5 Ways to Be More Creative (in a Non-Creative Job)

by , November 26, 2013

I’m a research analyst, so the most creative I typically get in my day-to-day work is, well,choosing a color scheme in PowerPoint.

So, you can imagine my surprise when, the night before a big presentation, I received an email from my creative director. He wrote, “Everything looks great, but let’s make it into a story. Let’s give it some protagonists, conflict, an arc.” In other words, make it more creative.


As I thought about it more, I realized that I had gotten caught up this belief that in order to be analytical, I had to shut down the creative side of my brain. But that’s anything but true. Not only can the two co-exist in perfect harmony, but they can actually stabilize and enrich each other. Think of Steve Jobs or bestselling author Malcom Gladwell: Both are perfect examples of successful analytical-meets-creative types who have been able to use both traits in their careers to achieve great success.

Since then, I’ve made it a goal to get more creative, no matter what I’m working on. If you’re looking to do the same, here are a few tricks I’ve picked up over the years that have helped me bring creativity back into my life and into my un-creative job.


1. Carry a Notebook

Everywhere I go, I carry around a tiny notebook. This isn’t my planner or even scratch paper in case I forget my business card—it’s solely reserved for jotting down quotes, stories, experiences, or anything I find in my day that makes me pause. I’ll also use it for doodling and brainstormingwhen I have a few moments to spare.

Not only is creative note-taking a great and simple way to keep your brain sharp and thinking nimbly, you’ll also start to gather a gold mine of material that can be used in thousands of ways. A quick story can become a blog post that helps to promote your business. A doodle or sketch might help you make sense of a data set that seems to defy rationality. Even with my love of numbers, I’m a very visual person. When I’m working in Excel, all those rows might as well say the same thing. Taking a break from my computer screen to draw a quick sketch of the argument I’m trying to make can help me wade through the sea of numbers and make real sense of the problem at hand.

And even if that’s not your thing, hey: A quote or funny situation you wrote down can be a great icebreaker in the office break room.


2. Surround Yourself With Inspiration

I have a confession to make: I don’t use Pinterest. I know, I know—blasphemy. But I’m a very tactile person. I like to hold things, touch them. My bedroom walls look like the pages of a scrapbook. If I’m reading Vogue and see a photograph I just adore, I tear it out and put it on the wall. If I go to a restaurant where the food and atmosphere is divine, I put the postcard on my wall. Even design elements in mailings I receive have been known to make it on the wall.

If you’re feeling a lull in your creativity, maybe it’s time to get offline and create a physical space for inspiration. (Hint: Drab cubicle walls are a great canvas for this.) Not only will doing this liven up your space (and your mood), the visual inspiration could also inform your next client presentation or your next proposal to the VP. By creating an environment that’s full of ideas, you’ll find it easier to come up with your own, without having to spend more time staring at a screen.


3. Use it or Lose it: Schedule Time to Be Creative

Just like going to the gym or meditating, creativity takes regular practice. In other words, schedule it into your week! It can be anywhere from 15 minutes to an entire day, but carve out some time when you allow yourself to think wildly and freely, do some handiwork, or wander around somewhere especially inspirational.

One of my favorite things to do is to grab my camera and go for a walk. I photograph everything and anything, and when I get home, sometimes I have a few gems to use on social media, as gifts, or even just to stick up on the wall. If you want to practice your creativity during the workday, use your lunch break. (You do get one of those, remember?) Take your lunch outside and use that time to free-write in your notebook, flip through some beautiful magazines, or even just take a walk. Anything that helps to stimulate that right brain will energize you for the rest of your day.


4. Change Up Your Routine

Do you remember your commute to work this morning? My guess is you take the same route every day, and at this point it has become automatic. That’s because repeating the same patterns day in and day out trains the neurons in your brain to fire the same way until your brain ceases to produce new connections. However, novel stimuli force those neurons to fire in new ways.

Along similar lines, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut at work doing the same set things day after day. So, try to mix it up! Tomorrow, take a new route to work. Instead of that sad salad you’ve been eating for lunch the past week, put wasabi peas in it. Instead of the typical 45-minute workout you do, go take a dance class. The changes don’t have to be big; the idea here is to stimulate your brain. You’ll be more aware and more engaged with the world around you—and who knows what you’ll discover.


5. Banish the Word “No” From Your Vocabulary

One of the first things I was taught in my basic improv class was to never say no. For example, say your scene partner comes onstage and says, “Wow, it sure is hot on the planet Mars.” If you say, “No, we’re on Earth,” you’ve just killed the entire scene. Instead, you should try something like, “Yeah, and it doesn’t help that we’re dressed like Eskimos.” The only way to further the scene, and further the plot, is to build off of what your partner has given you.

Next time your boss asks you to do something you’re not sure about, avoid the temptation to say no. Instead, push yourself to fake it until you make it and give it a try. Putting yourself outside your comfort zone will force you to get creative with tackling new challenges, and it may just open up doors that you never would have thought possible. Not to mention opportunities for promotion!


Since I’ve made an effort to be more creative, I’ve seen my productivity increase and found ways to make those mundane tasks a little bit more interesting. Creating a presentation, for example, becomes a way to emulate a brand’s logo design and color scheme while still conveying the recommendations at hand. (In fact, this tactic recently scored me a great new job, where the interviewer said to me, “This is great. It’s our branding, but your personality really comes through.”)

You don’t have to be an artist to be creative. And certainly, artists are not the only people who benefit—or profit—from their creativity. Try a few of these ideas, and see how unleashing a bit of your creativity can improve your career.




Pensamiento de diseño para las relaciones de pareja



Este artículo sobre un libro bastante sugestivo: ” Dating by Design”, nos pone de cara una mirada cotidiana y a su vez extraordinaria de ver y vivir el pensamiento de diseño ¿De qué otras cotidianas maneras podemos aplicar el pensamiento de diseño? ¿Acaso es en la experiencia de lo común, en la dimensión en que puede ser más entendible este proceso? ¿Podría ser así trasladado a nuestras prioridades cómo empresa? ¿Qué pasaría entonces si el Pensamiento de Diseño se aplica a las simples cosas, para luego abordar los desafíos más complejos? Definitivamente se relaciona con la travesía del héroe de Campbell, de un mundo ordinario, se salta al umbral del mundo extraordinario (mágico) y allí se retorna en un ciclo de infinito (iterativo) aprendizaje, experimentación, fallas, redefiniciones.




¿Qué crearías si no tuvieses miedo?

What would you create if you weren’t afraid?

We all have incredible creative potential waiting to be harnessed.

Sometime when we were in elementary school, our creative endeavors took a halt.

What changed?

We started caring about how our peers perceived us.

Up until that point, as kids we let our imaginations run wild. We experimented, squiggled irregular lines on paper and called them dinosaurs. We constantly asked questions about things that didn’t make sense. We took stuff apart, and sometimes put them back together.

We believed that we had the ability to do things, change things, all because… we didn’t know any better!

“We were all born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.” — Pablo Picasso

We weren’t afraid. We weren’t afraid of failure and we weren’t afraid of being judged — we were motivated by wonder, curiosity, and playfulness.

And very soon…

We were faced with judgment and rejection. A peer may have told us “that’s not a dinosaur, that looks like a horse!” It’s amazing how such a debilitating remark can keep us not just from drawing, but also from tending toward all other creative endeavors.

Slowly, the standardized education and social assumptions conditioned us to believe that each one of us was born with a certain level of creativity and intelligence. It led us to believe that our wonder or the loads of questions we wanted to ask, didn’t matter; rather, what mattered are the questions of the imposed curriculum. GPA scales, grade systems by teachers — teachers who are supposed to inspire, to nurture creative confidence, who we looked up to — separate who isgood and who is bad at something. They penalize mistakes, highlight them with red ink — showing there’s only room for the right answers.

And soon this happens: when inspiration strikes, we lose the courage to act on our ideas. Why? Because we become wary of judgment, of getting it wrong, and we create assumptions about others’ expectations of our work, so we don’t even try.

Some of us were fortunate, though, to have parents, teachers, and mentors who continually invested, inspired, and encouraged us to dare, to tinker, and to fail.

Realizing our potential

Every human being on this planet has a unique creative talent. Every single one. We all have incredible creative potential that’s waiting to be unlocked and harnessed. Although most tend to associate “creative” with “drawing,” “designing,” or “writing,” fundamentally, creativity is a mindset and an attitude. It’s about connecting the seemingly unconnected; it’s looking at the world with more empathy; it’s re-imagining what’s in front of us to generate new ideas and approaches. How do you unleash this talent? There are a multitude of ways. Here, I will attempt to show you why the fundamental, relentless belief in your own ability to create is the foundation for them all.

Creativity is not a flash of breakthrough insight that only “geniuses” experience. Rather, it is a process anyone can excel in. But you have to have the creative confidence to believe in the process — that the process will yield results.

It starts with caring enough about a problem and empathizing with others. Empathy leads us to challenge pre-conceived beliefs and find out what is actually true. Then we look for inspirations, reframe the problem, test solutions, learn from mistakes, and repeat.

In hindsight, the end solution, whether it’s a way to reduce waiting times at checkout, or a mobile app, seems inevitable, but far from obvious at the beginning.

Creativity is often stigmatized and buried under the weight of rules manuals,traditions, and everything else that makes jobs formulaic. Rather, it applies to marketers, nurses, executives, admins, as much as it does for actors, artists, etc. Whether it’s deeply connecting with a consumer to understand her needs, or reframing a challenge to generate more meaningful ideas, we can all tap into our creative potential to change things around us.

But we don’t. When given an opportunity to expose or grow a new skill to better express ourselves creatively, most of us prefer to lie in our comfort zones for fear that our limits to our capabilities and creativity will be uncovered. Whenever we’re brainstorming ideas in a team meeting, I’ve noticed the “business” people in the team never grab a marker and sketch their ideas on the whiteboard. They resign to themselves that they “can’t draw” and thus subconsciously force themselves to articulate an idea verbally because whiteboard is just not an option to risk looking petty.

This doesn’t just happen to people who don’t deem themselves as “creative.” It happens to the world-renowned creative professionals. There are more half-written novels than published novels in the world. In her famous TED talk, Elizebeth Gilbert, after publishing her international bestseller Eat, Pray, Love talks about the sheer fear and anguish that comes from having to follow-up a freakish success, but all she can do is to show up — and not be afraid of the hype and the anticipation. She talks about how we came to accept the notion that creativity and suffering as inherently linked.

Fear of not meeting expectations affects everyone regardless of the skill level — restricted either by fear, perfectionism, or anywhere in between.

“Every one of my books has killed me a little more.” — Norman Mailer

Courage to falter

Sure, any skill or talent has to be acquired — with effort and perseverance.

But we often forget that the precursor to the effort, to the practice, to the act of any creation, is the courage to allow ourselves to falter, to be judged, so we can keep growing.

Facebook’s office has wall posters that say, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

This question throws a dart right at this dilemma. Because the only limitation to our imagination and our creativity is our own pre-conceived belief of who we are and what we are able. If a new project conflicts with that belief, fear sets in: fear of expectations, fear of being judged, fear of failure.

We run away, and we never get to make our ideas actually happen.

Kanye West says a lot of things. Love him or hate him, in a recent interview, he had this gem to say:

“That’s the main thing people are controlled by: their perception of themselves. They’re slowed down by the perception of themselves. If you’re taught you can’t do anything, you won’t do anything. I was taught I could do everything.”

I couldn’t have said it any better. As we grow up, we are taught to compromise, conform, and are conditioned to accept the social assumptions and norms — that the world is the way it is, and our job is to just live in it.

But we ALL have the ability to create change in the world. Including you. Yes, YOU. The first step is to believe in your creative capacity — the conviction that we can achieve what we set out to do. If creativity is at the heart of innovation, and innovation is key for human progress, then it is our duty to build technologies that help people nurture and strengthen their creative confidence — to help them generate new ideas, and more importantly, to help them cultivate the courage to act upon them.

ArduinoPaper by Fifty Three, Pinterest, and Medium come to mind. These make creativity accessible by making really simple and engaging tools for creative expression — so simple you don’t have to think about it. You just do. There is no friction to create — possibilities are limitless. They get people to drop their inhibitions, stop trying to be guarded, stop focusing on their outward appearance, and let something come in, to affect them, change them, and shape them.They have some magical combination of collective excitement, community support, and a beautiful organization that make you enjoy doing the tasks to create.(I will cover how we might design technologies to cultivate courage in a later post).

Recapturing Creative Confidence

It is this confidence that we have to instill and nurture in people around us, and to let ourselves as creators be nurtured. Because the only way the world can generate more creators is accepting the simple core belief that each one of us are already naturally creators — we just have to help others rekindle their creative tendencies, and support them during their endeavors.

Self-esteem is perhaps the sanctity of human life that we protect the most. Being perceived not good enough strikes us and causes us to be vulnerable. But vulnerability is beautiful; it’s how we grow. Both the people giving feedback and taking feedback have to know how to best give and take feedback: encourage, constructively critique, ask questions; be resilient, always look for improvements.


Building creative confidence is not a sprint, it is more of a life-long marathon. The human spirit is capable of great things. So as we keep believing and creating small, but meaningful things, we earn the ability to build the self-efficacy, slowly and steadily, to build much larger and more impactful things — things that never would have been created if you never joined the race.

I am eternally optimistic of how humanity can be, and I believe in order for us to solve world’s greatest challenges we have to have faith in our creative spirit, and to not let fear, of all things, deter us from reaching our potential.

Whatever you do, don’t leave creative fulfillment to chance. Dare to do, to create, and to invent.

Don’t let the messy unknown, fear of failure, or of being judged, stop you from creating what’s meaningful.

Take creative control.

If you agree with me…

Be the change you wish to see.

There are pursuits more worthy of our creative potential.


Runner, Maker, Tinkerer. Designing to unleash creative potential.

Panoramas de extinción creativa

Free the Creative – Research

iStock by Getty Images encargó a KRC Research  a desarrollar un a investigación llamada Free The Creative.  El resultado es un panorama de la creatividad desde el ojo de los propios expertos (creativos en  US y UK).  Este estudio perfila insights interesantes, aplicables al desafío planteado.



Inicio de un enfoque o desenfoque

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Pensemos un poco en este pensamiento. Demos una  vuelta completa a nuestros preconceptos y lancemonos a ser tan imaginativos como de niñ@s lo hicimos. Esta es la primera invitación.

Ahora HAGAMOS un “dinosaurio”…

Ese fue el primer límite que nuestros preconceptos moldearon, y de un cúmulo de materiales diversos (…)


solo un osado dejó a la vista su mundo onírico de dinosaurios de papel, que no necesariamente se delinean en la figura que cualquier enciclopedia o documento científico nos describe textual y visualmente como:

(Delgr. δεινός, terrible, y σαῦρος, lagarto).

1. adj. Zool. Se dice de ciertos reptiles fósiles que son los animales terrestres más grandes que han existido, con cabeza pequeña, cuello largo, cola robusta y larga, y extremidades posteriores más largas que las anteriores, y otros con las cuatro extremidades casi iguales, como el diplodoco. U. t. c. s.

¿Por qué asumimos que HACER un dinosaurio es = a DIBUJAR un dinosaurio en su concepción perfecta descriptiva de réptil?

Los límites los coloca la mente, aquella que no ejercita su creatividad e inquietud explorativa propia de una niñez determinada por lo aceptable y lo no aceptable.

Co-idearemos entonces la travesía que potencialice la creatividad latente en cada uno de nosotros, esa ansiedad por saltar fuera de nuestra zona de confort jugando con la mayor seriedad a crear escenarios imaginados, que son en suma realidades más profundas.

Aquí un video de la travesía, viaje, aventura o desafío a la que los he invitado para vivir un proceso de Pensamiento de Diseño. El monomito de Campbell no es mera ficción, es cotidianidad en pequeñas y simples facetas de nuestra vida diaria. Re-creemos el ciclo en las fases claves de un proceso intencionadamente creativo.