How can people become more creative and innovative in their everyday lives? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Writers often talk about the moment when inspiration strikes them. When they have an idea, they have to write it down while that inspiration is with them. There's a wonderful thing that happens when you're inspired; it feels as if the ideas are just coming to you from some ineffable source and you're there to channel them. And if you miss that train, they often don't come back (Remember that great idea you had last night at dinner? What the heck was it?)
If you know what types of inspiration you're a channel for, you can make sure you have the appropriate tools at hand: a notebook, a canvas, or that app on your phone or computer. When you're inspired, drop what you're doing and start putting ideas down until you no longer feel compelled to do so. More often than not, when you read your notes later, you will find yourself back on that train and generate more ideas. I have a Livescribe notebook within an arm's reach at most times of day.
While inspiration is great, completing something is even greater -- the childlike glee of holding something up and saying "Look what I made!" Most of us are pretty bad at following through; the formal responsibilities of life and work often take priority. But let's break that down: the responsibilities of work and life often have a lot of structure around them to make sure we don't drop the ball. Arbitrary creativity often doesn't have that structure, so you have to build some. Keeping the tools at hand, and committing to follow inspiration when it strikes are two example of structure, but we can come up with more.
For instance, at A³, many of our teams use OKRs to make sure they aim high in what they want to accomplish and track progress in a meaningful way. OKRs can provide great structure, but people often associate them solely with work objectives and after a while they can feel pretty dry. I encourage the team to also come up with OKRs that track personal objectives outside work; managers track their teams' personal OKRs and support them alongside the work ones. For example, one of our Project Executives wanted to outdoors ( ). It took three quarterly OKRs for him to 1) complete a lead-climbing class in the gym, 2) lead hard climbs comfortably indoors, and 3) go on a trip to Red Rocks and ropegun on real rock. Along the way he ran into a bunch of challenges that almost stopped him until he remembered that his work OKRs were much more challenging and less obvious, and that he really wanted to do this in the first place. Conversely, personal OKRs remind us that, even at work, the reason we set ambitious goals is that a part of us is really inspired to achieve them. This is getting a little wordy but I hope you get the point: find a thing that inspires you and put a structure around it that doesn't let you off the hook. Let the promise of childlike glee be your guide.
If all of that sounds too complicated, TL;DR: go to Burning Man, help someone build an implausible fifty-foot sculpture, and burn it a week later. You're welcome.
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