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Think like a Kid Watching Clouds

photo credit: http://bit.ly/1POObcF

I recently read in an Inc. Magazine article, “The average person rarely considers how ordinary things can be made better or improved–those with the entrepreneurial spirit can’t help themselves.”

I’m laughing, remembering when I envisioned how a portable x-ray machine could be re-made to look like a cartoon snail or how institutional vertical blinds could be transformed into swaying 18th-century dancers. I can’t help myself; the world is full of potential for whimsical improvement! This sort of creative, entrepreneurial spirit is badly needed by many organizations and individuals struggling to push progress.

Thinking creatively means allowing your mind to connect seemingly unrelated dots. Do you remember watching clouds as a kid and seeing shapes? “That one looks like an elephant!” As adults, most people lose the ability to see something for anything except what we know it to be. That limitation clogs thinking and stalls “creative problem solving.” What problem are you wrestling with, unable to see new solutions for?

To build your creative thinking ability you have to make it a part of your daily habits like brushing your teeth and putting on underwear (please tell me you do that!). Try starting with this simple doodling game for exercising creative muscle: Grab a pencil and paper. Close your eyes and scribble randomly. If you’re the type who needs structure then set a timer for 1 minute. Open your eyes. Look at your ‘art’ and write down all the different things that you see in the picture. This may require some big leaps of imagination! Making these “cloud shape” type comparisons is known as metaphorical thinking, a critical component of creativity.

Now push the paper aside and do something else. Later in the day grab the paper and look again. Turn it different ways in front of you. Hold it at a distance. Try tilting it at different angles. What else do you see this time? Creativity requires resting the brain. It’s an incubation period where neurons continue to make connections in the background while your frontal lobe works on tasks at hand.

Remember lazy summer days laying in the grass watching clouds? You were relaxed, unhurried, and playful – not at all stressed, busy, and corporate. Counter-intuitively, to dream up creative solutions to big problems, grown-ups need to pretend they’re just kids watching clouds.