How to train yourself to be Creative

How to Cultivate Creativity using Design Thinking

So as we’ve seen before Creativity is abnormal brain activity – it is very high energy and we have evolved to use as little energy as possible. It is also quite scary for a lot of us- we have evolved to be naturally fearful but we can learn to lower our fear of failure.

Bill Burnett od Stanford offers 3 easy steps to Cultivating Creativity:

1. Train Yourself to “Get Stuck”,

Try the 30 circles test – you can get a template on google. Just give yourself 3 minutes to fill in as many circles as possible – you add doodles, plants, shapes anything you like  – the goal is quantity not quality. The point is you probably will get stuck, but the game helps you explore how “unstuck” happens and lowers your fear of getting stuck. It’s a bit like a good brainstorming session – the way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.

You can see Tim Brown of IDEO talk about this exercise and much more about Creativity and Play here:


2. Train Yourself to Brainstorm Well

In his book “Outliers” Malcolm Gladwell claimed that it took 10,000 hours of practice to master anything. Although this has been denied by some studies it is clear that practice of anything will make us better – Brainstorming is no different, We have to work on letting ourselves go and investing in the moment to let he ideas flow. In his book “Imagine” Jonah Lehrer talks about Neuroscientist Charles Limb who carried out a complex MRI on Jazz musicians using specially designed keyboards. Before a note was played the MRI showed a de-activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), the part of the brain associated with impulse control. The musicians had learned to automatically switch off their inhibitions when they needed to create – it still worked the rest of the time!

We may not be able to automatically switch off our impulse control but you need to warm up before brainstorming – just to get your brain going. There are lots of games you can play – check out Innovation Games or


3. Space

“If you live in a cubicle world, you will think cubicle thoughts”

If we really want to be creative our spaces should be creative – we need visual as well as mental inspiration  create. according to Jonah Lehrer in the “New Yorker” – Raw Space is the most powerful i.e you need an easily modified environment where collaboration is encouraged. Even if you can’t makeover the whole office you should have a ‘war room’ where normal rules do not apply – papers can be stuck up, furniture can be moved, people can move about freely and have basic tools for expression.


I will be talking more on all of these topics but for now – have fun cultivating your creativity.

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