Use Ben Franklin’s technique to become more creative

In Robert Allen Black's creativity book, Broken Crayons: Break Your Crayons and Draw Outside the Lines, the author shares an intriguing story from the autobiography of Ben Franklin that you can adapt to become more creative.

In Robert Allen Black’s creativity book, Broken Crayons: Break Your Crayons and Draw Outside the Lines, the author shares an intriguing story from the autobiography of Ben Franklin that you can adapt to become more creative.

During his middle age, Franklin sought a way to improve his personality. So he wrote a set of improvement principles on pieces of paper, selected one at random and carried it around in his pocket for a week. Several times during the week, he would refer to it, keeping that principle top of mind and helping him to bring about the personality improvements he desired.

Black recommends recreating this technique using a stack of index cards, with one of 13 creativity principles written on each one:

  1. Challenge all assumptions
  2. Look for similarities in unrelated ideas, situations or events
  3. See the familiar in new, strange ways
  4. See the strange as familiar
  5. Take risks periodically or occasionally
  6. Take advantage of chance: Ideas, situations, mistakes, etc.
  7. Inter-relate or force fit different ideas, situations and events
  8. Hitchhike, collect, borrow, steal, share, gather ideas from everywhere
  9. Ask yourself what other people would do in this situation (living or dead, famous or not)
  10. Ask what would people in other occupations do with this problem?
  11. Imagine yourself as a child and take his or her perspective
  12. Take different physical perspectives: high/low, close/far, inside/outside
  13. Read a chapter from a book on creative thinking and practice what it talks about

Black also provides some tips on how to use this technique and set of tips with your work team. You can challenge them to:

  • Apply one principle per week for 13 weeks
  • Discuss one principle during each regularly scheduled team meeting
  • Spend a half-hour to one our per week applying one of them to their work
  • Train your team members and ask them to teach them to others
  • Set up teams to try one one of the 13 principles
  • Use your imagination

The bottom line is that you and your team can increase their creativity capacity and output by focusing on it in a structured, focused way. Black’s techniques provide you with an easy, simple way to do that.

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