From sliced bread to rocket ships, people have shown their creative nature throughout history by designing new things. Not surprisingly, many of the greatest designs came about as the answer to a problem. Gravity got you down? The Wright brothers have a solution. Computers too big? Kilby and Noyce introduce the world to microchips (and Silicon Valley in the process). Want to do more with a peanut? George Washington Carver has around three hundred good ideas. But these guys are the stuff of legends. Do ordinary folk like you and I have the ability to think creatively too?
Contrary to common belief, being creative doesn't take a stroke of brilliance, the right mix of DNA, or a sprinkle of pixie dust. It takes passion and practice. Design is a process that takes hard work. That's why Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club." So, whether you're hoping to engage the right side of your brain for the first time or you're a seasoned designer staring down a mile-high mental block, here are a few tips and tricks from creative giants to get you thinking creatively about your next design:
1. Become an Expert in the Problem You Want to Solve
Pablo Picasso said that you have to “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” Not every enthusiast needs an EE degree but you won’t be able to move a design forward unless you understand how it works and where it has failed in the past.
2. Reframe the Problem
Steve Jobs described creativity as “connecting things.” He said, “When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while." Sometimes finding a creative solution for your next design can be as simple as looking at it from a different perspective.
Paul McCartney and John Lennon are considered as a songwriting team; however they often created their songs alone. Then, after one of them had taken a piece as far as he could, they would collaborate to bring about one of the chart toppers they were famous for. While much of the creative process is best worked alone, taking time to exchange ideas and get outside perspectives can reveal possibilities that you couldn’t see on your own.
4. Diverge Your Thinking
If the problem you’re trying to solve has had you stumped for a while, move on to something else. Put on your roller skates, get on the floor and wrestle with your kids, watch an episode of Battlestar Galactica, or even take a long nap. As you do, think about your design periodically, then drop it again. This practice allows your creativity to refresh and is probably what Einstein had in mind when he said, “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”
As you take your next design through the creative process you might surprise yourself with the ideas you can come up with. While others are waiting to be stuck by creative lightning, you’ll be hard at work deciding what needs to be done and how best to do it, making the changes that you know need to be made, and offering your new design to the world.
Justin is a contributing author who loves to read and write about the advancements of technology and robotics. When not at work, you can find him conquering Risk and Catan or on an adventure with his wife and kids. Last Father's Day he received a #1 dad shirt, so now that's official.
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