Where Do the Children Play? 4 Steps to Help You Unleash Your Creativity at Work
Recently, our writers led an internal workshop on blog writing. Standing before some of the leading product managers and developers at Wix, we talked about the value of blog writing, how to structure a blog post and the way we approach text. Then, we sent them on their way with a homework assignment: Write your own blog post on a subject of your choice.
The results exceeded our expectations! Our inboxes quickly filled up with insightful, funny and helpful articles, alongside several requests for help with editing and grammar. Below is one of our favorite posts. Einat Halperin, Head of Blog at Wix, shared her process for boosting creative thinking. We hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we did!
My biggest fear at work was that I would get bored quickly and lose the passion. Creativity has always been very important to me, even though I often felt it eluded me. I treated it as a mysterious force to be both admired and feared because I couldn’t simply use it whenever I wanted. Lately, however, I have come to believe that we do have the ability to determine how much creativity we let into our work and life. With the right process, we can actually harness it, learn it and tap into it when we need it.
The Ideation Process in 4 Steps
I want to share a simple 4-step guide to the ideation process. Because different tools and methods work better for each of us, I will focus on some essentials of the creative process and the state of mind you need to be in to succeed at each step.
Before we begin, let’s clear up some confusion around terms:
Creativity is unleashing the potential of the mind to conceive new/original/unusual ideas.
Ideation is the process of forming ideas.
Innovation is the implementation or creation of something new that has a recognizable value to others.
Let’s take a look at the 4-step flow of the ideation process:
Step 1. Generate
(Where you pop out ideas like popcorn)
State of mind: playful and stress-free
First, here are some common myths and habits that you need to forget about:
“I have no ideas.” (We use this phrase so much, we start to believe it.)
We feel uninspired and think we need to wait for inspiration to strike us.
We tell ourselves that being innovative and creative are traits that only a few fortunate people possess.
When we do come up with a new idea, we don’t do what it takes to make it happen.
The simple truth is that creativity is a muscle. Like every other muscle, it needs training and nourishment in order to evolve. Ideas are rarely formed in a day; they undergo a delicate and intricate process where they grow and morph and change. The idea that sticks might be completely different from the one you started with. Allow ideas to evolve and you will strengthen both your ideation skills and creative abilities.
“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” ―Albert Einstein
In order to be in a creative state, you must stop criticizing. Think about how children play when they’re young and free of insecurities. It can be tricky to take this step because we’re so used to criticizing ourselves. In fact, that’s why we’re often our own worst enemy when it comes to being creative. But there is no room for criticism in this early stage of creative thinking. Children play, experiment and explore. And they also make mistakes. You need to do the same.
Stress is a turn-off for creativity. Our working environment and life pace are very stressful and it’s important to reduce stress to enter a state where creativity flows. Try to take breaks for walks, meditation, exercise or anything else that clears your mind and allows you the space you need to be creative.
It sounds obvious, but it’s still hard to do. Force yourself to generate as many ideas as you can in a short amount of time. It can be 10 ideas in 10 minutes—or even more. Again, anything goes at this stage, so it’s important not to criticize yourself. Allow yourself to write down “bad” ideas. Allow yourself to conjure up ridiculous ideas. Your aim here is quantity, because you want lots of ideas to choose from and because you want to enter the “flow” state of letting go and letting out.
Speed is also important here. By creating a sense of urgency, you can learn to be more fluent in the creative process. Practice this once a week, every day or whatever fits your lifestyle, and you will get better. It’s just like exercising!
This is a quick and powerful technique to generate fast ideas from an unusual perspective. I learned this method from Luke Williams. Recently, I came across a tool designed to facilitate using this method with a team. In short, we start by listing all the assumptions of how things are done in a certain field. Next, we create an opposites list. This encourages us to deny or reverse assumptions and eventually helps generate entirely new ideas.
Step 2. Validate
(Where you get to be shamelessly critical)
State of mind: focused and judgemental
Now it’s time to review your ideas with the eyes of a critic. Take time to think about each idea on your list. Decide what to keep and what should be dismissed.
Research – Check if your idea has already been done and, if so, how. Look at what your competitors are doing. Maybe they chose a different direction. Maybe you can combine your idea with another idea. If you discover that you’re not the first one who thought of something, you can still find your own unique angle. Take this opportunity to learn from others and develop your idea further (in the next step).
Share – Present your idea to teammates and random people at work. Don’t be shy or wait until it’s perfect. Getting feedback from others can enrich your idea and confirm that you are headed in the right direction.
Listen to your intuition – Even if lots of people tell you they hate your idea, go with your gut. If you’ve got a feeling it’s good, don’t abandon it.
Step 3. Refine
(Where you make it even better)
State of mind: free and flexible
“I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else.” ―Pablo Picasso
After absorbing the information you gathered in the validation step, it’s time to refine your idea. In order to fully experience this step, you must not fall in love with your original idea. Let go of your idea, because even the best ones require small adjustments, or even radical changes. The truly breakthrough idea often comes at this stage.
Reduction – We think big ideas need to be big but, in actuality, they need to be small. By small, I mean simple and powerful. If an idea is hard to explain or teach to others, simplify it. The best ideas can be explained in 1-2 sentences, tops. Also, reduction is helpful to get ideas into the implementation phase. If an idea is too big, investing in it might be too risky. So start small and build from there!
Change direction – Sometimes, while researching and sharing, an idea is transformed completely. Remember that this is part of the process–embrace it.
Make it stronger – In this step, you need to work on enhancing your idea. Even if it’s good, it needs to be very good if you want it to sell.
Step 4. Sell
(Where you bring your idea to life)
State of mind: confident and persistent
It’s time to bring your idea to life. Even now, when your idea seems so well-established, it may still evolve and change. In fact, I think the selling step is an important part of the ideation process, rather than something that occurs only afterward.
If you don’t believe strongly in your idea, no one will. You have to be passionate and persistent about it.
What’s in it for me
Illustrate the benefits to your listeners, potential investors, or future customers. Highlight the benefits that are relevant to them. You need to sell your idea to everyone, especially to your teammates, so they’ll be motivated to work on it. If you need developers, for example, illustrate how the execution will be clean and efficient. When you pitch it to designers, point out how it will be both challenging and stimulating to work on.
Confront the obstacles
When presenting your idea, don’t shirk away from talking about its weak spots. By mentioning them, you are more likely to find a solution. Your audience will think about the weak spots anyway and, if you don’t provide a clear plan of action, they may well reject your idea.
“Ideas won’t keep. Something must be done about them.” ―Alfred North Whitehead
Ideas tend to fade away if they are not developed and brought to life. An abandoned idea can make you feel even worse than having no idea at all. So act upon your ideas while they are still fresh and never let them fade away.
Looking to create a blog? Wix has got your covered with thousands of design features, built-in SEO and marketing tools, that will allow you to scale your content, your brand and your business.
Einat Halperin, Head of Wix Blog