We don’t have a precisely-numbered measure of your “creativity quotient,” yet, like we have for your intelligence quotient, or “IQ.” But tests which do try to measure your creative ability generally look at three criteria. These are the quantity of your ideas, their originality, and the possible usefulness or “quality” of those ideas. With that in mind, here are some techniques for doing better in all three areas.
Creativity Through Quantity
More ideas means a higher probability of a few good ideas. This has been shown in both research and most of personal experiences. How, then, do we generate more ideas?
Start by practicing. If you had to write down as many uses as you could in ten minutes for a piece of string (a common creativity exercise), you might get a dozen ideas the first time you try. Do it a few times, though (with different items), and you’ll soon find that you are coming up with twice as many ideas. This is especially true if you do this with others. Their ideas will get you thinking in new ways.
You can also learn one or more of the many specific techniques for generating ideas. They include mentally combining concepts to create new ones, tearing apart things and processes to change the components, challenging premises and more. If you want instructions in how to use these special methods, they can usually be found online by searching “problem solving techniques,” or “creativity techniques.”
A Higher Creativity Quotient Means More Original Ideas
Existing ideas have likely been tried. What is new, then, can more likely add value to what is already here. New to you may not be new to the world, of course. I am regularly dreaming up of new inventions which I later find already existed somewhere. But you have to start with what is original to you.
Do a creativity exercise like the one mentioned above, where you try to find as many uses as you can for some common object. Then show your ideas to someone else. If they don’t laugh at some of them, or if you are not embarrassed by a few of them, they are not crazy enough. To have more original ideas you need to lower your inhibitions and let the thoughts flow.
It isn’t that a silly or outrageous idea is inherently useful. In fact, most of them will not be of any direct value. For example, who would really want to use chewing gum as a defensive weapon, as one gentleman wrote down during a brainstorming exercise? The image of him throwing a sticky wad of gum at an attacker is just ridiculous. But upon reflection, it occurred to me that gooey balls with transponders in them could be thrown at fleeing suspects or their vehicles. These would stick to anything and be trackable with a device the police would have. This is where the primary value of crazy and original ideas is – they lead to better ideas.
Again, the first thing to do to improve the originality of your ideas, is to practice. Write down all the craziest uses you can think of for a dollar bill or a tree branch. Then see if by working with the associations created, you can work with one of these ideas until it is something possibly useful. Try asking crazy questions too. The more you let yourself be original, the easier it gets.
Having More Useful Ideas
Of course, one of the biggest reasons to boost your creativity quotient is to have more useful, perhaps even profitable ideas. Concentrating on the first two components above will help get you there. To really boost the quality of your ideas, though, work in areas that actually mean something to you, and where you can actually apply what you think of. It may be fun to think of new flying machines or ways to cure world hunger, and it’s good mental exercise, but if you are not in a position to do something with those ideas, you will not be as good at testing them or refining them into something truly useful. Start closer to home.
For example, look at the problems you actually can do something about around the house or in your life, and exercise your creativity on these. Think of a new way to organize the garage, for example, or find a new and creative way to get the kids to clean their rooms. By actually putting your ideas into action you tell your mind that this is more than just mental exercise, that it is important to real life. This gets your unconscious mind working overtime on new ideas. It is a sure way to boost your creativity quotient.