How do you jump-start creativity and get good ideas flowing?
By Darko Savic on Sep 02, 2020
Optimal conditions for ideation
In no particular order, I find these to be helpful if not even necessary: - Be well-rested. - Be well fed and hydrated, including any micronutrients the body/brain could need. - Have a clear goal. - Remove all distractions for a lengthy period of time so that you can focus on the problem at hand. It could take multiple distraction-free focus sessions before progress is achieved. - Focus on the same problem in multiple different environments. Literally change your physical location and focus on the problem there.
by Darko Savic on Sep 02, 2020
Alternating between intense focus and easy, routine tasks (incubation period)
For me, ideas often light up after I've stopped trying to come up with them. After a period of intensely focusing on the topic of interest, I completely let it go and switch to an unrelated routine task which my brain can do on auto-pilot. During this "incubation period" the subconscious mind continues working on the idea. It keeps experimenting, comparing to known concepts, etc. until something finally clicks and a good idea lights up. During the period of intense focus, I either heavily research the topic or write about it (or both).
by Darko Savic on Sep 02, 2020
Walk It Out
I decided to join this brainstorming club because my life is a not-so-harmonic oscillator, too. Flying high and then hitting the rock bottom is a discontinuous battle that squeezes the life out of me. To stay creative, enthusiastic, and focus better, I developed a walking system that works, at least in my case. When I hit the wall, (1) I get up and start walking around the office. If I don't feel the heavy load falling off my shoulders, releasing the creative beast, then (2) I go outside and do a few circles around the building. If the stress is enormous, (3) I walk somewhere where everything becomes small, including my challenges. It has to be something marvelous, millennial, and big, such as the ocean, or a forest close to your home. PS Don't forget to bring a pen and paper.
by Juran K. on Sep 02, 2020
I have not tried this but I know people who have and do it regularly. Sensory deprivation is cutting off the inputs to all your senses. John C. Lilly, a neuro-psychiatrist, created the first sensory-deprivation flotation method for his experiments in 1954. The best way to perform sensory deprivation is by using a sensory deprivation flotation tank. These are water tanks where you can pay to float in salty water (to make you float) for a certain period, receiving almost no sensory information at all. It’s dark so you don’t see anything even with your eyes open. You wear earplugs to cut off all sounds. People who are new to this experience random thoughts initially like going over their plans for the day or get bored. But once you patiently pass that phase, you begin to experience the void. Some people say it works like a psychedelic. Of course, people have all kinds of experiences. Practice helps you better understanding and control the feeling. This void, a period of nothingness, helps you communicate with your mind. Since there is no sensory input, the associated stress signals start deactivating until they reach a minimum. This allows more part of your brain to indulge in creative stuff. You realize that your brain is under a constant pressure of analyzing every input. Input deprivation relieves your brain and releases elevated levels of dopamine and endorphins, the neurotransmitters that make you feel happy. Also, the body is under constant pressure to counter gravity and maintain a posture. The flotation relaxes your muscles and joints. Any kind of chronic pain you have is relieved. This further helps free more parts of your brain. In the flotation tank, the brain generates theta waves, the ones that the brain usually generates during sleep or meditation. The theta waves initiate learning and intuition and fortify memory. Meditation requires practice to master achieving theta waves at will (without losing consciousness). The flotation tank eases this process and helps sustain it too. Flotation helps you elevate your problem-solving and technical skills. A version of the flotation tank called restricted environmental stimulation technique (REST) improved perceptual-motor skills in sports  and technical ability in musicians.  Another study showed that flotation enhanced scientific creativity. Five psychology faculty members took six 1-hour sessions of REST. For 30 min after each REST session, subjects recorded ideas concerning their research. Self-ratings showed that novel ideas generated after REST were more creative than those developed during control (isolated sessions in the office). REST was associated with a higher level of vigor and lower levels of tension, anger, depression, fatigue, and confusion.  There is some discrepancy regarding how long the effects last after flotation.  More research is needed in this area. Several people experience hallucinations. However, hallucinations were more common in people who expected some kind of adverse effect.  There are spas where the set-up is available under expert supervision. For those who do not have access to flotation tanks, here is what you can do at home. You can reduce visual input – light, by drawing the curtains and making the room dark. Using a blindfold is a better way but make sure that it is comfortable, not too tight or loose. Using hands to cover your eyes will not be relaxing for your hands. You can use sound-canceling headphones to shut out the noise. Simple earplugs or headphones might also work (depending upon the noise in the environment). The most important thing is to isolate yourself. Intermittent contact will people will reduce the effect drastically. Your bedroom (or the place that makes you feel the most comfortable) should be used. Lying down relaxes your body and helps empty your brain. ATTENTION: Long-term or forced sensory deprivation can cause extreme anxiety, hallucinations, bizarre thoughts, and depression. Users should consult experts is they show such symptoms. References: 1. Suedfeld P, Bruno T. Flotation REST and imagery in the improvement of athletic performance. J Sport Exercise Psychol. 1990; 12(1):82-85. 2. Vartanian O, Suedfeld P. The Effect of the Flotation Version of Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique (REST) on Jazz Improvisation. Music Med [Internet]. 2011 Oct 1;3(4):234–8. Available from: http://mmd.iammonline.com/index.php/musmed/issue/archive 3. Suedfeld P, Metcalfe J, Bluck S. Enhancement of scientific creativity by flotation REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Technique). J Environ Psychol. 1987;7(2):219-231. 4. Belle Beth Cooper, 2013. https://buffer.com/resources/the-power-of-shutting-down-your-senses-how-to-boost-your-creativity-and-have-a-clear-mind/ 5. Mason OJ, Brady F. The Psychotomimetic Effects of Short-Term Sensory Deprivation. J Nerv Ment Dis [Internet]. 2009 Oct;197(10):783–5. Available from: http://journals.lww.com/00005053-200910000-00011
by Shubhankar Kulkarni on Sep 04, 2020
Browsing through lists of ideas
Often when reading through lists of ideas my mind gets primed (inspired?) and my own ideas start flowing. I'm not sure if it matters whether the ideas on the reading list are related or assorted. My lists are assorted. Here is an example of such a list: http://www.glowingrectangles.com/1000-business-ideas/
by Darko Savic on Sep 08, 2020
Get some distance
Generally, I noticed that switching off briefly and doing something totally different can help. Like going out for a run or cooking or having a cold shower. And when we need to be conscious that we should not carry the baggage of thought/problem when we are switching off. Instead, we need to keep our mind occupied with totally different stuff like an audiobook or reading up about a recipe etc. Not sure if time is a limitation, but if your project/activity can afford a longer break, then consider leaving the topic for few hours altogether and revisit it later in the day or the next morning (preferably early). Getting distance gives you a new perspective, many times, and helps you see/form connections between existing ideas so that they can be refined and clustered into newer topics/ideas/themes that could be concretized,
by Kamal Aakarsh Vishnubhotla on Sep 10, 2020
Build up a hunger for creativity by doing NOTHING
If more (learning, writing, debating) doesn't cut it, go the opposite way. Try less. Depending on your lifestyle, doing absolutely nothing and not thinking about your creative work might feel relaxing at first. But as soon as you have enough of relaxation doing nothing gets boring really quickly. Your mind starts coming up with to-do ideas. Don't let it. Remember, you are taking a vacation from creativity. You are on a "diet" in order to build up a hunger - increased potential (creative voltage if you will). Sustain doing nothing as long as you can, then unleash your creativity on the most important task. The most important task is usually not the one that gives the fastest return/gratification. it is the one that needs the most work. The one you might have been postponing. With your newly found hunger, now is the time to chew through it.
by Darko Savic on Sep 11, 2020
When others criticize your work (something that occupies a sufficient enough part of your life), you tend to improve it. This is like a cognitive fight response. When questions are thrown at you, you are more desperate to find answers than you would by wondering about it on your own. This is helpful when you have reached a milestone in your area of work and are stuck there. My mentor used to suggest presenting a poster of my work at conferences at multiple stages during the Ph.D. process. You may find new ways to answer incoming questions. These help you find new ways to tackle your problems, validate your experiments, or improve them.
by Shubhankar Kulkarni on Sep 14, 2020