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Creative Inspiration: Apps, Habits, Cheating and Daydreaming


Imagination and innovation can have an up-and-down relationship with technology, and we are forever hearing advice to turn off our smartphones in favour of gaining clarity in our creative thinking. However in this New York Times videoKit Eaton has compiled a list of 3 of the latest apps that help the creative thinking process.

To summarise them for you, 75 Tools for Creative Thinking, available in app form and as a card set, offers different decks of cards to help you to explore and break down your ideas. Simple Mind is a mind mapping app, available for iOS, to aid with ‘brainstorming, idea collection and thought structuring.’ The Brainsparker app is designed to change your way of thinking. ‘We’ve mixed up a collection of 52 words, quotes, questions, actions and images to stretch your mind and get you looking at your problem from different angles.’

OK, lets put down our smartphones now and see if we can try another way of developing our creative thinking abilities – how can it be cultivated to become a natural part of our everyday lives? In Fast Company, Jane Porter’s How to Cultivate a Creative Thinking Habit looks at the ways in which regular practice turns an action into a habit.

They say, ‘If you want to be a writer, write’, and there are few artists who don’t paint every day, so it stands to reason that regular practice is essential in developing your creative thinking. Porter discusses psychologist and psychometrician Robert Sternberg’s research, which draws a connection between everyday habits, like brushing teeth, and creative habits, like playing the piano. Sternberg says: “If we are to assess creativity, we need to assess it as a habit of ordinary life, not merely as something one can do at extraordinary times. Behind all innovations one finds creativity, so innovations arise from a habit.”

Creative people habitually:

  • Look for ways to see problems that other people don’t
  • Take risks that other people are afraid to take
  • Have the courage to defy the crowd and to stand up for their own beliefs
  • Seek to overcome obstacles and challenges to their views that other people give in to.

While making creativity your attitude to life makes perfect sense, the concept of cheating as a desirable trait for creativity makes a provocative point. In Cheating Fuels Creativity: More evidence that dishonesty and creativity are bosom buds, Shaunacy Ferro discusses the idea that cheating enables us to think outside the box by exploring other avenues of thought and opportunity. Ferro has followed Harvard researcher Francesca Gino’s findings, which showed that test subjects who had a track record of cheating also had a greater level of creativity. Gino stated that “this creativity may allow us to come up with original justifications for our immoral behavior and make us likely to keep crossing ethical boundaries.”

Unsurprisingly, this angle was quickly picked up by other media, and we have a typically hyperbolic example from the Daily MailConsider yourself creative? Then you’re probably a LIAR.

CEO at IDEO, Tim Brown, takes a further look at the effect personal characteristics can have on imagination in Why Daydreamers Will Save the World. He discusses how daydreaming is now perceived as the ‘behaviour of innovators’, as the act creates relaxed attention thereby improving cognitive function. Brown goes on to suggest ways that we can enhance this relaxed attention in our everyday lives. These methods include literally walking away from a problem and carrying a notebook at all times, just in case inspiration strikes.

Ending on a more poetic note, Isabel Abbott at Rebelle Society has put together a list of 21 Ways to Think in Ways You’ve Never Thought Before. The idea behind the list is to change your outlook and typical avenue of thought. ‘Because the ending is not yet known, and I can change the story any time I want to.’

Image provided by Tourism Thailand

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