Shortcuts to creativity

creativityAs we are in a creative industry, we are very often asked “So how do you guys “do” creative? How do you come up with good ideas?”

It’s tempting, of course, to simply answer:

“Well, we’re all geniuses, donchaknow?”

But we’re not. We’re just hardworking creative people who do this all day every day for our clients.

But yes, there ARE some tricks you can use to improve your level of creativity. And remember, creativity isn’t just about writing a great ad – it might be developing a new product idea, (Thomas Edison was arguably the most creative person who ever lived), solving an intractable business dispute, dealing with an annoying colleague, a new direction for your business – anything!

Here’s our pick of the best.


Get away from that damn computer screen. Typing everything has been shown to move us away from our inner creative and make us fixated on logic and process.

The human mind remembers things in pictures, not words. So draw some. Draw the issue in front of you. Then let your mind wander. Let the pen be guided by your subconscious. Even do something else entirely while you doodle. Then look back and see what you’ve drawn. The answer you seek may be on the sheet!


Again, pen and paper needed here. Not a screen and keyboard. Write a word that is relevant to what you’re dealing with. Then write down any word of thought that is associated with it in your mind, whether positive or negative. Keep writing down words until you can’t write any more. Then review.


take offChange your perspective. Clear your mind. Get some fresh air. Let the world give you input. Get away from annoying ringing bells, buzzing bleeper things, and people talking. Be in your own head for a while. Don’t follow a pre-determined route, just wander. See the world around you. Disconnecting can help you truly think creatively. When you really turn everything off and don’t check your email, you can de-compress and come up with genuinely innovative ideas.

Let yourself dream. While you’re awake.


If you often have thoughts running around your head while you’re trying to go to sleep, keep a pen and paper next to your bed. You’ll sleep much better knowing that you’ve written down your idea. And the next day, you don’t have to try and remember them.


Share the creative burden. Once you have an idea, get input from your peers, colleagues, customers and partners. The bigger and more diverse the group, the better. After talking to people, you’ll have lots of different reactions that will help you transform that inspirational moment into something actionable.


By far the most powerful part of your brain for genuine creativity is your subconscious. It contains everything you’ve ever remembered and even stuff you haven’t realised you’ve remembered. It can regurgitate that information in new and exciting ways, if you give it the chance.

subconsciousDo this. Get to somewhere quiet, and speak to your subconscious, out loud.

No, really, we mean it.

Actually say “OK, subconscious, I want you to work out for me what to say (or do) about such-and-such. I am giving you this job, I am going to stop worrying about it. You come up with the solution.”

(It’s a good idea to do this somewhere quiet because it works better. And it also means everything else around you doesn’t become convinced you’ve gone barmy.)

And then, genuinely, forget it. Just stop thinking about it.

You’ll be amazed, how often, time and again, your subconscious will “pop” the answer you seek into your head at the most unexpected moment.


We like to assume that the world’s greatest artists, writers and composers all operated in cold garrets, high above the street, creating their art in magnificent isolation before inevitably dying of consumption, or being stabbed in a bar room brawl, or whatever.

Not true. The world’s most creative people have always – and always will – surrounded themselves with fellow creative people, and sometimes – often, in fact –borrow shamelessly from each other. And many of the most famous creative people in history have actually usually worked in teams, bouncing ideas (and work) off each other constantly.

So never mind what your job role is: go see a play. A concert. Visit a gallery. Visit a company you admire. Even go to your favourite shopping centre. And just drink in the creativity all around you. It’s good for your head.


We’re not kidding. Want to be more creative at work? Paint your office blue.

Canadian researchers at the University of British Columbia analysed the effect of colour on 666 students, 17 to 39 years old, who completed detail-oriented and creative tasks presented on computer screens set to either a red, blue or white background color.

The participants scored higher on detail-oriented assignments, such as memory tasks or proofreading, when completing them on a red background. But they did better on tasks that called for imagination and creativity with blue.

Juliet Zhu, Assistant Professor of Marketing at the university, said in Science magazine: “If we were setting the room for a brainstorming session for new product development or coming up with innovative ideas for a gallery or shop, then the blue colour will probably help.”

Whether you try these techniques or others, good luck. If call else fails, give Magnum Opus Partners a call and give us the problem.

Author: Stephen Yolland

Director of Creative Strategy and Partner @ Magnum Opus Partners.

One thought

  1. Stop thinking so hard.. I find clearing your head by whatever means (personally yoga and running work for me) is the best way to unblock, create and find your vision.
    Great insights Yolly. Loving the MOP Blog!


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