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5 Fresh Ways to Meet the Challenge of Creativity

Make innovating a little easier with these insights.

Sufi Nawaz/CreativeImages
Source: Sufi Nawaz/CreativeImages

Another book about how to be more creative? There's always room for a good one.

Innovating Minds: Rethinking Creativity to Inspire Change, by Wilma Koutstaal and Jonathan T. Binks, tackles the subject from a different angle, that of optimizing creativity as an individual or as part of a team by using the appropriate degree of mental control and abstraction.

Both authors blog at a site called InnovatingMinds4Change. Koutstaal is a psychology professor at the University of Minnesota, and Binks runs IM4Change, a consulting firm. In their new book, they share their five-part "thinking framework," along with prompts and exercises based on the latest scientific research. They also interweave insights from a variety of individuals who encounter creative challenges in their life and work.

This isn't by any means a simple self-help-ish sort of book, but rather a scientifically sound system for enhancing creativity. I'll hint here at a few of the concepts explored in the book in order to give the potential reader a hint of what to expect.

5 New Ways to Look at Being Creative

1. "Detail stepping" is the process by which we move up and down in our levels of abstraction as we develop and expand our unfolding ideas. Avoid the risk of overvaluing abstraction. That is, particulars and concreteness are at least as important as getting the big picture and seeing larger patterns.

2. "Control dialing" is what the authors suggest as the method for moving back and forth from being in full control of your thinking to being more spontaneous. It's critical to be able to adapt moment to moment during a creative task so that your amount of control is the best one for a particular challenge.

3. Consider "offloading" some of the mental work that you're doing to your environment instead. In other words, open more files, use cards, bulletin or white boards, etc.

4. Reward correctly. Rewarding ourselves or others for variable, nonrepetitive, constantly changing, and innovatively creative actions can shape the opposite of predictable behavior. Rewards and praise for safe thinking and predictable results only encourages more of the same.

5. "Goal tuning" (adapting your aims as things change) involves several components. These include goal synergy (how your goals support and reinforce each other), goal activation (the factors determining whether our goals are actually in mind when we need them), and goal updating (the process of refreshing and modifying goals as circumstances change). Goals need "elbow room."

Copyright (c) 2015 by Susan K. Perry, author of Kylie’s Heel