepen its local roots. But the real creative work begins in fleshing out the look, feel and execution of the campaign.

Take A Walk
When I want to get the creative juices flowing on our team, we go for a walk. We call these “walkies,” where we go for 15 minutes and talk about life. Generally, the conversation always goes back to work.

There is something about nature that spurs a person to be more creative. It will help you see the world better. I find that being healthy and alert will always boost up the creative side in people as well.

Provide Special Incentives
We value the creativity of our employees in routine brainstorming sessions and always encourage them to think “outside the box.” To show our appreciation for their creativity and implementation of a successful project, we reward them with special incentives like a weekend getaway.

Showcase Your Ideas
Our office has a massive whiteboard that we use to brainstorm and stay focused. Being able to walk into the office everyday and see your ideas in front of you is a constant reminder of what needs to get done. It is definitely an accomplishment to be able to erase something when it has been completed.

Don’t Brainstorm
Brainstorming sessions with “no bad ideas” and “freedom of thought” suffer from the paradox of choice. The participants aren’t given specific enough goals or parameters and often don’t come up with the most effective ideas.

In place of a brainstorming session, we break each task down into very specific areas and have each team or individual attack each idea with a purpose. This gives them not only a starting location, but also a direction, and produces great results when combined with other teams/individuals who are given different tasks and directions.

Bring Wine—And Demand Results
Every Friday my team gets together for what we call the “Eatin’ Meetin’.” This is our time to relax, throw around ideas and talk about our deliverables for the week. Everyone eats cheese, drinks wine and brainstorms.

When someone throws out an idea and it’s well received, we simply talk about how we can make it happen and who can lend a hand. And that becomes their deliverable to report on for the next Eatin’ Meetin’.

If it’s a new social tactic, they automatically know that I’ll want to see numbers. If it’s a new content idea, they automatically know I’ll want to know if the client liked and approved the piece. It’s understood that even the most exciting, cool idea will need results.

01. February 2016 · Comments Off on 7 Creative Tips for Learning a Language · Categories: creativity

Liven things up Nothing’s better to keep up your motivation than some real-life activities that use the language you are learning and show off its culture at the same time. Cooking classes are a good option for the food enthusiast as frying up gastronomic delicacies means you’ll learn your fruit and vegetable words and take home some target language recipes to boot (the best kind of homework).

Get starry eyed Whether you’re into astrology or not, once you do your research you’ll find that most cultures have their own take on predicting the future and finding magic in the signs and symbols of the world. Sign up for a daily horoscope for the chance to learn a special set of terms that can come in handy next time you offer up your palm for a reading. If you don’t like looking at the sky try checking out the local stars and celebrity gossip scene instead to figure out who makes your target language’s culture turn ‘round.

Follow the leaders So much of what we learn when we study a new language revolves around the country or countries where it is spoken. References to politics and government are hard to get around when you meet native speakers and you don’t want to find yourself unarmed next time cocktail party conversation strikes. So, find a few commentators or leaders to follow on Twitter. It is a great, low-key way to keep the political section of the paper at bay and give your statesmenship lingo a work-out.

Laugh it up Comic books, illustrated stories and cartoons are a fun way to keep learning light and reduce the target language text load for weary eyes. Plus, the images help you plant lasting seeds of memory as researchers say humor opens up cognitive doors and lets in the learning light.

Sing yourself silly Songs are a perfect way to internalize the sounds and rhythms of the language you are learning and memorizing the lyrics goes a long way in impressing hosts when you lift a glass to cheers at your next karaoke gig.

Round up some good reads There’s certainly more to language than text book reading so figure out what you like to read, whether it’s the sports section, Sunday travel magazine or daily tips and tricks for going green, and use a language reading suggestion app like Lingua.ly to find real and engaging online content that’s sort-able by interest category and pitched at your unique learning level.

Add some bling to your words Vocabulary has come a long way since the black and white textbook lists of yesteryear. These days digital flashcards exist in all shapes and sizes and let you add images, audio and even example sentences to help you make dynamic memories. With so many stimulating resources to get your cognitive juices flowing, learners have no excuse for long lists filled with parts of speech and flat definitions.

29. January 2016 · Comments Off on 10 Tips for Managing Creative People · Categories: creativity · Tags: ,

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1. Develop ideas
Start with a collaborative environment. Work with creative people to develop concepts but avoid specific, detailed instructions on what a project should look like. Explain parameters clearly—such as the feel or look a project should have—and let the designer go to work. Check in often to see how the project is going and help in its development.

The creative personality is not one to just follow a set of rules, and that trait makes them successful in creative and design-oriented fields. Give them room to develop concepts without constant observation.

Coach workers rather than dictate a set of rules to them. Avoid planning out everything that should be done in advance and give employees freedom to make choices so they feel some creative control over projects.

2. Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm
Much of the creative process is organic and creative people like to think and imagine. Because a characteristic of a right-brain thinkers is to process information in sometimes random and varied orders, brainstorming sessions can be beneficial. Toss out many ideas (follow the “no idea is stupid rule”) and keep quick notes of concepts that are workable.

Encourage workers to brainstorm with each other. You don’t have to be present for good ideas to emerge. Tracy Collins, a newspaper manager, offered this advice in the 2008 edition of Design Journal: “Help them develop brainstorming alliances that will strengthen teamwork within the visual group, and have that group present their ideas to you.”

3. Foster a creative workspace
A row of gray cubicles will not foster creativity. Litter your workspace with color and items that will inspire workers. Look for interesting artwork or showcase some of the work your company has done. Is the room silent? Think about playing music at a certain time of day. Let the employees pick the tunes.

Rearrange the workspace to facilitate communication and collaboration. Paint a white wall orange and add a piece of artwork to it. Set aside an area with couches and tables to employees to relax and chat. One of the world’s top companies, Google, is known for its super-modern workspaces which feature lots of color and modern “cubicles.”

Be flexible with work schedules if possible. Maybe some of your workers would benefit from a schedule that does not fit in the 9-to-5 mold. Try to accommodate shift variances for people to optimize their skills.

4. Provide feedback

Let your employees know how they are doing. It is easy for someone who primarily uses a right-brained style of thinking to become attached to their work emotionally. During critiques, keep the focus on an employee’s work. Choose words carefully.

In any creative field, much of what “works” or does not can be a matter of personal preference. Weigh this when critiquing a project. If you do not like a creative piece look, ask yourself several questions. Does it work for what the client wants? Does it follow our guidelines of style and is it technically sound?

If the project meets these guidelines and you still don’t like it, the difference may just be a matter of taste. Remember you may not like everything that comes across your desk. It may sound overly simple but people have different styles and like different things. It does not make something right or wrong; it is just a matter of taste.

Do set clear boundaries in black and white areas. A common concern among creative, for example, can be meeting deadlines. Start with how much you like the direction of the project but emphasize that the team is waiting for everyone’s contribution so the project can be completed. Outline a clear set of steps to meet that goal.

5. Develop style parameters
Although creative workers like their space, it is a good idea to have some guidelines in place. Develop and post a set technical specifications, communication standards and deadline policies.

For certain types of work where visual consistency is important—such as design in magazines, newspapers and some websites—develop a basic set of style rules. Outline what fonts and colors are acceptable; set guidelines for images. Also set guidelines for breaking the rules—what is the threshold, who approves the “rule-breaking.”

6. Don’t fear failure
An international Mercedes-Benz ad campaign in early 2011 focused on left-brain and right-brain traits in a series of print advertisements. These ads showed the differences in thinking styles visually. The result was visually stunning images that make you think, but did they sell the product described? The creative agency took quite a risk with this edgy campaign, but I doubt people who saw the ad related it to buying a car. The result could be viewed as both a success and a failure.

Don’t take away work from someone after a failed project. That is the time to “get back on the bike” and try something else. If an employee did good work but a project just did not come together give them another chance and talk about the small success and failures that contributed to the final result. Creative people can sometimes have egos and typically need to feel confident to find continued success.

7. Coach principles of communication
Sometimes it can be very frustrating for visual people to communicate with non-visual workers. Your visual group may be able to “see” an idea during a conversation while others cannot. Coach those workers on how to better communicate their ideas.

Sometimes the solution can be as simple as having sketch pads and pens at all meetings so those visual ideas can be put out there for everyone. Ask questions to help visual thinkers learn to better articulate their thoughts as well: “I don’t understand. Please talk me through this one more time.”

Help designers learn to explain their decision-making and why things look a certain way. Don’t accept “because it looks cool” as an answer; push creatives to justify the reasons why something works or does not.

8. Different is good
Don’t focus on differences as a negative attribute; use them to your team’s advantage. Different styles of thinking and communication can be a challenge in the workplace but try to focus on how to use those differences.

Creative people think in a way that is likely to challenge the more structured process of managers. Keep your cool during these challenges. It may be frustrating but the same thought process that challenges your rules about a dress code, for example, is the same process that got you stellar results on a project. Learn to mesh your styles effectively but keep lines of communication open and appreciating difference.

9. Emphasize learning
Technology is changing the way we work at a pace that is hard to match. Make sure your employees are learning new things and keeping up.

Print designers should be dabbling in web design. Encourage and find opportunities for those who are not. Web designers should have to participate in a print project or two.

Provide learning materials for your staff as well. Subscribe to industry magazines and have them available. Send links to neat ideas or online articles. Show that you are seeking out learning opportunities as well.

10. Start daydreaming
Daydreaming is at the core of problem-solving, according to an article by Amy Fries for Psychology Today. Don’t stop your best employees when they zone out at their desks; sometimes that is when the creative process is happening.

Further, encourage mental time-outs. Several companies known for innovation—Google, 3M and Gore-Tex—offer employees free time, just to sit and think. When have your best ideas hit—in the shower, at the dinner table? Giving employees more time to think about projects may increase overall productivity.

20. January 2016 · Comments Off on 5 Reasons to Work With Creative Staffing Agencies · Categories: creativity · Tags:

Need to Hire? Creative Staffing Agencies Can Help

Here are five reasons why a creative staffing agency can make job-filling easier:

Industry and local market expertise. Creative recruiters understand the industry inside and out, not to mention the local markets they serve. In fact, many of TCG’s creative recruiters used to work in the industry as designers, writers, marketers and more. This background gives our creative recruiters unparalleled insight into candidates’ abilities as well as how those skill sets can meet your specific business needs.
Access to a breadth of top candidates. Creative recruiters focus on building extensive pools of creative talent. You may write the best job description, but are you certain it’s reaching the best candidates? With a creative staffing agency, you have access to a wide range of potential hires that may otherwise never have seen your job opening. In addition, creative recruiters reach professionals who aren’t actively looking for a job, but may be interested if the right opportunity is presented to them.
Cost. Employee turnover costs can be high. Did you know that the cost of a bad hire can equal 30 percent of that person’s initial-year salary? Knowing how much a bad hire can set you back financially makes it worth your while to ensure the candidates you do bring on work out.
Time. Time is money, especially when you think about the opportunity cost of evaluating resumes and portfolios, and then comparing candidates’ skills and experience levels. Save yourself this time. Instead, spend it on leading your team and focusing on business initiatives.
Flexibility. Quick access to creative freelancers allows you the flexibility to staff up or down to meet business needs. Maintaining that perfect equilibrium on your team is tricky, but it’s that much easier when you rely on a creative staffing agency to help you bring on temporary workers when project demands require it.

10. January 2016 · Comments Off on 5 Tips To Boost Your Creativity As A Photographer · Categories: creativity

While there is no universal recipe for taking a good shot, every photographer has a set of tricks, which invariably come in handy. Well, here are mine.

1. First of all, tell a story.
Find the motivation for each object in the scene; some integrating vector. What are these objects? How did they come here? Who brought them here? Who is the protagonist? What’s going on here?

A good photo is like the climax scene in the movie. Looking at this kind of photo, the viewer will be able to see what happened before, and can guess what will happen after. For your photo, invent a coherent story (with a beginning, middle, and end), and then simply capture a culminating point.

2. Create and use mind maps.
It’s the perfect exercise to make your mind work and get it running. I believe you can easily find detailed articles about how to use the mind maps, but here is a summary: write the main theme (the object you are working with, the mood you want to convey, and so on) in the center, draw rays of main branches (shooting conditions, associations, available props, supporting ideas, location). Refine each of these parameters using the supporting branches. Then, ask yourself which of the two resulting details fit together best? And then build your picture on this finding.

When I first heard about mind maps, it seemed like a pointless idea. I thought I could just write down associations in a column with the same success. But mind maps can give you something better than that. They provide a structure, allowing you to combine a lot of elements and make connections which you never think to do at first glance. Give them a chance. They’re perfectly simple and useful.

3. Do not allow the material to control your imagination.
We often think to ourselves, “If I had this kind of camera…” or “If I had this prop…” But you already have everything you need. You have an imaginative mind, so use it! Photos do not have to be realistic. If you need a dragon, you do not necessarily need to recreate a giant fire-breathing lizard, you can just cut it out of paper.

4. Make a tribute
This is an interesting and creative process, and a good practice for using various artistic means. Do you have an interest in painting or film? Select an inspiring artist, director, or creator, and try to make a shot in his style. Analyze his or her distinctive techniques, colors, angles, and try to tell your own story within these parameters. You don’t just get a good exercise, but you also create an interesting postmodern piece of work.

5. Start a big project.
Select a theme and promise yourself to follow through and produce your best work. What is the biggest series you’ve ever made? Five images? Ten? Fifteen? Multiply this number by two.

01. January 2016 · Comments Off on Your Guide to Building the Best Creative Team · Categories: creativity · Tags: , ,

Your Prescription for Building the Best Creative Team

As you chart new goals and plans, add “building the best creative team” to your list. Follow my prescription below, which includes five must-haves when building effective teams:

Right People: In order to build the best creative team, you need the best people and the right number of them. Three ways to assess if you have the right people is by evaluating technical skills, cultural fit, productivity and team size.
Skills. With any team, you need to begin with the right intellectual assets. This is the science part of team-building. Your job is to ensure the individuals on your team have the right technical skills and expertise (like software knowledge) as well as the right level of experience.

Cultural fit. Can you define what makes a good match for your team and organization? This is the art of team-building. After all, there’s a job description and there’s the right fit. The right fit needs more than the rote skills to execute the tasks associated with the job; he or she must also have the personality and work style to fit in with the culture of the team and company.

Team size. Integral to team-building success is making sure you have the right staffing level. Do you have the flexibility to staff up or down during peak times? Will you be able to maintain your core skill set regardless of slowdowns or busy seasons? Allow yourself the opportunity to staff up or down to meet business needs. Being able to add unique skills as needed to handle elevated work periods keeps teams running smoothly.

Right Process: Having the best creative team means team members are not just passionate and creative, but also productive and efficient. And to be productive and efficient, you need clearly defined expectations. Effective teams have a leader who sets tangible targets, such as deadlines, production schedules and scopes, in order to achieve team goals and expectations, with checks and balances along the way. Creative teams can be brilliant, but you can’t overlook the need for defined process, direction and focus to keep that brilliance on target.
Right Leadership and Leadership Approach: Without a doubt, your creative team leader must have the technical expertise to communicate with the team, but that’s not what will make them an effective leader. The best leaders need to identify and communicate a vision and inspire others to create. They must also be humble, approachable and decisive. A strong team leader should know when to be open to the team’s thoughts and when to stand firm and make a decision. On creative teams, the most effective leadership approach is often one that lacks hierarchy. Avoid being too rigid. Instead, focus on:
Having open communication between team members and management. While there should be rules of engagement, it should also be understood that there are no dumb questions.

Using team-based approaches to solving problems. Don’t just tell; ask how others would handle problems or setbacks.

Fostering a safe-to-fail and safe-to-risk environment. Creativity can’t thrive if risk and failure aren’t an option.

Right Environment: Creative teams need creative workspaces. Inspiration can be hard to come by when teams are divided, isolated or restricted. Find opportunities in your team’s physical environment to inspire creativity. That may mean using a conference room as a collaborative work environment. It may mean structuring desks like a bull pen, with all team members working in open space The right environment might also mean access to proprietary tools and software, even when team members are away from the office. Flexibility to work from home and access information whenever creativity strikes – even in the middle of the night – means your creative team can be effective and productive anytime, anywhere.

Right Vision and Strategic Direction: It’s integral that your creative team understands the bigger purpose of the project, department and company. What’s the mission of each? How do each of those individual missions come together to serve one greater goal? For example, if you are building a website, every team member, from the UX designer to the copywriter to the web developer, needs to be unified on mission, goal and purpose, not just for their roles, but for the final deliverable. This is the core of an effective team – understanding not just your individual contributions, but how those fit into the greater picture.

28. December 2015 · Comments Off on 7 Tips for Conquering a Creative Block · Categories: creativity · Tags: , , ,

1. Choose a Tool That Inspires You

You know that feeling of staring at a blank Microsoft Word document, just watching the cursor slowly blink? If that image fills you with dread, it’s time to find a new tool. The right set of working tools can make the creative process that much easier—when you really like your toolkit, you look forward to creating even more.

Some suggestions to test: For digital work, Ulysses is a simple writing tool that allows you to set small, incremental goals (based on things like word count and time spent in-app) to get you going. FiftyThree’s Paper app is also an excellent tool for sketching and illustrating. The analog counterpart to these is a lovely Moleskine notebook and pens that make your work feel lavish and fun.

2. Start Early

Little-known fact: You have more willpower early in the day (before decision fatigue has a chance to set in). That means it’s easier to focus on the important things before life’s distractions take over.

3. Pick a Goal or Focus for the Session

Pick a single, achievable outcome to focus on. This could be an intro paragraph or a whole chapter; a rough sketch or a detailed illustration; a single screen design or an entire user flow.

You should be going for depth, not breadth, here, and should be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. Focus your idea, and follow-through will become more manageable. If inspiration doesn’t hit one day, pull from your spark file and pick a gem from the past to work from.

You can also try focusing your session with a time constraint. Commit to just five minutes of creative time, no matter what. Within five minutes’ time, you’ll find you either want to keep going or scrap your work. Either outcome is productive. It is much easier to edit and improve an existing piece of work than to start over from square one. Five minutes up, and you’ve already done the hard part.

4. Do Things Backward to Get the Juices Flowing

This tip comes from a creative writing class I took in college: Write the first five things that come to your mind every morning—with your non-dominant hand. You’ll be surprised at the range of thoughts, images, and ideas that come out of this exercise. You may or may not turn those images into something more substantial; the more important part is to warm up those creative muscles and get something down on paper.

You can get a similar effect by switching up your medium. If you’re a writer, try a sketching session. Designer? Try writing instead. See what comes out of it. No judgement, just exploration.

5. Observe and Record to Get Something—Anything—on the Page

Watch a conversation unfold in real-time and take note. Observe the world around you and record what you’re seeing and experiencing. Or, copy something that already exists to get started—write someone else’s words or wireframe the work of a designer you admire, and then edit and tweak until you’re warmed up for your own piece.

Sometimes just the act of writing or sketching itself can help warm you up, even if it’s not your own work. (Hunter Thompson famously typed out The Great Gatsby and A Farewell to Arms as a way to learn about different writing styles.)

6. Leave a Sentence Unfinished

This tip is less to help you get over your creative block today, and more to help you avoid it tomorrow: When you wrap up for the day, leave your work in a good place, but slightly unfinished before shutting down. That way, you’ll have a place to pick up tomorrow—without once more facing the anxiety of a blank page.

Ernest Hemingway would regularly stop writing mid-sentence, and leave just enough to pick right up the next day. If it worked for him, why not you?

7. If All Else Fails, Do Nothing

Here’s a pro tip from the great writer Raymond Chandler on his writing ritual:

The important thing is that there should be a space of time, say four hours a day at least, when a professional writer doesn’t do anything else but write. He doesn’t have to write, and if he doesn’t feel like it, he shouldn’t try. He can look out of the window or stand on his head or writhe on the floor. But he is not to do any other positive thing, not read, write letters, glance at magazines, or write checks. Write or nothing.

If you’re completely stuck on your creative project, don’t work on it, but take Chandler’s advice and don’t allow yourself to do anything else, either. Don’t ruin the time spent not creating by making it about consuming.