Creativity techniques are methods of collecting ideas that are intended to support easier idea generation, i.e. creativity. Whenever you have a goal, i.e. you want to achieve something, and you don’t know how, you can use them. This being said, it can be used in various activities. To highlight just a few, marketing can use it for the next campaign, the company for the next innovation in production or even someone privately when they don’t know what to do next weekend.
What do I need?
For creativity there are just a few things that you need.
- Paper/ White board/ Laptop/… something where you collect the ideas (+ a pen if needed)
- An environment in which you can concentrate. Sometimes offices and co-working spaces have for example collaboration rooms where you´re able to work in a more creative way. The idea is that the surroundings should inspire you. There could be bar chairs or no chairs, colorful paintings or special furniture. Google has themes in each office which are adapted to the location. At the Munich office for example are rooms where you get a hut feeling like at the Oktoberfest. You don’t necessarily need to have a breathtaking place it could be easier, but you can do the same at home.
- The goal needs to be clear. Which question do you want to be answered afterwards?
- Within a group, you need to have a moderator. This moderator should take a neutral position and not already bring in his or her opinion when documenting and giving values.
- To really gather a wide range of ideas, I would recommend you to look for a group of people. The more diverse the team is and the more different perspectives flow into the collection of ideas, the better it can become. But of course everything should be proportionate. When I plan my weekend, I don’t sit down in a group of ten people and think.
The most common creativity technique is brainstorming. As the name suggests, it is meant to stimulate the flow of thoughts. Within this technique you would collect all ideas that you or the group has. The moderator would summarize all ideas again. This will help the participants to have an overview to all points. Afterwards, criticism is explicitly welcome. You / the group can remove all ideas which you don´t want to take. At the end you´ll have a list of the best ideas.
A quite similar technique is brainwalking. Instead of standing or sitting you would go around the room or doing other activities. The idea behind this method is to involve the movements in the brainstorming. The movements promote blood circulation in the brain. This then helps with the thinking process.
Mindmapping is one of the classics and I´m sure you´ve heard from it. But do you know what details you should pay attention to? The only thing that you need is a whiteboard or even a paper in landscape format and a pen. Write the topic in the middle of the paper. From the main topic, sub-points are distributed on the sheet. Special points can be marked in color. Try to keep the distances at the points as small as possible. The theory is that the brain needs longer to remember gaps and distances.
This method focuses on different perspectives. Since everyone plays a role, you can take a neutral role and only think about the matter. The idea is to argue less on a personal level. Similar to a fairy tale, the participants slip into different roles. The role-play contains the dreamer, the realist and the critic. This technique can be used by a single person, but several people can also participate and even more than just the three. The first thing to do is to distribute the roles. First of all, the dreamer starts. This character writes everything that comes to her/his mind. It can also contain crazy and complete unrealistic ideas. Afterward, the role of the realist starts. The realist checks the ideas of the dreamer and tests their feasibility. Subsequently, the critic starts with an even more critical eye. If there is more than one participant in this role-play, the roles are swapped. This allows more thoughts and ideas to flow in. After all this, you will only have realistic and good ideas.
Six thinking heads by de Bodo
This technique is the origin of the Walt-Disney-Method and has more facets. You can slip into six different roles, which are differentiated as colored hats. The important thing here is not to jump through the roles but to focus on one.
- blue: orderly thinking, structured
- red: emotional thinking, feelings
- white: analytical thinking, facts
- green: creative thinking, value-free
- black: critical thinking, risks
- yellow: optimistic thinking, chances
This method can be used, for example, to distribute colored slips of paper so that everyone has to take a role, or everyone comes forward to name a point to a role.
To give some food for thought on a somewhat complex creativity method, I would like to mention design thinking. This is also an innovation process. Mostly it is used for project management or marketing. This is not only about oneself or the group, but you also take external people, i.e. customers, into the conversation. This process is divided into six phases.
- Understanding: Every participant needs to understand the problem/ topic. All should have the same level of knowledge on the subject.
- Observe: At this point the customers and disinclined customers are screened. Dialogues and discussions are sought to the customers. It is also extremely important to understand the customer’s social environment so that all the important points flow into the product or process idea. Take notes, pictures, everything what you can share afterwards with the group.
- Synthesis: Within this step you would collect, interpret and note patterns based on the observations made. It´s crucial to already make assumptions at this step. The reason for this is to get everyone on the same level of knowledge.
- Idea: At this point you can use any creativity method. Afterwards, the best ideas needs to be filtered.
- Prototyping: A prototype is now to be produced from the ideas. It can be out of paper, a product, a system it can also be a new process of getting more customers. This prototype is only the first draft and can be optimized afterwards.
- Tests: At this status the prototype will be shown to the clients. Feedback is collected to improve the product. Of course, it can also result in a decision not to launch or continue the product.
There are a lot more of creativity techniques that you can use. Whenever you are faced with a problem and lack ideas, try one of these tactics. You’ll be surprised how, with a little structure, you can come up with even better ideas than you had. If possible, involve as many different people as possible. This will give you much more diverse ideas and answers.