7 Steps to Reclaiming Creativity: Optimal Output at Work and Play

Who wouldn’t want to be known as a vital creative force in the workplace and in life? Creativity is a unique and core component of our species, some believe it’s the very reason for our species. And yet so many of us shy away from it. Why?  Because the road to true creativity is fraught with real fear, and so we opt out in one of two ways:

We project creative excellence onto others – the artists, the visionaries, the people who can’t get up in the morning and hold a day job, and so on. The failing here is seeing creativity as a gift bestowed on a select few rather than a muscle to be worked out by all.

We lower the bar – i.e. we praise tired, mediocre work as creative genius. Here, creativity is demystified, readily available for the claiming, even if we fail to understand exactly what it really is. The “sin” here is reversed: Seeing creativity as pure muscle and ignoring the subtleties that arise from a natural given talent.

How then should we tap true creativity in a world where it is regularly forsaken or faked? Here are seven steps that will help cultivate and channel creativity, handpicked from across the expansive ethers of the Internets…

1. Have the COURAGE to try new things and risk failure. Every big breakthrough starts as a harebrained idea. This doesn’t mean you should constantly go off the deep end, just that you should balance your portfolio of solutions with an investment in the new and untried. Over time, the risk is usually worth the reward.

2. Foster creativity in the workplace through ACTIVE BRAINSTORMING. Tom Kelly, General Manger of Ideo, says, “the problem with brainstorming is that many business people treat brainstorming as a checkbox. But brainstorming is a skill, an art, more like playing the piano than tying your shoes. You’re always learning and can get continuously better. Ideo brainstorms are often playful, though as a tool – as a skill – is taken quite seriously.”

3. FIND FLOW. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (say that 5 times fast!) is the world’s leading explorer into “optimal human experiences.” He describes flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz.” To achieve a flow state, a balance must be struck between the challenge of the task and the skill of the performer. Both skill level and challenge level must be matched and high; if skill and challenge are low and matched, then apathy results.

4. DON’T CONFUSE CREATIVITY AND AMBITION says the late Indian mystic Osho. “If you are looking for fame and success through creativity you will miss. Then you are, in fact, not creative at all: you are a politician, your ambitiousness destroys the creative impulse. If fame or success happens, good. The consideration should be that you are enjoying whatsoever you are doing. It is your love-affair.”

5. RESTRICT POSSIBILITIES says music producer Brian Eno: “… one of the biggest problems is that you’re in a world of endless possibilities. When recording I try to close down possibilities early on. I limit choices. I confine people to a small area of manoeuvre. There’s a reason that guitar players invariably produce more interesting music than synthesizer players: there are fewer options on a guitar, you have to start making aesthetic and stylistic decisions. I try to provide these kinds of constraints for people.” 

6. BE CURIOUS. Whenever you label something as boring, you close a door of possibility. Curious people see these doors of possibility everywhere. Even if they don’t have time to explore, they will leave the door open to be visited another time.

7. TRUST YOURSELF. The great novelist Arthur Koestler put it best: “Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.” We’re all painting in the dark. When you are engaged creatively, you must abandon your inner critic. You are doing it. The results are for others to judge.



  1. There are a couple of great cteraive thinking tools. Many organizations use brainstorming games to promote cteraive thinking. These include Crawford Slip Method, Whose line is it anyway?, Mind Maps, Night and Day, Scamper System, Carousel Brainstorming. Also SWOT anaylsis is another great tool.Great ideas come from everyone in the organization. Its up to management and company leaders to promote and gather these ideas.

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