It's simple. There are five three-letter words that creative people use more than anyone else. If you use these words (or derivatives of them) often in conversations, you must be a creative person. Use a voice recorder when you start a conversation. Record your phone conversations. Watch videos of conversations. Take any five minutes (or one minute, of whatever you choose) or 500 words (of 1,000, or 200, ...). Then count how many times you used those five words. The best part is that you can force yourself to use these words, and through that, you will increase your creativity. Using those words will change how you think.


Uncreative people often think they know everything. Uncreative organizations suffer from the "not invented here" syndrome. Curiosity increases creativity. You don't know everything. The more you ask "Why?" the more you learn new things. The more new things you know, the higher the probability that combining those new insights will give you even more new ideas. Creative people ask "Why?" more.


Uncreative people think about reasons not to do things. Uncreative organizations create processes with steps that lead people to no more often than to yes. The more you say yes, the more you (and others) are encouraged to explore new things. Say yes and then find out how you would do it. Creative people say yes more than they say no. Much more.

And ...?

One of the basic rules for improv is to use "yes, and ...." It is very hard to build new ideas right after finding what's wrong with another idea. When I took improv classes, I got on stage, said something, and the other person responded with "yes, and ...," she gave me another idea. She built on what I said, and she gave me an opening for my next sentence. Or is a dangerous word. It suggests that there is a finite number of options. Do X or Y. The word and suggests there is always another option. By the way, try using the word "And ... ?" as an open-ended question. When someone says something, respond with "and ... ?" You will be forcing them to think more. Creative people say and more than they say or.


Many people in your life tell you what you cannot do and why you cannot do it. There are always many reasons something should not be done. There are policies, and processes, and all kinds of things that could go wrong. Creative people think about what they (or you) can do. Creative people use can more than they use cannot, whether it's about what they can do or what others around them can do. Think about why you can do something. Not about reasons why you can't.

Try ...

Experimentation is one of the most powerful methods for generating new ideas. Not all ideas originate in the combination of old ideas already in your head. Sometimes the results of an experiment can be surprising and teach you something you never knew. Creative people are always willing to give something a try. They encourage others to try something, in face of doubt.

How should you do it?

Once you recorded yourself talking with someone, listen to five minutes of it (or 750 words) carefully, and count how many times you used these five words. Don't count "don't try this at home" as an instance of using the word " try...." For every time you used one of these five words, give yourself a point. For every time you used the opposite word, deduct a point. What did you get at the end?

Do this on a regular basis. Our brains are wired such that we want to improve the results of everything that we measure. That's why weighing yourself every morning allows you to lose weight faster than if you do that on a less frequent basis. We desperately seek approval, and we get that (even from ourselves) by achieving good results. So the more you count using those words, the more your brain will try (see? I said try) to use them more. When your brain tries to force those words into sentences, you will begin to change attitude. You will begin to want to say yes, can, try, and and, and ask why? more often than before, and become more creative as a result. When you use those words with other people, you encourage them to be creative as well. When you ask them why? you are asking them to be curious. When you tell them what they can do, say yes to what they are asking, show them that there are always more options to consider with and, and encourage them to try, you will help them be creative.

One final note--the same applies to writing. It might even be easier to do when you write--first, because it's easier to count, and second, because you have an opportunity to change it. If you write (articles for Inc., for example), count the percentage of those five words (minutes their opposites) of the total words in the article. Then improve it.

Try it! You can! And say it to others! Now you know why.