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How many ways can you come up with to use a paper clip, in 60 seconds?

Go on then, the clock starts now....

Sounds easy, but is it? I love this little test of your creativity, I use it all the time as an icebreaker to get the creative juices flowing and to see if teams come up with any ideas I've never heard before. I was first introduced to this question in a job interview years ago and I was happy to come up with 17 ideas in the minute* (only to be later told that this was also a test used to identify psychopaths, whoops!!!).

In my recent vlog I talked all about the importance of creativity not just to my work but to my mood in general. It's something that I've been fascinated with in recent years and, inspired by research papers I have read, something I try to develop and help others with on a regular basis.

Whilst coming up with as many ideas for how to use a paper clip may seem silly, in reality this is just a microcosm to the level of ideas you can apply to any problem, any opportunity or life in general. So many times in history, creativity has been the difference between success and failure (be it a last minute move on the sports field or the quick thinking to get any of space missions that have gone wrong wrong back on track).

As the old adage goes:
"We're only ever limited by our own imaginations"

So, how can you improve and maximise creativity? Here are 4 ways that I go about it on a regular basis:

  1. Regularly test your creativity - I really believe creativity is like a muscle, if we don't use it, it gets weak and flabby. To combat this, I regularly undertake challenges like the paper clip question setting myself the task of coming up with as many ideas on a certain topic as I can in a set period. This can range from 'books I might write' to 'apps I might one day develop' to 'ice cream flavours that the world needs'. It can literally be anything. You'll be surprised how quickly you improve at this silly game, the more you do it.

  2. Send your mind into disarray - Whereas in the above tip you are actively trying to apply your creativity to something structured how about if you throw your brain a curveball and force it to come up with a different way of doing things? Having read an article about this once, I regularly look for ways to mess up my mind and over the years have regularly changed which hand I use to brush my teeth, or use to work a mouse or even to write. I change my running route regularly so that I'm not on autopilot, do crosswords and mind puzzles and basically look for as many wacky ways to provide stimulation and engender creativity as possible. Obviously you don't want to do this constantly or it would be exhausting but every now and then, if you do it, your mind will thank you.

  3. Apply your creativity - an idea is just an idea until you make it happen, so what is more satisfying then taking some of your great thinking and making it happen? This could be by doing them yourself (for example this year I have decided to do a personal challenge every month - the first was called the #BrandyButterChallenge, a silly idea that I put together as a bit of fun to galvanise folk during the most depressing month of the year, and it went way better than expected so I've followed it up with #Februnruary). Alternatively you could make them happen by giving your ideas away and helping others; I regularly love brainstorming with folk to help them get out of a difficult situation (e.g. career impasse, relationship challenges, gift ideas, etc.) and watching as they go on to successfully go with one of the ideas you came up with together.

  4. Help structure creativity in others - Once you're good at something, it's a shame not to help others with it. Rather than do all the thinking for them, share your own tips on how they can develop their creativity and sit back and support them grow. Next time you're running a group brainstorming session remember that the proven best way to generate more ideas is for individuals to think alone first in silence then in pairs, then in larger groups before eventually sharing with the whole group. It's also important that you try and maintain as much positivity and openness in the room as otherwise ideas will be shot down and people will be afraid to share.

So, that's it. It's simple, it's a little bit stupid but it's fun and trust me, as you get better, you'll be amazed at the difference it makes. If you want any more tips or help with your creativity then gladly give Shiageto a shout otherwise happy creating....

*the record number of unique ways generated by one person on how to use a paper clip in 60 seconds that I have witnessed when asking this question was 32; 10 is a good benchmark if you're trying

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