After 40 years of work as a creative, I have a bucket full of tips and tricks I use to generate fresh ideas and fuel innovation. But, when I recently found myself drawing a blank on a simple social media project, I realized that the last few years of dealing with constant change had drained my creative well dry. I needed a break.
So, I ditched my phone and computer and slipped away to magical Desolation Sound up the BC coast for a 5-day kayak trip last week. And, despite being tired from the physical challenge of paddling 80km in the wind and rain, I returned feeling fresh, brimming with new ideas for what I want to do next with my practice – thanks to some simple creativity exercises I did during the trip.
As you slide into summer and (hopefully) take a break to heal, here are a few ways you can use stories to refill your own creative well and find new ways to tackle your toughest problems.
Talk to strangers. One of the best things about summer holidays is meeting new people. When you do, try to resist the temptation to tell them all about yourself. Instead, focus on listening to their stories. What do they do differently than you? How does their world, their culture differ from yours? What can you learn from them? As you listen, your Narrative Intelligence will look for patterns in what you're hearing, and use those to develop new insights and ideas.
Daydream. Grab your favourite beverage, find a quiet place, close your eyes and take a virtual trip to the future. Cut yourself some slack and leave all your constraints at home. Try picking different frames or scenarios to explore. What would you do with unlimited money? All the time in the world? Bottomless energy? Fearless companions? Where would you go? Who would you become? And how would that change you, what you could achieve?
Jam. Think about 2-3 different stories you've read or heard and try mashing them up together. What would happen if you crossed Stranger Things with Turning Red? Terminator with Where the Crawdads Sing? What key elements could you combine from each story to create a new and amazing story? How could you use this approach to solve problems, and create new strategies in your work?
Though we rarely think about it, stories are actually the source of all our creativity and innovation. By learning to be more aware of them, to experiment and play with them, we can not only become better problem-solvers but also boost our creativity to make change easier in the future.
(Find out more about how stories make us more creative).