Constraints Foster Creativity

How To Be Creative: 5 Tips from KNow Research

Date: July 14, Sonya Shen

What’s next for researchers in 2020 and beyond? If only we could snap our fingers and just magically know! We may not have the answers in front of us right now, but in times of uncertainty, we do know that a little creativity can go a long way.

While insight and inspiration don’t strike on demand, we can cultivate an environment in which creativity will be more likely to visit and flourish. Read on for five tips on how to foster creativity, from the team at KNow Research.

KNow Research collaborated with Logica Research and InnovateMR to study on the impact of COVID on women’s careers in the Spring of 2020.  The work culminated in a Women in Research (WIRe) webinar entitled “Seeing #MRX Job Tracks in 20|20”. Our President Katrina Noelle participated as a panelist, and shared the insight: “Most WIRexec participants are certain that nothing will go back to the way it used to be.  To be successful in the future companies need to be flexible.” She urged the community to “consider ways to pivot and innovate.”

One WIRexec participant highlighted the benefit of a creative approach: “Developing a new tool gave me more flexibility in the way that I went around solving clients’ problems. I think it gave me more freedom because I’ve leveraged mycreativity and contributed to what somebody needed”.

In fact, creativity is the #1 soft skill companies need the most in 2020, according to research conducted by LinkedIn:

“Connecting dots—that are seemingly unrelated—to generate original, useful solutions is an incredibly valuable skill in every employee, regardless of what industry or country you’re doing business in.”

Creativity is not just a valuable skill – in fact, it generates tangible business value, says McKinsey. But what can companies and employees do to foster creativity?

“Many executives consider creativity an ineffable activity that can’t be managed—and, in fact, creative ideas often do come from stark moments of deep insight. But as the writer Jack London noted, ‘You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.’”

So – how can we manage, chase down, or attract creativity?   Here are our 5 top tips to reap the benefits of a creative approach:

1. Clear Your Mind

Stress blocks creativity. Clear your mind to make space for creativity to come to you later.

“For me, a creativity killer is when I’m pulled in too many directions…I like to have some time and space to let my mind wander in order to settle into that deep flow state where I feel like I can be more creative and original…Some of the ways that help me clear my head include getting outside for a walk, practicing yoga, or even just a 5-minute-or-less mindful meditation.” – Molly, Analytic Expert

2. Do Something Completely Different

“Taking your mind elsewhere”, as Shira, Research Strategist, recommends, is another path to relaxation and creativity. Sometimes there is a need to do nothing, while other times, the mind may need to busy itself with other things. Creativity tends to strike when you’re not forcing it.

“I like to listen to music and bake bread…Any sort of cooking or baking helps me to train my brain to focus in on the moment on one specific task. I feel very accomplished and clear-headed after a successful kitchen session. – Molly

“I’ve been puttering around the house and decorating. I’ve been spending a lot more time with my dog and going outside for walks. Both of those things really help bring my stress level down and allow me a little time to ‘breathe’. When I get the oxygen flowing, that’s when I become most creative. Oh, and wine never hurts! – Leann, Research Strategist

The ability to wear multiple hats in life helps with understanding and seeing life from different points of view. As researchers, this ability to be empathetic serves us when connecting to our participants and in being creative in all aspects of our lives.

“Having multiple interests helps us stay more creative. Being able to juggle two jobs/passions/careers/interests gives you more lenses to see the world through.  Our whole team all has other important parts to our lives, like yoga, acting, wedding planning, running another business, making school supplies.  Those multiple hats makes us more creative and flexible as people.” – Katrina

3. Learn Something New

Fill that space you cleared in your mind with new ideas – from both external and internal sources. Get inspiration from others and combine it with your own knowledge. Host your own brainstorming sessions with different points of views represented!

“I challenge myself to learn more and distill learnings to others. I also write articles about topics of interest. By immersing myself in a topic, it forces me to do my due diligence to really understand the broader context through my own industry research, while challenging myself to find my own unique angle and voice.” – Shira

4. Just Do It

Sometimes we don’t know where to start. We might spin our wheels, get frustrated, and abandon a project before we even get started. Focus only on getting started – planting the seed for creativity to grow.

“When I just feel really unmotivated or ‘stuck’ creatively, I just focus on putting something out there into the world. The act of doing makes you more motivated. Whenever I have trouble getting my thoughts out ‘on paper’ I pick a friend and text them what I’m thinking so far. It’s very freeing because I’m not worrying about how good it is. Many of my first drafts have started as text messages – refinement comes later.” – Sonya, Research Manager

5. Realize that “creativity is in many ways situational, not some inborn faculty or personality trait”

“When people face scarcity, they give themselves freedom to use resources in less conventional ways–because they have to. The situation demands a mental license that would otherwise remain untapped.” – Fast Company’s “How Constraints Force Your Brain To Be More Creative”

We all have the ability to be creative, especially when we find that we have less to work with. People have always come up with creative solutions to overcome all kinds of challenges.

“When my dance studio closed, I looked around for an alternative that would give me the same sense of community and energy. A friend and I found an online studio offering recorded classes in different lengths and styles.  We arrange a time to do a class and call each other afterwards, out of breath, to celebrate, commiserate and laugh. We’re also meeting up to do classes together (socially distanced on her big sunny porch) too.  We’ve found a new way to get that community and energy.” – Katrina

Online classes also weren’t completely meeting Jackie’s needs so she figured out a way to make them work for her.

“I’m sick of online classes, so my friends and I hired a yoga teacher we know to do socially distanced in-person yoga outside. We each paid the teacher for the class, and she’s happy for the private lessons right now. It felt like I was on vacation.” – Jackie, Qualitative Expert

The team at KNow has already been into innovation and trying new things. We’re constantly flexing our creative muscle, and 2020 just might call for a bit more creativity strength-training than usual!  

While we may not know what’s next for research in 2020, we do have an opportunity to be even more creative and try something new, be it in work, our personal lives, or both.

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