Creativity: It’s Not Just for Creatives

We all make stuff.

Creativity is often considered a magical talent, possessed only by those “creative types.” But we all have a right side of the brain, the side that processes emotion, music, color, intuition and creativity—marketers, too. Everyone can be innovative, solve problems, and be inspired. Tapping into your right brain is the key. But between technology overload, compressed timelines, meetings, emails, colorless excel spreadsheets, and cubed-out, grey work spaces, it’s becoming more and more difficult to think creatively.

In defiance of Excel, grey walls, and email alerts, I urge you to give your right brain a boost. Here are some very simple ways you can take back your time, feed your right brain, and watch the results roll in.

Kick the habits. The brain is an interesting organ. Though it exists in a constantly changing world, it prefers the habitual because it’s safe. But doing the same thing repeatedly means your brain is not making new connections. Forcing yourself to do something different creates new neural pathways. That’s where new ideas come from. Something as simple as putting your watch on the opposite wrist triggers the brain into making a new connection. Think about how you can do one different thing every day. Take a different route to work. Sit somewhere else while checking email. Try a new spot for lunch. Change. It. Up.

Keep the noise and fray away. This is difficult because in our business email pings, phone calls, and meeting requests are constant. This fray demands your attention and interrupts thought processes. To take back some time for your right brain, turn off email for a while. Better yet, batch-respond to email twice a day with an auto responder. Walk away from your computer and think somewhere quiet. Use your lunch break to take a walk. It makes a big difference.

Look at the brain scan above. It shows the impact of a short walk on brain activity. Increased mental stimulation is indicated by the presence of green, yellow, and red areas in the scan on the right. If you’re stuck on something at work, get away for a while to stimulate your creativity and solve the problem.

Feed your right brain with tranquility. Block out “think time” on your calendar and be disciplined in honoring it.

No negativity. This is hard for left brainers, because that side will rationalize the right brain’s ideas away. Positive language helps ideas flourish. It’s like idea volleyball. You can keep an idea alive by asking questions like “What if?” “What else?” and “Why not?” Another approach is to ask yourself what interests you about that idea and then ask more questions to help refine it. Sure, this takes more effort than simply abandoning the idea. Statistically, an idea will get four negative responses before one positive one. But staying positive will help your left brain play along.

Laugh more. Children laugh 150 times a day. For adults, it’s closer to 15. Laughter keeps things open and light. It also releases endorphins in the brain, keeping you positive—and positivity is fertile ground for ideas.

Color your world. Color is a powerful stimulus. Look around. Is your environment grey and beige? Even the simplest splash of color can stimulate the right brain. Tack up colorful paper or pictures. Write notes or jot ideas down on bright sticky notes. Visit sites like Pinterest or for ideas. Use a colored notebook, calendar, or pens. Small colorful changes have a big impact. This idea sums it up: We all went to kindergarten with a magical box of crayons and graduate high school with a disposable ball point pen.

No matter which side of the brain dominates you, today’s business is driven by innovative ideas—and those ideas come from the right side. Give your right brain room, color, quiet, and positivity and abandon repetition. This will pay you back ten-fold.

Flora Caputo is vice president/executive creative director at Jacobs Agency.

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