Writing a blog post? Decorating a cake? Painting a masterpiece? If you’ve ever even attempted any sort of creative task, you know the struggle is real. When the fountain of creativity in your mind runs dry, what can you do? A former Nike engineer has a simple trick.
Tiffany Beers worked as a senior innovator at Nike for more than a decade (she had a short stint at Tesla, too). If anyone needs to keep the creative juices flowing, it’s her. To do that, Beers has a very simple strategy derived from a coworker struggling during a team project.
Beers and her team were busy bringing the famous fictional shoe from “Back to the Future” to life, and the maker on the auto-lacing shoe team was on the brink of burnout. A co worker soon got worn down and approached Beers seeking advice on how to get his inspiration back. Beers gave him a unique assignment: Make a shoe that can withstand a five-mile run, using only materials that he found at Home Depot. The maker nailed the project and got his groove back to help finish off the HyperAdapt.
The strategy Beers employed to help the maker get back in the game is simple: Flip it. “Keep it fresh,” she said. “When the same things are done over and over, the process, product, and experience become stale. Sometimes you need to force yourself out of that state.” Beers advises someone stuck in a rut to question an element of the thing you’re working on that you would never think to question or change. In the shoe example, the maker was probably just considering the design and look of the shoe and had the materials already set in mind.
This advice can be applied to just about anything. If you’re at a blank canvas with a paintbrush in hand trying to conjure an image to bring to life, maybe try replacing your paintbrush with a sponge. If you’re decorating a cake and unsure which color of icing to use, ditch it altogether and go for an inedible element like fresh flowers. If you’re working on a new creative essay and no topics are coming to mind, try thinking of what you shouldn’t write about … and write about only that.
Creativity doesn’t come from doing the same things the same exact way. When we do the same things again and again, boredom can set in and get in the way of your creativity. Think about the things you do the same way every day–your commute to work, how you take your coffee, the time you wake up–and change things up. Get up a half hour earlier, try a different coffee blend, drive a new route to the office. Strike up a conversation with someone you’ve never spoken with before. If you usually listen to pop music, try listening to jazz. Getting a little uncomfortable, even in small ways, can help you to spark your creativity.
Check out my related post: Are you being too negative to be creative?