Is there anything more frustrating than to be told: "Come up with a really creative idea/solution to this problem. Oh, and we need it right now."
Creativity often isn't something that you can turn off and on like a switch. Sometimes the best ideas don't hit you until you're taking a shower or doing something really inane to have an "aha!" moment.
But new research from Stanford Graduate School of Business provides some insight into the creative process, which might prove useful when we're under pressure to find creative ideas or just want to come up with something innovative on our own.
First, the research shows that we're not really very good at knowing the ideas that are worth the time and energy necessary to develop them. The good news, however, is that we don't absolutely suck at it.
It comes down to this: When we have an initial idea, we see it as the most creative. But, it's really our second favorite idea that can become the most creative when we take the time to flesh it out.
Justin M. Berg, an assistant professor at Stanford who studies creativity and innovation, says that if you've got a bunch of ideas -- 10 or even 20 -- then the most creative idea might not be simply the second idea. But it probably will be somewhere in the top half of what you consider your best ideas.
But this is where it gets tricky: Many of us are quickly kill out ideas we don't deem as creative early in our process -- and that may mean knocking out the very ideas, he says.
Berg offers these tips for your creative process:
- If you're under a deadline, go ahead and opt for initial ideas that are more well defined as those ideas will have the chance to reach their potential the fastest.
- If you've got more time, try to consider other ideas more thoroughly early in the process. Consider why the ideas may be promising before deciding to which ones to pursue. You can also decide to develop two ideas -- one safer and one riskier. (Do the riskier one first so you don't become so attached to the safe bet.)
- If you think an abstract idea is the best one, flesh it out first before revealing it to others.