Managing yourself creatively

Coaxing an Idea into Existence

The question is how can you train yourself to do it consciously and deliberately? What are the precise steps you ought to take in order to reweave your knowledge, experience and observations into fresh ideas and solutions?

Here are some suggestions: 


Creativity is frequently difficult because we unwittingly become the prisoners of our own thinking. Four roadblocks in particular commonly stand between a new idea and us. Get rid of them and you will liberate your ability to innovate. They are:

STATUS QUO THINKING. The vast majority of people tends to think, “This is the way things are because they must work best this way. If improvements could be made, they would already have been made by people smarter than I.” It’s a false assumption, of course. Almost anything you can think of can be improved in some way.

INERTIA. Most of us take the course of least resistance because it’s the comfortable, lazy way. Yet, action breeds action. Take the first, deliberate step toward creative thinking – dissatisfaction with “things-as-they-are”– and it becomes progressively easier to think about better ways, do something about our thoughts, test the results, and refine our ideas.

LACK OF SELF-CONFIDENCE. “Who am I to upset the apple cart?” This is the basic assumption that paralyzes fresh thinking. Who are you? You’re one in four billion. That’s who ! There never has been — never will be–anyone quite like you ! That’s why you doubtlessly can bring a new approach to any problem.

FEAR OF RIDICULE. Closely allied to lack of self-confidence. the fear of having our ideas laughed at is another basic cause of timidity in creative thinking. Yet, consider four of our most unorthodox (and creative) minds-Galileo, Newton, Edison, Freud, all of whom were laughed at, even despised, at one time. But they stuck to their guns and lived to see themselves honoured by those who scoffed. The laughers are usually a bit envious, so don’t let them throw you.

Identify Your Target

What kind of an idea do you need? Exactly what is the problem? Unless you answer this concretely, you have no definite goal, without which your “creative juices” remain dormant. If you have only a vague feeling of discontent, a suspicion that something is wrong, but can’t zero in on anything specific, try this proven technique-in terms of your own job, answer these questions:

What made me mad today?

What took too long?

What was the cause of a complaint?

What was misunderstood?

What cost too much?

What did we waste?

What was too complicated?

What was just plain silly?

What job required too many people?

What job involved too many motions?

What job didn’t get done?

The answers will almost certainly give you a long list of needs. Once you have them, there you are with your specific targets.


Now is the time to do your borrowing and combining. Take stock of the ideas that interest you and see whether you can adapt any of them to your own needs by asking yourself questions like:

  • Can I make it larger?

  • Can I make it smaller?

  • Can I make it longer?

  • Can I make it shorter?

  • What if I did it faster?

  • Suppose, I add to it?

  • Suppose, I subtract from it?

  • Shall I use more?

  • Shall I use less?

  • Suppose I used a different shape?

  • Suppose I used a different color?

  • Should I make it lighter?

  • Should I make it heavier?

  • Shall I do it sooner?

  • Shall I do it later?

  • Could I use more parts or steps?

  • Could I use fewer parts or steps?

  • Might I use half as many?

  • Might I use twice as many?

  • Should I change just one part?

  • Suppose, I did it half as often?

  • Should I make it higher?



If your conscious efforts to combine old elements into a new idea are successful, don’t grow discouraged. Tell yourself that you won’t put your target out of your mind until you hit it. Then stick to your resolution until you either get the idea you’re seeking or reach the limits of your “frustration tolerance”


If you have conscientiously taken steps one through four, your subconscious will take over at this point.


Your subconscious may percolate for an hour or a month, making comparisons among known facts, marking some for possible use, setting others aside for future reference, rejecting others outright. With computer-like speed, it will dredge up old ideas and forgotten daydreams, looking for congruencies and relationships in the welter of raw material you’ve stored away over the years, investigating modifications, measuring possibilities, and weighing alternatives. Then, suddenly, unexpectedly, it will send to the surface an idea, or two, or five, or ten.

Because these insights are apt to come at the most unpredictable times in the most unlikely places and are, at best, fleeting in duration, be prepared to capture them on paper by keeping little stacks of cards or note pads in such key areas as your night table, telephone stand, automobile glove compartment, workbench, shaving mirror, coat pocket.

Some words of caution

In applying these techniques, bear the following in mind:

  1. Be sure you aren’t tackling too big a problem. A king-size dilemma can almost always be cut down to a series of smaller, more manageable ones.
  2. Take on only one problem at a time. Try to juggle several simultaneously and you will grow discouraged in efficient.
  3. It isn’t always necessary to solve problems in a logical, one-two-three step sequence. Skip over parts that won’t yield and go on to some other section. Often this suggests the ideas you need for the part of the problem you temporarily by-passed.
  4. Never be satisfied with a single idea, one solution to a problem. About the time the first idea comes along, your mind is just warming up, as a rule, and it is likely that a number of other ideas are forthcoming – if you encourage them.
  5. Talk over your problems and your ideas with others. Their views may give you a fresh slant on things.
  6. Keep trying. Samuel Johnson said it. You remember it. “There isn’t problem the human mind can devise that the human mind cannot also solve”.

So much for the mechanics of idea creation. But in order for them to work, they require the proper climate. And it is up to you to provide it.