November 21, 2017

Flexing Your (Underused) Creative Muscle

On this episode of The Innovation Engine, we talk about how to start flexing what is likely an underused muscle, if you’re like 98 percent of the population over the age of 31: the creative muscle. Among the topics we’ll discuss are why creativity gets to be so difficult with age, five activities you can undertake regularly to make sure your creative capacity doesn’t wane, and how can help you make sure your next great idea doesn’t fall by the wayside.

Joining us for this episode of the podcast to talk about those topics and more is Nick Skillicorn, Chief Editor of, Founder & CEO of Improvides Consulting, and a Manager in Deloitte’s Strategy Consulting Division working out of Sydney, Australia. Nick helps individuals and companies build their creativity and innovation capabilities so that they can develop the next breakthrough idea that their customers will love.

Listen to the Episode


Why do we need to strengthen our creative capabilities?

  • Professor George Land commissioned a longitudinal study following the same group of people over time to see what happened as they got older. He did a creativity test with a group of five year olds, and 98 percent of them scored a genius level for creativity. Then he interviewed the same children five years later, when they were 10 years old, and that had dropped significantly. By the time those people were adults, those creativity levels have dropped from 98 percent in childhood down to about 2 percent overall. Learn more: “Evidence that children become less creative over time (and how to fix it)”
  • It’s not just happening at an individual level. In another study, Professor Kyung Hee Kim looked at what’s happening on a population-wide level over the last couple of decades. She found that, since the 1990s, there’s been a steady decline in people’s creative ability and creative output following a change in the school system where people were told to focus more on getting the right results, rather than expressing themselves and trying to think of new solutions to problems. Learn more: “The Creativity Crisis: It’s Getting Worse”

5 activities you should do every day, month, or week to maintain and increase your creative capacity:

  • Every day, you should be getting 15 minutes of unfocused time. If you can devote 15 minutes every day to not looking at a screen, not having a conversation with someone, not reading a book, and not listening to any human speech, that allows the brain to essentially start wondering a little more and start forming new random connections within itself.
  • Every day, you should be listing out what challenge you’re actively working on, whether it’s at business or at home, and what ideas you’ve previously tried to address that challenge. This is meant to help you stay creatively productive; to prevent yourself from just spending all of your time being unproductive, or doing activity rather than actions.
  • Every day, if you really want to become better at being creative, you need to force your brain to be creative. The best way that Nick has found to do this is through Deep Creativity Training, so he developed a set of several hundred daily creativity exercises. These are open-ended creativity challenges that don’t have a right answer, and it’s all about forcing your brain to get out of its comfort zone and to think of as many solutions to these random questions as possible, within a set time limit. “This trains your brain to become much more comfortable with the ambiguity that exists around creativity – the desire to give the perfect answer is one thing that really holds us back.”
  • Every week, intentionally add variety and new experiences into your life. New ideas are formed by random new connections between old ideas; Neural pathways will try different routes inside your brain to come up to a solution, and occasionally one of these new pathways comes up with a combination of previous ideas that is essentially a solution to whatever challenge you are working on. So if you can feed it more seeds of information, more new experiences, and more knowledge, more new ideas can grow. Plus, “when you get sort of a jolt out of your routine, that’s been shown to increase your short term creativity by about 14 percent.”
  • Every month, Nick recommends you do something creative for yourself, and finish it. This is all about executing, rather than execution, and it helps you get over the procrastination, the fear of perfection, and the fear of judgment.


About The Innovation Engine

Since 2014, 3Pillar has published The Innovation Engine, a podcast that sees a wide range of innovation experts come on to discuss topics that include technology, leadership, and company culture. You can download and subscribe to The Innovation Engine on Apple Podcasts. You can also tune in via the podcast’s home on Spotify to listen online, via Android or iOS, or on any device supporting a mobile browser.