At the ESOP Association’s Vegas Conference, I presented with Ben Wells of Dinsome & Shohl on Unleashing Your Creativity for Fun and Profit.  In case you missed our interactive session (big mistake and loss for you, lol), here are four practical tips to live a more creative life.

One:  believe you are creative

Studies show that more than 90% of five year olds are creative, yet that percentage plummets to 10% by age seven and 2% by age ten.  Almost everyone is creative as a child, but once you go to school you learn to “color within the lines”, “stay in your seat” and “do things the right way”.

To live together in modern society, we need schools to teach us standards, cultural norms and order.  Unfortunately, the drive to establish those suppresses our creative side.  To rekindle your own creativity, follow the wisdom of Pablo Picasso:  “every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

Two:  see to rekindle creativity

As grown ups, creative people look at the same things we do and see them differently.  All of us have gotten burrs stuck on our jeans while hiking through the woods.  Swiss civil engineer, Albert de Mestral, experienced the same thing, saw the burrs as fasters and invented Velcro.

To see differently, one must actually look at the environment.  During the conference session, Ben led the group through a mindfulness activity the “force” everyone to slow down and be in the moment.  During it, I found, due to the rush of getting ready for the panel, I never noticed the room’s wall color or carpet pattern.  Those may seem to be minor, inconsequential details, but how many things do we miss seeing every day because we’re too busy?  Take a couple deep breaths, slow down and observe; you may be amazed at what you notice.

Three:  think for a change

Taking notice of new ideas, like those found in books like John Maxwell’s Thinking for a Change, can help you think differently by reassessing your habits.  Habits help us deal with routine tasks in an efficient manner, like getting ready for work in the morning.  Habits, however, can hinder our success, especially when we apply the same thinking to how we deal with problems and people (or problem people).

If you habitually watch sports, click the remote to something else, like Dancing with the Stars (don’t worry, there’s usually a few ex-jocks on it).  If you’re always reading business magazines, flip through a copy of National Geographic, People or Good Housekeeping the next time you’re stuck in the airport.   You can even drive a different route home from work, who knows what you’ll see?  Nota bene:  avoid driving to work a different way because you’ll probably arrive late and most employers don’t count thinking differently as a valid excuse for tardiness.

Four:  Action!

While one can joke about being late to work, the fact that people get punished for making mistakes can and does stifle workplace creativity.  Warren Bennis talked about two ways of being creative “one can sing and dance.  Or one can create the environment in which singers and dancers flourish”.

Think about your company’s environment.  Does your culture support creativity flourishing?  What are the consequences of a new initiative’s failure?  If you fail to cultivate an environment that rewards creativity and celebrates thoughtful mistakes, you won’t get many of either.  People learn quickly.  Getting punished for trying something different teaches employees that they shouldn’t try new things.  In today’s fast paced, changing environment, can your company afford to teach that lesson?

Bottom line:  if you want to be more creative, attend this session the next time Ben and I put it on.  In all seriousness, you can start being more creative right now by encouraging yourself to see differently.  It can be as simple as closing your eyes and rubbing your fingers across your desk or clothes.  If you do that, you’ll see/feel something you usually ignore.   Repeat that pattern throughout your day – please avoid all potential HR issues with what you touch – who knows what you’ll discover.

Bottom bottom line:  creativity starts with seeing.  See differently to think differently.  Think differently to act differently.  Different actions will achieve different results.  Those results can be the difference between you and the competition.

Contact me at to bring our creativity session to your employees.  Visit our website,, to learn about our successful communication and education services for employee-owned enterprises.