Continuing Education

Easy and Fun Exercises to Boost Your Creativity

Creativity isn’t just for “creative types” – everyone, whether you’re a research analyst or a writer, could use some fresh ideas. Sometimes, however, you try to draw from the creative well and find it’s dry. Frustrating, no?

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When the ideas aren’t flowing freely, trying an exercise or two can help you think bigger, differently, and more freely. Tom Kelley and David Kelley, leaders at design firm and innovation machine IDEO, know their stuff when it comes to generating ideas and assembled a litany of exercises to do just that.

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One to try is the 30 Circles Exercise. Armed with a pen and a piece of paper filled with 30 circles (such as the one you can download here), take three minutes to transform as many circles into identifiable objects. Try this exercise as a fun warm-up and, as Kelley and Kelley explain, to see the relationship between the speed of idea generation and the individuality of ideas.

Another exercise suggested by Kelley and Kelley is mind mapping, a brainstorming standard also endorsed by Continuing Ed writing instructor Chris Dubois. “Fuzzy writing can come from fuzzy thinking,” Chris explained, so mind mapping is a way to get all of your ideas on paper, develop new ones, and mine for insights. It’s simple: start by drawing a circle around the main idea in the middle of the paper, then branch off from the center by writing down related concepts. Ideally, one thing will lead to another until you have a network of idea nodes.

Remember, with these exercises, creativity takes practice. As Twyla Tharp writes in "The Creative Habit" about creativity:

“No one is born with that skill. It is developed through exercise, through repetition, through a blend of learning and reflection that’s both painstaking and rewarding.”

Read Kelley and Kelley’s article, Three Creativity Challenges from IDEO’s Leaders, for more ideas about developing ideas.

Did you try any of these exercises? Let us know how they worked out for you in the comments, or share one of your favorite exercises. 

Photo credit: Think Different, by Vincent Spain.