Pump Up Your Flabby Ideator

by Stefan Mumaw

It’s completely possible to get physically ripped by giving 10 minutes of our day to physical training. Sean Foy, M.A., an exercise physiologist, author, speaker and founder of The Personal Wellness Corporation, makes a bold statement about the power of short-burst workouts: “Give me 10 minutes every day and I can guarantee you a stronger body and a healthier lifestyle.” Fact is, he’s right. Sean has put this 10-Minute theory to the test over and over again and in each instance, his claims have been proven. If we would give just 10 minutes a day to our physical well-being, we’d see a noticeable improvement in the strength of our bodies.

This same principal can be applied to creativity and the strength of our ideas. We spend an inordinate amount of time executing ideas through strategy and design. We have taken numerous classes, went to countless seminars and conferences, spent hours with software and practice… all to hone the craft of idea execution, but we give little time to training ourselves to generate stronger ideas. Just like physical training, we can train ourselves to generate stronger ideas if we’ll give just 10 minutes of focused, deliberate creative training each day. Here’s how:

Create A New Regimen
In order to practice creative thought, you need problems to solve. The key to creative training is two-fold: the problem to be solved can’t be bigger than the time allotted to solve it, and the problem has to have enough constriction that we have to think practically but not so much as to limit possible solutions. You can either generate your own exercises that present your own challenges or you can find resources that provide creative challenges for you. In either case, it’s important to challenge ourselves creatively but minutely, training ourselves to generate solutions quickly but thinking of them in more temporary mindsets. Don’t fall in love with any one solution. In the same way that we wouldn’t do one, carefully-crafted pushup for 10 minutes and call it a day, we need to present our creative minds with a multitude of possible solutions and investigate each only summarily.

Practice Variety
Weightlifters call it “circuit training,” the act of doing one rep of one exercise, then moving to a completely different exercise for one rep, then on to another until they’ve done one rep of each exercise, then they go back and do each exercise a second and third time. This variance gives the muscles they are working a brief time of recuperation, time to contract again and therefore, work harder the next rep. Creativity training is no different. The misconception within the creative community is that we should train ourselves only in the mediums we actively work. Creativity as a strength isn’t confined to medium, our creative minds only see problems to be solved. Creativity is medium-independent, so challenge yourself to solve problems outside of your core competencies. If you’re a designer, certainly train to solve design problems but don’t be afraid to step outside of design and solve writing problems, or photography problems, or illustration problems. Creative circuit training leads to stronger creative muscles.

photo illustration of head with flexing arms popping out of it
“Whoa, that guy has a smokin’ hot ideator.”

Quick Tips
Exercise daily: Find or create a problem to be solved every day, giving 10 minutes of your day to training yourself to generate ideas in greater quantity and quality.

Exercise differently: Choose a variety of mediums in which to train, not just your core medium. It’s not about quality of execution but rather quality of concept.

Dig Deeper!
1. Looking for some to generate creative challenges for you? Check out Caffeine for the Creative Mind or Caffeine for the Creative Team by Stefan Mumaw and Wendy Lee Oldfield, two books that provide over 400 creative exercises collectively.

2. If you’re pressed for time, check out Sean Foy’s 10-Minute physical training. (Hey, you have to leave your desk sometime.)

3 thoughts on “Pump Up Your Flabby Ideator

  1. Randy C Johnson

    Ha! I never looked at creative strength building this way until now, but it makes perfect sense! As opposed to applying this concept to design only, I’m going to venture out. The challenge sounds pretty exciting. Thanks guys!

  2. Pingback: Daily Musings Mash-up #2 « clgmusings