1. Running – My best life-changing ideas occur while running. I rarely take headphones, preferring to let my mind wander into “free thinking,” as Dr. Stephen Sample teaches in The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership Inevitably I have a creative idea. Free thinking means loosing your mind from the restrictions of common sense and envisioning seemingly ridiculous scenarios in order to solve tough problems. For instance, thinking about ladybugs in order to solve a nuclear fission conundrum.
2. How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci– My quintessential go-to book for stirring up new ideas. Michael J. Gelb’s exercises and questions continue to prove invaluable for prompting creativity.
3. Magazines – Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Wired fuel my creativity as few things on earth. I’m talking the old-fashioned “hold it in my hand” kind of magazine. Online is okay, but ideas really start popping while holding the slick cover in my hand, relaxing on the porch with a drink, and dreaming. Hint: The first thing I do when the mag comes in the mail is systematically tear out all the advertisements. This makes for a thinner magazine to hold and also enables efficient completion of the vital reading.
4. Oblique Strategies (now called Methodology) – Get as an iPhone app or as paper flash cards in a box. My friend Mark Lee gifted my first set and they have been an invaluable tool since that day. Methodologies are idea starters in a sentence. They stimulate writing, painting, thinking and myriad creative adventures.
5. Thinking – Speaking of thinking. It is a lost art. Our Western culture (especially my activator personality) cause us to act first and then think. Pulitzer-prize winning author David McCullough says he systematically allocates time for thinking on his calendar for each new book project. Time spent thinking results in better actions. We know this, but we don’t know it. A good idea becomes a great idea with time spent thinking, mulling and dreaming. For some reason, we feel time spent thinking is lazy or wasteful. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a huge difference between daydreaming and thinking.
What is your top tool for creativity?