Growth Insights for CEOs

Unleashing your Creativity

Posted by Stijn Hendrikse


We are all creators in one way or another, from the artists to the code writers to the President of the United States. We all encounter problems to be solved, and how we go about solving them often takes a good dose of creativity. As entrepreneurs, creativity is demanded of us every day, and sometimes we just get zapped.

For instance, an associate of mine recently decided to rename her copywriting business.  She was tired of using her personal name, and decided to change things up a bit. Part of being a copywriter, however, meant she was always focusing her creative juices on solving other people’s problems, so she found herself in a rut.

Following these four steps for unleashing creativity, she was able to come up with a new name for her business – in fact, she came up with several.


1. Switch Hands                                                                                                                 

The goal here is to activate the right side of your brain – the creative side.  So if you’re one of 70-95% of the world’s population who is right-handed, try switching things up. It will be slow and awkward at first, and you may not even be able to read 50% of what you write, but the point is, you’re writing.  You’re tapping into your creative reserves, and you might find that your answer comes within the first minute. This should be like a free-writing exercise, where you try to write words/ names/ concepts as quickly as you can. For a real challenge, go for 100. It’s easier than you think, and you’ll be surprised to see what this little trick does to get you in a creative state of mind. My friend wrote down 20 business names that started with “Copy.” Some of them were awful (you won’t be seeing any time soon), but she got her list, and that’s an acceptable place to start.

2. Word Play      

Once you have your list of words, confuse your brain even more and say them in German. Or French. Or Pig Latin. Type each phrase from your list into Google Translate, and see how they sound in a variety of languages. Include the awful ones on your list – you never know what will sound beautiful in another language (in Latin, raven is Corvus). Play with this a little more; try hyphenating words. My friend translated “Copy Genius” into Italian (which is Copia Genio), then stole the first few letters of each word to get “Cogen Copy.” Or try  breaking it down to exactly what your company does; in my friend’s case, “Copy Writer” became “Writing Pro” became The varieties are endless.      

3. Force your brain into "panic mode"                                                                 

Many of us perform best under pressure, so try to recreate the “fight or flight” response.  As it turns out, challenge stressors are great for generating ideas. Your senses sharpen, your pupils dilate, your heart rate goes up, and most importantly, your linear thinking gets dulled, replaced by instinctive responses that are reserved for artists (which you are). Set an impossible deadline for yourself. Give yourself 10 minutes to write 10 slogans, or instead of a list of 100 phrases, try writing just ten using the word “zebra” in each one. Set the stopwatch on your phone and keep it where you can see the seconds ticking down. Convince yourself this is a real task, which should help put you in panic mode.


4. Go for a Run

Invariably, some of our best ideas come to us when we’re in the shower. Or on a walk. Or sleeping. Basically when we’re doing anything other than working. Let these thoughts take flight, but take notes!  Always carry a little notepad and pen with you, or have a note app on your phone where you can type in ideas you get while jogging or watching House of Cards. Our brain has a tendency to suddenly wake up when it’s not occupied with problem-solving. If you’re not a fan of typing, give yourself a call and leave a voicemail. It may feel silly at first, but eventually you will have a stockpile of useful, right-brain ideas to pull from any time you’re in a creative drought.



Topics: CEO Perspectives, CEO Strategies, CEO Motivation

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