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How to develop creativity?

A-levels, Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and PhD… - In the 21st century, going through these stages of education is not an extremely difficult challenge and it remains within the reach of many people. It is no secret, however, that even the best results in education do not guarantee success at work or in one’s private life.

Rather than all As on a diploma, employers are much more interested in soft competences of potential employees, such as entrepreneurship, communication style and, to a large extent, creativity understood as the ability to create new things, generate innovative ideas or solve problems creatively. Schools and universities often do not focus on the development of these skills, so students are aware that they have to take care of it themselves 1.

Creating (Latin creatos) means bringing into existence. Two popular myths people tend to believe in concern creating something out nothing and the necessity to objectively assess and recognise the value of the creation. However, one can be creative in various ways, e.g. by looking at a given issue from a unique perspective; by combining the existing, already known, elements; by transferring solutions from one field to another. The whole is usually greater than the sum of its parts, so a creative result can often emerge from the combination. If we move away from the fear of evaluation, we discover the range of possibilities for creative action and there is room for the joy of creation. This can be reminiscent of a child’s spontaneous play - and rightly so, because it is easy to see the essence of creativity.

Here are some suggestions to help you to discover and extend your creative potential.

  1. Forget about concepts and definitions. Instead, think about what creativity means to you. Look at what the creative process looks like for you. Recall a situation when you were creative - what happened? How did it make you feel? What were you thinking? How did you know your actions were creative? Recall good memories whenever you feel your self-esteem is shattered or you don’t know what to do.
  2. Look for what you like – One is usually creative in relation to something. The first associations with creativity are often related to artistic creation: painting, writing or composing. If you are not into any of such areas, it is easy to succumb to the illusion that you lack creativity. However, when you move away from this pattern, you may discover that you are the most creative, for example, in preparing notes from class, in maths, friendships, business or cooking.
  3. Remain curious about the world and open to novelties, sometimes cut yourself some slack, allow yourself to take a break and be bored. Both curiosity and boredom can foster creativity or inhibit it. The best situation seems to be when the phases of intense idea generation alternate with the phases of breaks, tranquillity and the incubation of ideas.
  4. Avoid assessing and comparing yourself to others. The greatest enemies of creativity are pressure (time and achievement), competition, criticism as well as rewards and punishments. All the factors that make us interested in the effect of creation above all at the same time impede the creative process itself. If you only focus on the evaluation or reward, the temptation to reach for stereotypes and standard solutions is very strong, and the creative energy is blocked.
  5. Follow your impulses. Students often complain about problems with starting a task which requires creativity - they don’t know where to start writing an essay, how to formulate a topic, etc. This phenomenon is known as the blank page syndrome, and a way to overcome it is to start with anything. In a blank Word document, you can write your thought not directly related to the topic of your paper, rewrite a quote, insert a photo. Sometimes the negative emotions associated with the unproductive period of sitting over a blank page are so strong that it is worth reformulating the context of the situation - replace your laptop with a sheet of paper and a pen (or crayons!), move to another chair, rearrange the objects on your desk, try writing in another room or outside your home.
  6. A bad idea is better than no idea. If you have thirty ideas, the chance that one of them will turn out to be innovative is higher than if you had three. The classic creative problem solving technique of brainstorming is based on this principle. Initially, the participant(s) usually generate a lot of ideas, which are rarely creative. Then the number of ideas decreases, there is often a pause and a feeling that everything has already been invented. If you wait out this period of silence, new ideas will emerge - probably fewer, but coming from a different, deeper level. This is the moment when a chance for a creative solution is the greatest.
  7. Practice divergent thinking. We are used to puzzle-like problems where one particular solution is best and all we have to do is to find it. Convergent thinking is useful in solving these problems. Divergent thinking is also very helpful in developing creativity. You can start by asking yourself about what would happen if other solutions to the problem were possible. An example would be a popular problem of many students, i.e. a large number of academic obligations. You can approach this problem in different ways, including quitting some of your classes, involving other people to help you, using an app to organise your tasks, taking a speed reading course or using techniques to improve your concentration. The wider you see the subject, the more options you have. Creativity in time management therefore refers to how diverse will be the strategies you can find and test.
  8. Experience reality using different channels. We tend to rely on our eyesight and ignore the other senses limiting the flow of valuable information and depriving the brain of stimuli of all kinds. When looking at an object, ask yourself questions not only about its appearance, but also about its smell and texture, imagine the sound it might make. Check what all your senses tell you, not only about objects but also about phenomena and events .
  9. Employ analogies, associations and metaphors. If you are looking for a creative solution to a problem, formulate it in different ways, imagine that you are explaining it to a child or an inanimate object (e.g. there is a well-known method among programmers to describe things to a rubber duck 3. During this monologue the solution often emerges by itself). Difficult business problems can be approached using the Lego serious play method 4, where the problem and its solutions are built with Lego bricks. On a daily basis, popular games such as Dixit, advertised with the slogan ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ 5, or Story Cubes 6 are good to practise working with metaphors and associations.
  10. Surround yourself with diversity. If the people you spend time with are of a similar age and in a similar life situation to yours, they are likely to think like you. A great exercise in creativity is to get to know different points of view. Finding out about the views and opinions of people with different education, fitness levels or from different cultures broadens your horizons and allows you to see the world from many different perspectives 7.

Do not believe in everything you read on Facebook, blogs or in books about creativity, including this article. All these sources are a record of intuition, subjective experiences or the interpretation of the authors’ research findings. Instead, you can build your strategy library from the information and advice they contain. Then, it may become a source of not only literal ideas, but also inspiration and courage to search for your own path, your own solutions and finally - the layers of your own creativity.



2 Example exercises stimulating different senses can be found at:





7 For example, persons with dyslexia are considered creative. It is not because they have any special gift. When the pathway of obvious verbal solutions is blocked, a need to look for other, less conventional and more creative, solutions arises. See: Ian Smythe ‘Dyslexia in the Digital Age’, Continuum, 2010.

Reference literature

Kuśpit Małgorzata, Tychmanowicz Anna, Zdybel Jolanta (ed.), Twórczość kreatywność innowacyjność, Wydawnictwo UMCS, Lublin 2015.

Okraj Zofia, Twórcze rozwiązywanie problemów, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jana Kochanowskiego, Kielce, 2015.

Roberts Ken, Out of Our Minds. Learning to Be Creative, Capstone, Oxford 2001.

Szmidt Krzysztof (ed.), Zasoby twórcze człowieka, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Łódzkiego, Łódź, 2013.

Tokarz Aleksandra, Dynamika procesu twórczego, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, Kraków 2005.

The Creative Brain – a documentary from 2019, dir. Jennifer Beamish, Toby Trackman.

About the author

Urszula Szczocarz - psychologist, trainer, educational and career counsellor. Her interests involve modern education, creative learning techniques and coaching tools for group work.