How to Be More Creative

Would you like to be more creative? I have been talking to a few people of late about bringing creativity and creative thinking into the work environment and using it to support change processes. As I have discussed with them there are so many ways in both our personal and professional lives where we can be more creative.

We Can All Be More Creative

Who knows when that creative spark will strike? It can happen at any time. It often happens in a place where you can’t capture it. However, it is possible to set up yourself for optimal creativity.

You need to find what works for you. That may seem obvious, but too many people disregard it. For instance, if you do your best writing work on Monday in the morning, why aren’t you writing more on Monday mornings? That is the right time for you, use it to your advantage. Many people ignore this.

Look at what others have created for a source of inspiration. It’s easy to spend some time on the internet and discover some great ideas. One website dedicated to this is It randomly selects pages, and you can further refine your searches by category. Wikipedia and Reddit are other websites that offer up random pages. Using resources like this can be a great way to generate new inspiration.

Most ideas are not truly original, they stem from past creations. For instance, songwriters often use the structure of their favorite songs as the base for their work. Every so often an idea comes along that seems unique. However, when you peel back the layers of how the idea developed, you will often see inspiration from somewhere else.

One important point is never to copy ideas. It’s okay to use other peoples’ ideas to generate new ideas. But, if you simply copy what others have done, people will pick up on that. You will be looked on as a fraud. Besides, it’s an illegal practice that can get you into trouble. Don’t do it. It’s not worth the risk.

To help you to be more creative when you work, listen to music. That can help a lot. Choose music that is easy to listen to without distracting you too much. Many people find classical music is a good fit here as the music contains no lyrics. However, if you find that you do well with another style, don’t limit yourself.

Give something a try that falls outside your normal activity. For instance, try reading magazines that you typically wouldn’t read to get different perspectives. Try browsing websites that you wouldn’t typically browse, etc. The idea is to use a pattern interrupt within your brain which makes it use different pathways. Doing that can generate ideas you would have never had before. The results will likely surprise you as you discover you can be more creative!

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

We are hearing a lot about Emotional Intelligence at the moment but what exactly is it and why is it important and so popular?

Emotional intelligence can be defined as the ability to control and express our emotions in a healthy way, and to understand, interpret, and respond to the emotions of others in an appropriate way. Many people focus on their IQ or Intelligence Quotient, but psychological studies have shown that there is also a thing known as an Emotional Quotient (EQ), and that those with a high EQ tend to do well in both their careers and social situations.

Defining Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) was first explored in the 1930s in the US and by the 1990s had become a mainstream concept used to help people with anger management and other issues monitor their own feelings and actions, and better grasp the effects of their emotions on other people. By also learning how to read the feelings and emotions of others, better communication could take place, and relationships improved.

The Four Aspects of Emotional Intelligence

Researchers have created a model of EI that is said to have four parts:

  1. Recognizing emotions
  2. Reasoning using emotions
  3. Understanding emotions
  4. Managing emotions

1. Recognizing

The first step in understanding emotions is to recognise them, and be able to identify them accurately. This will often include tapping into one’s own inner truth to sort out anger, disappointment, embarrassment, and other emotions. These might all be expressed in the same way by a person lacking in EI, who might demonstrate anger in all of these instances.

It might also be a case of recognising their own body language and the unconscious messages they are sending, and picking up on the non-verbal cues others are giving them, such as facial expression and body language. Standing too far away or too close to someone, for example, sends out certain messages they need to be able to read in themselves and others.

2. Reasoning Using Emotions

Human beings are not robots. We make many decisions in relation to our emotions, though we might not realise it. We will often do things on the spur of the moment due to mood. However, reasoning means getting the emotions under control and using them to make logical decisions based on who the person is and the life they wish to lead. Emotions help us focus on what’s important to us and filter out what isn’t important.

3. Understanding Emotions

We can usually identify emotions, but are not always able to interpret what they mean. For example, we can all spot anger in most cases, but need to get at the heart of why the anger has been triggered. However, not everyone who experiences anger shouts or throws things. Sometimes their reaction is a lot subtler, such as silence, sarcasm, or simply walking away.

Understanding emotions is also about not taking things personally. Is your boss really angry with you, or are they angry at the guy who cut him off in the parking lot?

4. Managing Emotions

Managing emotions is an essential part of EI, with your expression of emotions appropriate to the situation and context. Shouting, screaming and throwing things might be appropriate when you are two, but not when you are an adult – and certainly not in the office in front of all your colleagues.

Those who are able to regulate their emotions and not get ruffled no matter how stressful things get, are seen to be a reliable person in control of their life. Those who fly off the handle at the least little thing are seen to be unreliable and out of control, and therefore someone who needs to be dealt with cautiously.

If you’ve been struggling with relationships, it’s time to learn more about your EI.

Do You Use A Reflective Journal?

I have written about the need to reflect on our learning a number of times of late. It’s something which I have found invaluable and try to build into my activity on a regular basis. Indeed, I commented recently when I started this blog that in many ways it was a form of reflective writing for me as much as a way of helping others.

However, I am aware that keeping a reflective journal and writing in it on a daily or even weekly basis can be a challenge if you are not familiar with the approach. Reflecting on that reminded me of The Reflective Journal, which was written by Barbara Bassot.

It is designed to help readers critically assess their academic or professional progress and is as suitable for working professionals in any fieled as it is for students studying a variety of disciplines.

Have you completed Peter Honey and Alan Mumford’s learning styles questionnaire or indeed any questionnaire that looks at learning styles? If you have and you have identified that you have any reflector traits, then Bassot’s reflective journal can help you reflect on your career progress or on the information you’ve learned as part of a formal training course. If you have completed any type of learning styles inventory and have identified that you need to develop more skills around reflection then I would suggest that it’s ideal.

As well as giving you ample free space to record new information and observations, The Reflective Journal also contains a variety of useful techniques to help you become a critical reflective writer. If you haven’t had any prior experience writing in a reflective journal, then The Reflective Journal, is an ideal first reflective journal, as the process of writing in a reflective journal differs from writing in a traditional journal. To get the best out of the whole exercise, which will be an ongoing one, then learning how to properly utilise a relfective journal, in order to get the most out of your reflective exercises is very worthwhile.

The key to writing in a reflective journal, is to write in such a way that you can pin point the areas in which your knowledge is sufficient and the areas of your study or career, in which you need to invest a little more time. If you’re unsure of how to write journal entries which will give you an indication of your strengths, your weaknesses and potential opportunities to further your successes, The Reflective Journal, will guide you through each step of the reflective writing process.

One of the advantages of The Reflective Journal, is that is an easy read and isn’t too wordy or verbose (which with my passion for plain language gives it a big tick!) Unlike some of the other reflective journals being sold which contain lengthy text and few practical activities, The Reflective Journal has been carefully written so that readers spend more time practising reflective writing and less time reading. Each chapter, teaches readers how to build upon their reflective writing skills and offers a few practical exercises, for readers to put their new knowledge to the test. After all, the best way to retain knowledge and to improve your writing skills is to practice writing.

Whether you’re looking to get an A on your next university exam, start your own business or get a new role or a promotion, The Reflective Journal will help you get the most out of your reflecting writing, so that you’ll be able to reach your academic or professional goals. If it is something that interests you then I can highly recommend Barbara Bassot’s The Reflective Journal

Being Open to Informal Learning Experiences

It’s all too easy for us as adults to tend to think that learning ends as soon as we finish our formal qualifications or training. We may recognise that we are still learning when we participate in classroom or even online learning events related to our work but beyond that I wonder how often we consider that we are learning? If we don’t think that we are learning then there is little chance that we will stop and reflect on the learning we have experienced, evaluate the outcomes and even validate what we have learnt.

The reality is that the little thing called “life” has many ways of keeping the learning process alive and kicking. The problem is that we don’t necessarily see these informal learning experiences for what they are. Instead we view them as occurrences which can either result in something good or bad. We never really consider how we grow from them.

More importantly, we don’t always recognise the opportunities they present. There is a lot of truth in the saying “You are never too old to learn”. As someone who is genuinely passionate about encouraging awareness of continuous learning and development I wanted to take a look at some of the opportunities that we may miss for experiencing learning.

In the Workplace

One of the best examples when it comes to the workplace has to be the decisions you have to make. When the odds are stacked against you to finish a project or simply to perform your normal duties, when you have to respond to suggestions in meetings, when your boss suddenly asks you to do something different in a rush the likeliehood is that you will may need to find methods you hadn’t previously used. It may be that you use an approach that you have observed someone else use effectively or you may come up with a completely different approach. Whichever it, I would encourage you to take a few minutes towards the end of each working day or perhaps at home to think about “What did I learn today?”

What did you do differently? What new skills did you develop? Did you use any different approaches than what you would normally use? You may well be astounded to know how many new things you learn on a daily basis if you just pay attention.

In Public

What lessons can you possibly learn from being out in public? First of all, keep in mind that learning experiences don’t necessarily have to happen to you. Just observing the actions of others can be tremendously informative. . How many times have you found yourself just observing your environment? More often than not you will see or hear something you didn’t know or realise before.

Inside Family and Personal Circles

Relationships are probably the most valuable situations for learning something new. It opens up different points of view you never even considered. It might teach you how to become more patient or daring. It can also teach you to be more compassionate. These interactions will greatly affect how you interact with other people. Communication skills are developed with every conversation, especially if you don’t know the person already. Your friends and family provides a safe platform for trying new jokes and topics. By using this safe platform you learn what to say and when to say it.

Home Alone

Yes, even being alone can be a learning experience. Taking the time to reflect on your life opens the door to finding new things you didn’t know about yourself. For instance, 10 years ago you used to love gossip and telling stories. Now all of a sudden you don’t really care for rumours that much. Many elements or habits that you had fade away without you really noticing. In turn you discover that you’re actually good with something that used to be a weakness. All of this informal learning so often takes place without us even realising it’s happening.

Social Media

Let’s not forget one of my favourite places for informal learning experiences which is social media. News and opinions are available at the blink of an eye. Even better are the opportunities social media provides. Finding a nice job or getting your music video in public view is now easier than ever. It is also a place where we don’t really notice how much we learn. We find ourselves reading a blog post about learning and development or whatever is our own field of work, whilst a few minutes earlier we were looking at the obligatory cat or dog pictures. Endless information resides at our fingertips and we don’t necessarily consider the impact it has.

Just like every action leads to a reaction, so does waking up in the morning and allowing ourselves to be open to learning something. The human brain truly acts like a sponge and in the end you decide to use what has been soaked up; most of the time you won’t even notice that you are learning something. What makes these experiences so valuable? Why do you need to become more conscious about what you learn every hour?

The main reason is opportunity. All these situations usually result in some kind of opportunity. Job promotions are given to those who think further than the rest. More specifically, those who pay attention to the new skills they develop and use them at the correct time are going to reap the rewards. Ultimately it is up to us to see these opportunities when they occur, because these informal learning experiences prepared us for it.

Just about everything you do can be turned into an informal learning experience and whilst it might be a little bit too much to analyse everything, do try to reflect a little bit more on things you would normally see as insignificant. Chances are your opportunities in life will increase dramatically if you are open to and aware of the informal learning experiences that are all around you.

Embrace The Joy of Learning

The other day I briefly became involved in a discussion on Twitter about the need for people within Human Resources (HR) and Learning and Development (L&D) to engage in Continuous Professional Development (CPD.) That’s something I fully support because all of us need to keep abreast of developments within our own fields of expertise. However, there’s another reason I firmly believe that we should be engaged in CPD and that’s because we can have an impact on those we work with throughout our organisations.

I am passionate about what I tend to refer to as the sheer “joy of learning” and that it is something which can become infectious. By showing a real commitment, engagement with and joy at learning new things we can encourage others to engage with their own learning and development. If we act as role models for continuous professional development or learning then others can be influenced by us and the organisation as a whole will continue to grow.

I know that when it comes to ongoing learning and development in the workplace, the prospect of keeping your skills relevant on a continual basis may seem daunting. However, learning new things and increasing our marketable skills doesn’t have to be an laborious task it really can be a pleasure endeavour. The attitude which we adopt about the process can have a large impact upon our experience and that of those we work with. Continuing education can be an opportunity to discover the joy of learning with the right outlook. Let’s take a look at how rewarding it can truly be.

Not Just a Means To An End

You may feel that you must constantly hone your skills through continuing professional development, in order to remain competitive in the workplace. Or, perhaps your professional body or your company requires you to complete a minimum number of CPD hours each year. Either way, when you think of this as another hoop that you must jump through, it is likely to diminish your experience and even the amount of benefit that you receive from the development.

In contrast, whether taken voluntarily or mandated by your profession or organisation, continuing development can enrich your professional life. You will have access to the latest information, trends and techniques in your chosen field – allowing you to stay on the cutting edge. This will not only give you an advantage over your peers, but it can help you to become more efficient and effective as well. In addition, with new methods and ideas to try, it can provide you with more outlets to be creative and proactive about your daily tasks. All of these can work to bring you more joy in your professional duties, as you enjoy your career more.
Enjoy the Process

Yet, while the end result can be increased productivity, marketability and knowledge, part of the joy of learning comes from the process itself. Many people rarely get the opportunity to take time out just to learn in their adult life, and continuing development in the workplace provides you with the perfect chance.

You will be able to investigate areas of interest to you, or delve deeper into topics regarding your work that you’ve always been curious about. Learning new tips and skills also helps to keep your mind working well, and your cognitive abilities sharp. That’s why I would encourage you to approach your continuing professional development as a fun challenge, rather than just a necessary task.

The Benefits

Not only can ongoing learning and professional development provide you with new information and greater marketability – it can increase your earning power as well. This can work in several ways, the first being the greater mastery of your occupation. You’ll have more expertise to offer your employer, which can often translate into a bigger role or the opportunity to move on to a bigger role.

In addition, by keeping your work varied and your interest piqued, you’ll likely derive more pleasure from your job as well. How can this affect your earning capability? People who enjoy their work tend to do a better job, and invest more of themselves into their projects. Simply put, the more you enjoy your work and the more you learn about it, the greater your chances of advancement are.

Finally, by constantly improving and expanding your skills, you’ll have an advantage in the job market as well. You may find yourself being contacted by recruiters, or if you were to suddenly need another job, you should have less trouble finding a new position.

In summary, I firmly believe that ongoing learning and professional development in the workplace can be both a pleasurable and a beneficial experience. Rather than a duty that you must perform, it can be something that you should enjoy. It can not only enhance your understanding of your occupation, and provide you with valuable techniques and strategies for success, but it can inspire those you work with to embrace their own opportunities for learning and development. For all of these reasons, approaching your continuing professional development with a positive attitide is an opportunity to enrich your professional life and to embrace the the joy of learning.