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How Do You Improve Your Creative Mojo?

Have you ever had the time when everything was clicking? When you came up with the idea that later you wondered where it came from? We all have … and then we search for ways to re-create that moment. In sports, athletes come up with all kinds of superstitions to “help” them win games such as not ch

Phil McKinney
Phil McKinney
3 min read
creative mojo exercises

Have you ever had the time when everything was clicking?  When you came up with the idea that later you wondered where it came from?  We all have … and then we search for ways to re-create that moment when our creative mojo was clicking.

In sports, athletes come up with all kinds of superstitions to “help” them win games such as not changing their lucky socks or always wearing the same t-shirt.  When it comes to innovators, many have created their own set of rituals to find their creative mojo.

One ritual, which I don't fully understand, is controlling the environment.  Some have created dedicated space in which they've attempted to create the perfect surroundings to be creative.  Such as athletes and their rituals, some innovators have to have their favorite chair, the perfect pen, a special notebook or a specific song playing.

How do you build your confidence that you can create great ideas anywhere and at anytime?

Exercise your creative muscle and practice coming up with ideas … not just when you need to, but every day.

What are the some of the exercises I do to work my creative muscle?

  • Visual Puzzle Games (e.g. Tetris) — It gets my “pattern” muscle warmed up by requiring me to “match”, “fit” or “move” pieces to solve the puzzle.
  • Riddles (e.g. — I like riddles as it keeps my mind sharp by looking for non-obvious answer to some uniquely written problem.  Riddles force you to read/listen carefully which helps when you are doing observation studies in the innovation process.
  • Cypto Challenges (scramble-like games) — When I was in grade school, I had a teacher that challenged a few of us to uncover a message that she would encrypte using some unique code she created.  I found I was fairly good at it and I've been hooked ever since.  The reason I like this as a “creativity” exercise is that you need to discover the creativity of the person who created the encryption code before you can solve the problem.

I find that by loading a few of these kinds of games on my phone, I can exercise whenever I have a few minutes to kill.

Just as going to the gym will get your body in shape, doing these exercises will get your creative muscle in shape.  But exercise alone will not make you more creative.  Just because you workout at the gym or watch your favorite sport on TV, it doesn't mean you will be good at the sport unless you go play the sport.  The same applies to improving your ability to be more creative and come up with better ideas.

So how do you improve your ability to create a string of killer ideas? Simple – daily practice.

Don't wait for a problem that needs an idea but instead create ideas to problems every day.  How?

  1. Keep a notebook where you list unsolved problems that you capture from everyday life.  It really doesn't matter what the problem is.  In fact, the wider the variety the better.  Some example problems could be:  How would you solve rush hour traffic jams?  What is preventing our community from improving the test scores of our students?
  2. Set aside time (e.g. 30 minutes) every day, and select one problem from your notebook.  For that problem, use whatever ideation tools you like (e.g. killer questions, lateral thinking, etc) and come up with as many ideas as you can.  Don't judge, just crank out as many ideas as you can each day.
  3. At the end of the week, go back and rank your list of ideas.  You need to practice the process of ranking to get yourself in the groove of NOT judging/ranking during the ideation process but instead reserve for specific time after the ideas have been generated.
  4. Each month, go back and critique if your improving the quantity and quality of your ideas.  Raise the bar and keep at it …

It really is that simple … try it …

What exercises do you use to work your creative muscle so that your creative mojo is in shape?

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Phil McKinney Twitter

Phil McKinney is an innovator, podcaster, author, and speaker. He is the retired CTO of HP. Phil's book, Beyond The Obvious, shares his expertise and lessons learned on innovation and creativity.


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