So many of us think about creativity in the context of being an artist or musician. However I prefer the definition that resiliency expert Frederic Flach uses. Creativity is “a response to a situation that calls for a novel but adaptive solution, one that serves to accomplish a goal.” That’s why, when dealing with the challenges of our times, the best thing we can do is grow our creative capacity. We need to come up with thoughts and solutions that are different from ones we’ve used in the past. Otherwise we will be responding in habitual ways that may not serve us now. But the way to access our innovative thinking is not the same for everyone. It actually has to do with what stimulus triggers your right hemisphere. Without knowing your unique formula, you can mislabel yourself as uncreative.

Imagine you’re a fly on the wall of my house as I work. What would you see? Some days I’m on the phone all day talking to clients. On those days, I have a headset on and wander from room to room. Other days, when I’m writing, I alternate between typing at my computer and jumping up to go into my back yard. Am I hyperactive? Do I have ADD? Actually it is very easy for me to sit in one spot unmoving for hours. So why all the jumping around? Because I’ve discovered that movement helps me be at my most creative, and I want to access that part of myself when I’m working.

The crucial question is what conditions allow me to be at my most innovative in my thinking? I wander, but Angie needs to listen to music without any words and then talk to someone who says nothing but just receives what she has to say. Louis needs to scribble on a white board or doodle on paper.

You may already know what works for you. If so, go for it. If not, one way to figure out your best way is to think about when you have your best ideas. What were you doing? For Will, it’s when he’s on a golf course. For Grace, it’s when she’s journaling. For Patrick, it’s when he talks to his colleague. Once you begin to pay attention, a pattern should emerge of what helps you generate ideas and possibilities. Then, when you need to be at your most innovative, you’ll know what to do.

About MJ

A member of Professional Thinking Partners who is recognized as a leading expert in change, M.J. Ryan specializes in coaching high performance executives, entrepreneurs, individuals, and leadership teams around the world to maximize performance and fulfillment. Her clients include Microsoft, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Hewitt Associates, and Frito Lay. Her work is based on a combination of positive psychology, strengths-based coaching, the wisdom traditions, and cutting edge brain research. Her new book, titled “AdaptAbility: How to Survive Change You Didn't Ask For” was recently released published by Random House’s Broadway Books. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and daughter.

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