Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Tina Seelig's 9 Ways to Unlock Your Creativity Quotient

Kindergarten is fun by woodley wonderworks
If I ask:

5 + 5 = ?

You know the answer, right?

But if I ask:

? + ? = 10

The answers are infinite.

How we ask questions, enhances our creativity.

This was one of numerous examples and stories Tina Seelig shared during her fantastic talk last night, Unlocking Your Creativity Quotient, hosted by UpStart Bay Area. Seelig is the Executive Director for the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP), the entrepreneurship center at Stanford University's School of Engineering. She is also the author of What I Wish I Knew When I Was Twenty:  On Making Your Place in the World.  You can follow her on Twitter at @tseelig.

Seelig shared 9 things she believes can increase your creativity:

1. Observation

Pay attention.  The answers you're looking for may be right in front of you.

2. Connect and combine things in unusual ways

Example: She gave her students an assignment to combine two household items and create something with a new function. They came up with all kinds of amazing things.

3. Challenge Assumptions

 The first answer is often not the best answer.  She recommends going past the first answer, and the second answer, to the third answer, and beyond.

4. Reframe the Problem

Example: If you were asked to design a new version of a name tag (like the ones you wear at conferences) you'd probably get versions that were different, but ultimately similar.  But if you asked, "Why do we use name tags?" and answered, "To introduce ourselves/break the ice," you could then ask people to design new "introduction/ice breaking devices" and would get completely new ideas.

5. Space matters

Example: Kindergarten classrooms where you can sit on the floor, move things around, be messy, work with others easily, and have space to move, encourage creativity. Desks in rows during the rest of our schooling do not : (

6. Time

Too much pressure can inhibit creativity, but a little, like when you're trying to reach a goal, can stimulate it.

7. Rules

Example: She gave her class 5 Scrabble boards.  While they were playing, she changed the rules every 10 minutes so that they were either looser (e.g. you can use proper nouns), or tighter (e.g. your word has to build on the word that was laid down before it). The tighter she made the rules, the more creative the students became, and the more they collaborated with each other. It reminded me of a NYT article I read years ago, Route to Creativity: Following Bliss or Dots?

8. Experimentation

Try lots of things.  Keep what works.  Be willing to share ideas in their early stages and get feedback before you invest a lot in completion.  Be willing to fail fast.

9. Attitude

If you don't have the attitude that you can solve a problem creatively, you never will.  Think of every problem as an opportunity.

Example: One of her students needed to move a couch from one side of town to the other quickly, but she didn't have a car, or anyone who could give her a ride in a large enough vehicle.  She did an exercise Seelig teaches to her students: Pick a random object in your space and figure out how it can help you solve your problem.  She noticed a case of wine in the room, and decide to post a listing on Craigslist offering to trade a case of wine for a ride.  Her couch was moved in 2 hours.

Seelig is working on a book around these 9 ideas and asked us to tell her which ones resonated with us the most.  #6 (Space Matters), #7 (Reframe the Problem) and #9 (Attitude) were my favs.  Which ones make you go, "Yes!"

A big thanks to Tara Sophia Mohr for letting me know about the event!

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  1. thanks for this fantastic post!

  2. My pleasure! Thanks for reading (:

  3. #5 and #9 were my favs

  4. There is so much synchronicity on the web! Britt, I noticed that you discovered Seelig through Tara Sophia Mohr. Well my good friend Jeffrey Davis, writer and creativity coach, has been asked to give a free conference call with Mohr next week, on Feb. 23. You can learn more about the free conference call on Mohr's blog:

    I think you'll find that Jeff is a great discovery, just like Seelig.

  5. BreezyRox ~ Thanks for sharing!

    Wendy ~ Wow, that is a synchronicity!


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