In this article, I'll explain how to use different types of creativity to thrive within the creator economy.
Anybody working in the creator economy spends a considerable amount of time on creative work: writing, drawing, designing, recording, minting, selling, and building.
To become more creative, you need to have different ways of thinking and approaches to problem-solving. Therefore, the more techniques you know, the better your creativity will flow.
Here, I cover different types of creativity as evidenced by professionals in many fields, including science, the arts, and beyond.
1. Lateral Thinking
Author and creativity consultant Edward de Bono proposed this term in his 1967 book The Use of Lateral Thinking. It describes our ability to develop original answers to problems without logic or reason.
He proposed this scenario. A moneylender claims a merchant's daughter in place of her father's debt. The merchant and the daughter come up with a plan. The moneylender will put two stones in two bags: one black and one white. If she chooses the black stone, she'll marry the moneylender and cancel the debt; if she chooses the white stone, she'll stay with her father.
This is where lateral thinking comes in to solve a problem! De Bono suggested the daughter should pick either bag but fumble and drop her pebble on the path. He wrote, "Since the remaining pebble is, of course, black, it must be assumed she picked the white pebble since the moneylender dare not admit his dishonesty."
An abstract scenario? Certainly. But often, lateral thinking breakthroughs are happy accidents like an apple landing or Isaac Newton's head. Or the origins of the Post-It note.
In 1968, 3m scientist Dr. Spencer Silver was researching strong adhesives when he discovered an adhesive that stuck to substances lightly without bonding.
Silver tried promoting his idea internally without much luck. Then, he met fellow 3m scientist Art Fry. Fry explained he used scraps of paper to mark hymns to sing at his local church service. But these scraps kept falling out of the hymnal. So, they tried using this new adhesive.
"I thought, what we have here isn't just a bookmark," said Fry. "It's a whole new way to communicate." The result? The Press' n Peel note, which later became the Post-It.
It's worth remembering creative people still understand what they're witnessing before this type of breakthrough. In other words, Silver was already studying adhesives. To develop lateral thinking skills, cultivate blocks of quiet time.
- Go for a long walk and reflect on a problem.
- Reverse engineer a problem by asking, "What should we not do?"
- Use prompts like "What if…?" or "Go on…"
2. Convergent Thinking
Convergent thinking describes bringing together information from multiple fields and sources into a single place. You can take notes and save clippings to cultivate convergent thinking. However, I recommend using the Zettelkästen method for convergent thinking.
Designed by German author Niklas Luhmann, it involves creating a personal Slipbox that is a central repository for ideas. This Slipbox enables exploring how your thinking on a topic evolves.
To do it, consolidate information from your sources, summarising the best parts, and interlinking each note. I use Day One, but Roam Research and Notion are also good tools for the Zettelkästen method.
Lumen kept over 90,000 notes during his lifetime and wrote dozens of books. Recently, I interviewed author Zettelkästen expert Sascha Fast about this method. He explained:
As we all know, note taking is like the transition phase from outside sources to your own knowledge and material, and then later should translate to your own writing. And zettelkasten is a tool to organize this process of note-taking, and that means it should improve thinking, writing, and organizing text.”
3. Divergent Thinking
Divergent thinking describes taking a single idea and breaking it down into many topics or concepts. It's also an ideal approach for repurposing content.
For example, let's say you wrote a series of articles about NFTs. Could you turn these articles into a non-fiction book, a podcast series, or a digital course?
A popular strategy for divergent thinking is brainstorming. You can hold a mini-brainstorming session for 15-30 minutes about a single topic or the big picture. I recommend brainstorming using analog tools like a whiteboard instead of digital tools. That said, if you're brainstorming with a team remotely, you can use a digital tool Miro or Figma.
Mindmapping is another popular strategy for divergent thinking. Write a single idea on a whiteboard, on a large piece of paper, or in your mind mapping software. Draw branches illustrating related ideas. As a content creator, mind mapping is ideal for outlining articles, courses, or even books.
4. Emotional Thinking
Creative work is one part analytical and another part intuition. Sometimes, a creator goes with an idea or starts a project because it feels right and not because they've validated it or have access to strong supporting data.
Freewriting is ideal for the creative process. Pick a single topic or idea and write about it for a short period, without censoring yourself or holding back. The results of a free writing session are for you and you alone, so don't worry about typos, mistakes, and weird ideas. Instead, see where the mind or subconscious leads.
If you're freewriting on an idea and get stuck, try these prompts:
- How do I feel about this idea? Am I angry, sad, happy, etc.?
- What inspires me?
- What bores me?
- What does this make possible?
- What's the best that could happen?
- What's the worst?
- What would this look like if it were easy?
- What does my gut say?
5. A-ha Thinking
A common cliché about creativity is that you experience a lightbulb moment when in the shower or out for a walk. Some clichés hold merit!
Feed your subconscious with problems to solve while away from the desk, studio, or asleep.
- Read through your notes at the end of the day.
- Set an intention for tomorrow.
- Write a problem you want to solve on a Post-It note and stick it on your desk.
These types of prompts signal to the subconscious part of your brain to consider a problem, even while you're doing something else. The brain often works on problems while we're asleep, too, sorting, filing, and connecting random ideas through dreams.
Mathew Walker, author of Why We Sleep, said:
“The brain becomes actively biased toward seeking out the most distant, nonobvious links between sets of information.”
Author John Steinbeck regularly relied on a good night's sleep to solve problems like writer's block, while Mendeleev came up with an early version of the periodic table after waking from a dream.
So if you're struggling, turn it off, power down and go to sleep. Who knows? The following morning, you may wake refreshed have a new perspective on a troublesome book chapter or a problem in your creator economy business.
Types of Creativity: The Final Word
You can apply different types of creativity for making or problem-solving. Forget about seeking originality. Instead, it helps if you understand the different types of creative thinking and how to trigger them.
Use the strategies as part of your creative process above to develop a more creative mindset, come up with better ideas for your projects or business.
Want more? Check out my guide to creative thinking.