Get Out Your Swiss Army Knife: How to Become More Creative | DCR Workforce Blog

Get Out Your Swiss Army Knife: How to Become More Creative

When I was little, one of my brother’s favorite shows was MacGyver. For people who don’t know about the television show, MacGyver is a secret agent who could escape any dangerous situation. He doesn’t believe in violence. Instead, he uses his handy Swiss Army knife and vast knowledge of science to come up with creative solutions.

MacGyver was so creative that he used everyday items around him to circumvent immense harm. For example, he was able to conduct electricity by using a coat hanger and wiring from a wall heater to burn plastic ties around his wrists and ankles to free himself. Once, he used a paper clip to diffuse a missile.

As a child, he was like a magician to my brother and me. His trusty Swiss Army knife was like his good luck charm that could get him out of any situation. My brother was so inspired by MacGyver that he even bought a small, blue Swiss Army knife so he could be just like him.

MacGyver’s resourcefulness is a great example of how, through creative thinking, it’s possible to solve complex problems. Anyone of us can learn to be like MacGyver by training ourselves to think more creatively in our personal lives and our work.

Studying creativity

So how do we get to a place of creativity and free thinking? In a video titled “Tina Seelig: The 6 Characteristics of Truly Creative People.” Seelig describes how she’s been studying creativity for 14 years, and discusses some of her most important findings about being creative.

Everyone is creative in some way. From playing an instrument to fixing a leaky faucet in the bathroom. However, Seelig explains that as children, we were all curious, had no inclination of being right or wrong, and had a mind that was untouched by the conformity of formal education.

Certainly, everyone needs a basic education, but it comes at a cost, according to Seelig. While in school, giving one “standard” answer becomes important, whereas thinking about things in different ways is drastically restricted. The irony is that once we enter the real world, we have to be innovative and are required to solve problems in a variety of ways. However, our formal education has not equipped us to think creativity, but has often stripped it from us.

Even though our creative thinking abilities may be neglected, Seelig has discovered some great ways to revitalize our ability to become more creative. Below are some of her observations about creativity:

1. Framing and then re-framing the problem

Seelig asks the question, “What is 5+5?” to her audience, and their reply is 10. Then she asks the audience, “What two numbers equal 10?” Now, the audience pauses. Seelig goes on to state that the answer to this question has numerous possibilities, including negative numbers, fractions and so on. Her point is that getting to an answer should be thought of in multiple ways because that’s more along the lines of how creative people think.

2. Question the questions

Seelig says that we have to “challenge our assumptions and go past the first answer.” Focusing on just a question in a simple, inquisitive manner is a great way to see things from another perspective.

3. Connecting and combining ideas

Sometimes inspiration can come from very unlikely places. That’s why it’s so important to consider all ideas. An excellent example of this is when a leading rehab manager for Holy Cross Rehab facility told me that when she has a problem that she needs to solve, she presents her idea and then asks her department members to give their “easiest, most user-friendly” answer. She’s able to expand her point of view about a problem and get great answers quickly. If you can’t rely on others, Seelig suggests you practice the art of chindogu. This is the Japanese art of combining random things together, such as a camera that has a lighter or a basketball with wings. This exercise in combining random, unrelated things helps you foster creative thoughts by getting you to think outside of the box and encourages innovation.

4. Paying attention and learning by what you see

We experience so much on a daily basis. It’s hard to see everything that’s happening. The answer you may need might be right in front of you, so slow down, and look at everything that’s happening, big or small. In my own experience, I’ve always found some very big answers in the smallest of details.

The subconscious creative mind

The above suggestions are very logical ways to start being more creative, but sometimes creativity is not so calculated. Jonathan Tilley, who is a Broadway actor, playwright, personal brand strategist and all-around creative person, did an informal survey for his video titled “What creativity is trying to tell you Jonathan Tilley at TEDxStuttgart” and asked a few people what they thought creativity was. The answers he received were things like creativity is love, God, a force or a secret. The perception of creativity wasn’t controlled. It’s spiritual, special and took effort to channel.

That said, this spiritual side to creativity needs to be accessed in a very different way. We have to give in to our unconscious mind. When you’re relaxed, meditating or even sleeping, your subconscious mind has an opportunity to interpret information. Our conscious mind is what we rely on the most because it’s easily accessible.

But the subconscious mind is a mystery. We all have it, but it’s just not easy to let that side of our mind take over or even rely on. We’ve all heard stories of people saying they had an inspirational dream or a great idea just sitting in the car during a traffic jam. They were obviously thinking about something over and over again, and once their mind had a chance to relax, an answer appeared. Trusting your subconscious mind requires a tremendous amount of faith and patience, but this does seem to work.

Tilley goes on to mention the concept of having a sacred space. A place that has like-minded people, a place that reflects your interests or just a calm place like a special spot on the beach. Finding a sacred space allows you to tap into numerous parts of yourself. A place free of negativity and that promotes your creative process. It’s a mistake to think that our surroundings or the people we interact with do not directly or even indirectly affect us. We need a place where we feel comfortable being ourselves to figure things out.

Creativity in my own life and at DCR

Now you may be thinking after reading all this, how did MacGyver play a role in my life? I’m not that good at fixing things, and I can’t use a fork to stop a timer on a bomb. But I did learn that you have to stay calm and have faith that you can find an answer or solution, and not be afraid to try anything at your disposal! To me, that was the most meaningful secret MacGyver shared with the kids from my generation.

One of the things that I like the most about my workplace is that creativity is genuinely encouraged and fostered. DCR provides its employees with various platforms and forums to drive data-driven and non-data-driven creativity. Our office has plenty of areas that have become a “sacred space” for many people such as the Game/Innovation Area, Comfortably Numb sofa-filled meeting room or even the Outdoor Office with patio furniture. And we’re encouraged to bring creativity to our workspaces by decorating them and showing our personalities – no hum-drum cubicles here.

Tilley describes the creative process in a very eloquent manner. He states, “After your thoughts become things, then you have to mold it, play with it, make mistakes with it and share it with the world.” DCR allows its employees to create, refine and produce remarkable products and services. A perfect example of a place that produces this kind of creative thinking is DCR’s idealab. Here, various teams come together to collaborate creatively on designing solutions that are meant to simplify the complexities our clients face. This encouragement of creativity is just one of the reasons why DCR is leading the market in innovation, evident through the sheer number of industry “firsts” available in our products and services.

What did we learn from MacGyver?

A side note about my brother and me. After MacGyver had entered our lives, my brother took apart old computers, door knobs, car parts and toys and then taught himself to put things back together. He may not have his old, blue, Swiss Army knife anymore, but he can fix an engine, change the oil in his car and rotate his tires. He can do minor plumbing and electrical work. He can even lay a foundation for a house. And would you believe it? Now he’s a doctor and saves lives! And I became a writer so I can bring my personal brand of creativity to technical topics. Who knew that a show from the 90’s could be so educational and influential for all types of creative people?

Tilley said something very profound in his video: “Creativity is as individual as it is universal.” We’re all creative in some way and are forces that have an incalculable effect on the world.

So we at DCR encourage you to tap into your creativity and share it with the world, and if you care to, share it with us in the comments now or in the future.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Preeta is a writer and a mom who writes about topics that strive to connect with readers in a real way.