This is one of my favourite ever videos talks from a creative entrepreneur. Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh is quirky, funny and completely passionate about bringing her product idea to life. She even went to the length of learning chemistry for a couple of years in order to create Sugru. Sugru is a silicone material that feels like play-doh that dries like rubber. You can use it to fix and adapt stuff.
Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh grew up on a farm where fixing things was an everyday part of life. She went to college to study product design. Then quickly realised that she didn’t like new things, so didn’t want to design new products.
Experiments with materials
After randomly experimenting with materials she came up with a combination of wood shavings and silicone. She then desperately tried to find a way she could make it into a product. Although she had been using it to fix things around the house, it didn’t occur to her that could be its commercial purpose. Her boyfriend had to point it out to her.
Developing the idea
After college, she tried to find people who could help make her idea happened. She met her co-founder introduced her to scientists who could help make the material. A grant was used for the first laboratory experiments. The experiments taught her nothing so she got the silicone scientist to teach her chemistry.
While she was experimenting her family and friends continued to use the material. She imagined that the product would be taken on by a big glue company. Unfortunately, that business model idea didn’t work and her funding ran out. Over a cup tea, a friend gave her a piece of advice “start small and make it good.”
A change of business model
She took her friend’s advice and began pitching the product differently to investors. This gained her funding. They came up with the name Sugru, the Irish name for play, and a strap line “hack things better”. Then they went and demoed the product at festivals. They sent the product out to bloggers. One influential blogger gave a 10/10 review which made things go mad. They sold 1000 packs which had taken them months to make in a cottage industry style.
After the first packs sold they started to get images in of how people have used the product. Since then they have grown using word of mouth.
She shows some of the amazing things that customers have done with her product.
At the time of the video, the company had grown to about 35 people.
Why would you create a mood board?
The purpose of a mood board is to provide you with visual inspiration. It is simply a collection of images related to a theme or mood (hence the name). Fashion and Interior design are probably two of the industries that spring to mind when you think of a mood board. However, they can be used by anyone to inspire ideas.
How do you create a mood board?
How to create a physical mood board
Imagine you are trying to come up with ideas for a new dog toy. You might go and buy a selection of magazines targeted at dog owners. Then start ripping out images of dogs playing and existing dog toys. You could also take screenshots of images you find online and print them out.
Next, take all those images and paste them up onto a large sheet of paper or board. By looking at the board you can get an overall feel for the dog toy industry and what toys are available. You might want to use the board alongside mind maps to start thinking about possible ideas.
One thing I love about creating physical mood boards is that the process of cutting and tearing gets you away from technology. You can also pin the boards up around you when they are complete. I think this allows your subconscious to work on ideas even when you are not consciously thinking about it.
How to create a digital mood board
Pinterest is a great way of collecting together imagery for a mood board. Pinterest has its own built-in search so you can find existing boards and images which relate to your theme. You can add a Pinterest clipper to most internet browsers. This allows you to browse the web and save images straight to Pinterest. Mobile and desktop versions of Pinterest are available.
Collect together mood board imagery with Evernote
To download images from the web, right-click and save the image or alternatively use your computer’s screenshot application. You can also use Evernote’s Screen Shot facility (desktop version only). First, create an Evernote notebook for your mood board images. Then browse the web and take screenshots of imagery you like. Next, select all the pictures in that notebook and save them out to a folder on your desktop. Once they are downloaded use your favourite photo editing app to collage them together or try using Canva.
Canva for mood boards
Canva is another option for creating your mood board. You can either use one of their mood board templates or start with a blank page. Upload your images to Canva and then drag them onto the page. Next, you can resize and rearrange them. If you are using a template simply drop your image on top of the existing ones to replace them.
Use an app
I haven’t personally used an app to create mood boards, but in the past, I downloaded Moodboard Lite to have a look at it. Check it out in the App Store.
My guest today is Susanna Reay, a fine artist, creativity teacher and consultant. Susanna currently lives in South Oxfordshire but has travelled and lived extensively abroad. She started her career as a textile designer but more recently has moved into sculptural and mixed media art for the home and garden. She is also working on creativity consultations for workplaces.
What you will learn in this episode:
- Susanna’s creative projects
- The benefits of creating without technology
- Tips for generating and keeping track of ideas
- How to overcome being overwhelmed with too many ideas and getting yourself unstuck when the ideas aren’t flowing
- Susanna’s favourite creative tools and resources
Susanna’s current projects
For the last 30 days Susanna has been working on creative clinic posts to inspire others to keep their creativity going. It’s a combination of tasks she’s doing and giving people challenges and inspiration for getting unstuck creatively. When all these posts get put together she hopes to create a short book.
Susanna will also take those same elements into workplaces for teambuilding days. This will help people use creativity in the workplace to look for new solutions to problems. As a lot of creative people do, Susanna balances that business and workplace side with her other side as a fine artist.
Having always enjoyed art and sculpture, and with textile design as a background, Susanna has discovered a new medium combining the two. It’s called Powertex and she is using it to create a form of kinetic sculptural art. She is making large flowers out of fabric but the fabric solidifies so it can be put out in the garden. The flowers are then put on wooden and metal poles so they sway in the wind.
Susanna likes this medium because it helps her immerse herself in the joy of creation. So much of modern life is based on technology, but by doing something messy and different you have to turn the phone and computer off so there are no distractions. Powertex is a wet medium which does not combine well with modern technology. This allows you space to just create.
Susanna has lots of tips to generate ideas. She suggests surrounding yourself with creative people and gaining insight from other people’s perspectives. She also advises, “Just start! Don’t worry about getting things perfect. The hardest thing is getting going and you’ve got to train yourself creatively to keep going.”
She says the best pieces are the ones that she doesn’t pre-think too much. She might have a feeling to work towards but no fixed thing in mind. Happy accidents are quite common in art.
To keep track of ideas Susanna uses a combination of an A3 sketchbook, a phone and a camera. She uses the app EverNote which is very useful because it syncs with the main computer.
She also creates mood boards, but her tip is to take a photograph of the mood board and upload it into the computer. After moving and travelling so much, Susanna favours digital archiving systems.
Idea overwhelm and finding inspiration
To overcome having too many ideas, Susanna suggests being accountable to a group of like-minded people. It’s a good way of staying on track and it’s a safe environment. She also says scheduling time for creativity is good but she doesn’t always stick to the schedule.
To get inspiration flowing again, she says the worst thing you can do is sit and stare at your project that isn’t moving. Susanna’s advice is to move away from the desk, go out, move and do something else. Take the pressure off by getting outside and going for a walk, for example.
Creativity tools and resources
The person who is inspiring Susanna the most at the moment is the Art Historian Esther De Charon De Saint Germain . She works with wonderfully weird women in a mastermind course that offers accountability and challenge.
Connect with Susanna Reay
This is the Entrepreneur Magazine’s Facebook Live on how to boost creativity. Their audience put forward their creative problems looking for solutions. Her answers are not ground-breaking, but I like that she explains the research/science behind the suggestions. For example, one of the ideas was to take on the persona of someone else. She explains that scientific research shows that when you’re distanced from a project you can me more creative. I guess this is similar to the idea that if you create something (art, writing etc), you can’t look at it objectively until a few days later. Then you can see it with fresh eyes.
This video is actually called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Artists. I’ve renamed it as I think it applies to anyone who wants to improve their creative craft. The talk from Andrew Price is about consistent work on your project every day. It is also about doing the right sort of work to achieve the best results.
Found via artist Sandra Busby
What is divergent thinking?
When I hear the words divergent thinking, that game of bullshit bingo always springs to mind. Divergent thinking sounds like some higher level of thinking that can only be possessed by an elite few. In fact, all divergent thinking means is coming up with as many different ideas as possible. So why can’t they just say that? Probably because you can charge more for advice with fancy words.
The aim of divergent thinking is to completely explore all avenues of your problem to generate ideas. So for example, if you were asked to come up with ways to promote a product, as well the usual things like blogging, creating videos etc you would also try and think of more off the wall methods. At idea generation stage, nothing should be judged. The important thing is the quantity of ideas.
Why don’t we use divergent thinking as often as we should?
In my opinion, there are three main reasons divergent thinking is not used as often as it should be:
1. Fear and divergent thinking
If the idea behind divergent thinking is to have as many ideas as possible, some of those ideas might be very bad or very unusual. This can lead to a fear of being ridiculed, especially if the idea generation is done in a group environment. In fact even a bad or bizarre idea has the potential to develop into something useful with further development.
2. Money and divergent thinking
To fully explore all options for a project take time and potentially resources. As a freelancer, you usually get strict budgetary constraints when you are given a job. For example, a few years ago I was asked to come up with ideas for a set of kids characters. They wanted at least 4 different options for the set. Budgetary wise they wanted to pay for about a day and a half of my time. The type of characters wasn’t set. In an ideal world, I would have spent the whole day and a half doing some research and then coming up with loads of potential options in scrible form. The characters could have been anything – animals (any type), people (any type), inanimate objects (any type), Imaginary creatures. As you can imagine there are potentially thousands of permutations. Then you also have to think about an illustration style, which could also mean thousands of options.
What you have to think about is how long it will take you to do the actual drawings to a presentable state. Inevitably this will usually just leave an hour or two of proper thinking time. You can explore many more options when you are working on personal projects when monetary constraints are removed.
3. Time and divergent thinking
If you are on a tight deadline to come up with ideas, this will also force your thinking to be narrower. Most people who create for a living will be working with relative tight time constraints. This may force you to decide on an idea “that will do” rather than to continue searching for a great idea.
The next time you are working on a project for yourself, without time and monetary constraints allow the time to let your mind wander. Try mind mapping, or using random words to stimulate fresh ideas or try a new creative thinking technique that you have never tried before.
What is the idea bungee?
If you have ever had that major rush of having an idea you will know the adrenaline it brings. The only thing that I could imagine it could compare to, is a bungee jump over the ocean. Not that I would ever do that as I am a big wimp!
People who are considered to be Scanners, a term used for people who are constantly having ideas, know the idea bungee only too well. There’s getting the idea, the jump with the huge adrenalin rush. This after all, is the best idea you have ever had, until the next inevitable one. Then after the idea, there are the smaller bounces when you get the mini highs as you expand on the idea in your head. But now is also the time for the mini-lows as you start to see the issues with putting your idea into action. Inevitably the momentum dies and you are released and left treading water in the ocean.
What you need now is to have bungeed over an ocean of dolphins. The dolphins are the small wins, they encourage you to swim the long distance to the shore. Or maybe for you, it’s the fear of sharks that keep you going.
Scott Belsky talks about the idea generation trap
So as I write this, I am swimming and hoping for dolphins. I write as the swimmer with the big “L” on my swimming cap. Feel free to learn from my small wins or the times I have given up and reclimbed the idea bungee. I will share wiser words from those who are the Olympic dolphin swimmers too. (Have I overdone the dolphin metaphor yet?)
Choosing The Right Idea (for Now)
Decide on a period of time for your idea?
For me, the first stage of the idea bungee is to try and work out if it’s worth the swim. You are not choosing an idea forever, but want to choose something that you are prepared to work on for a minimum period of time. That time period can be up to you, 30 days, 60 days or more.
Would you really like working on your idea?
I have made the mistake of choosing the wrong idea time and time again, but am hoping I have learned my lesson. One of the most important things to know is what motivates you. At one point I even created a list with average scores out of ten for my ideas. It went something like this:
- How much will I enjoy working on this? /10
- How easily can I do this project? /10
- Am I likely to make money from this project? /10
- How likely am I to want to work on this project for more than a month? /10
TOTAL AVERAGE out of 10
What I discovered is that there is a big difference between the projects you like the idea of compared to the ones you will ACTUALLY ENJOY WORKING ON. I have been to several Business Start-up Weekends. At these events, you can pitch your business ideas. These get voted on and then teams are formed to work on the ideas over the weekend. I have pitched multiple ideas at these events and a couple have been chosen. One idea was to create a site where people could commission artists to create reasonably priced bespoke fine art for them. As we were working on the idea I realised, I liked coming up with the idea and I’d like to use the website. However to actually get the site built and market it didn’t really excite me at all.
So I had made a mistake of not giving different weightings to my idea criteria. It turns out that the enjoyment and interest factor plays a much larger part than money in whether I follow through on an idea or not. What are your idea criteria?
Does your idea really fit you?
These two elements go perfectly with what Sarah Sedcole said about her #hereisbeauty project.
“I would say that the way I choose an idea now is to see which one I feel I will have the most fun with! Sounds kind of simple, but it seems to work for me. This is how I was able to focus in on #hereisbeauty Experiment and see it through to completion. The thing about #hereisbeauty is it combined the elements I love most: visuals, happiness, connection. It was like a perfectly overlapping Venn diagram!”
Here is beauty was Sarah’s idea to make people feel happier by taking a photo each day of something beautiful around them.
Choose an idea with the least resistance
When you are thinking which idea to pursue take into account the amount of difficulty/resistance each idea has.
One project I worked on a while ago was to create cards which teach people a topic in 30 days. It was a collaboration with a friend who was already creating physical card based products. There was very little resistance involved in this project to get it started. I had the design skills to create the look of the cards, brand and website, she had the author contacts and product know-how. The idea came from a telephone conversation we had. Within a week I had designed the look of the cards and within another week she had interest from a few authors within a few more. Our resistance came later with the marketing of the cards. We realised that if we wanted to continue we would need to change the business model.
Making Time for Your Idea
Scheduling time for your idea
In Richard Pettitt’s podcast interview he talks about scheduling time for his creative work, just as if it was a paid job for someone else. In an upcoming podcast with Andrea Jordan, she recommends the Pomodoro time management technique.
Can you link your idea to something else
For years I had kept saying to myself that I would try meditation, but of course, it never happened. I found a free 8 week online mindfulness course and decided I would try and cartoon my way through it. I had only recently started creating cartoons and was really enjoying it. Having the course to follow gave me both the structure (2 months) and inspiration to create the cartoons. No only was I getting the benefit of the meditation, but it was keeping me on track for generating cartoons.
Can you link your idea with something else you love or want to do? For example, do you have a favourite cafe you love to go to? Decide that every time you go to the cafe you will work on your idea. You could learn a language while painting or paint image to help you remember phrases.
Chunk your idea down into bite-size pieces
One of the most daunting things about working on any idea is the enormity of it all. Instead of looking it as a whole, break it down into smaller tasks. In my case, working on the mindfulness cartoons I mentioned above, my first chunk/task would be to simply to do a guided meditation. Task 2 might be to scribble ideas of what the character might look like. The third task could be to sketch ideas for what the cartoon is about. The fourth task could be to research illustration styles. My end goal might be to have a multi-million-pound cartoon brand on the level of Snoopy or Dilbert (still hoping), but my first task is simply a ten minute meditation.
On his Red Lemon Club Blog Alex Mathers writes about stripping things down – Strip Before You Stop
“Your project isn’t dead yet. You can still resuscitate — put it on life support and then wake it up again…
When you strip things down.
Not your clothes. But simplify what it was that you required of you.
If you set out to write 500 words a day. Why did you stop? You can write 100; 50; 20.
Spend an hour learning a language each day? Why did you stop? You could learn for 5 minutes.”
Nick Loper creator of Side Hustle Nation talks about a similar thing he calls micro-habits. He breaks his micro-habits into three categories health, wealth and family. He commits to something he can do in less than 60 seconds. For example 1 task before email. The theory is that 60 seconds is so easy to do that you set yourself up for success and you can build on that. He goes into the topic more in his podcast episode – Micro Habits: The Too-Small-to-Fail Plan for Big Results
Do something small every day
One of the things I have found really helpful in sticking with an idea is to be accountable to someone. There are different ways to do this from a one-to-one accountability partner, mentor or coach, you could form or join a group or simply write about your intentions on a blog.
For a while, a friend and I acted as each other’s accountability partners. It was this that probably kept me going when I decide to produce a video course onLogo design. We would talk to each other on Skype every 2 or three weeks and say what we had been doing, any problems we had had, and what we will have done by the time we next speak. Talking to someone else can help to clarify what you need to do, get advice on problems and generally just feel like there is someone to talk things through with. For some weird reason, if you have said you are going to do something by the next time you speak, it makes you much more likely to do it.
Accountability Rewards and Forfeits
Another thing my accountability friend and I tried was to build a reward/forfeit system. We both decided what we have completed next time we spoke, but decided that we would meet at a really nice cafe. If we had completed all our tasks we could have afternoon tea (tea, sandwiches, scones and cake), if not we would sit with a glass of water and pay for the other one’s food. The idea of sitting watching someone eating cake and sandwiches while you just drink tapwater is surprisingly motivating.
Tim Ferris is an advocator of forfeits. In a snippet of a video, I saw with him on Creative Live he talks about using an app called Stickk. First you put up a stake of money which is placed into Escrow. You then choose a charity you don’t like, and if you don’t complete your task the money goes to the charity.
Accountability with a Coach
Of course, you can also pay a mentor or coach to help you do a similar thing. The added benefit here is that you can choose someone who is a specialist in your project area.
In this video, entrepreneur Rob Cubbon talks about a book he was trying to write. He usually sets himself the task of writing at least 500 words a day, so at the end of the month, he has the initial book written. But he’d got stuck, so he moaned to his coach/mentor about how behind he was. His mentor did some quick calculations that at the rate Rob typed, he could complete the initial writing of his book in 5 hours. That was if he was up to the challenge. Rob finished the initial writing of the book in the next two days.
Something about accountability. I made this video a day before the conference (Tropical Think Tank) about how I'd managed to write over 5,000 words in a day or so. I was so amazed by this. Now, however, I'm bogged down in a membership site plugin migration (don't ask). This, however, is all about my business mentor, Steven Aitchison – don't miss it! 🙂
Posted by Rob Cubbon Dot Com on Tuesday, 19 May 2015
Hold yourself accountable online
I asked members of the Your Creative Push Facebook Group, what they did to keep themselves accountable.
Mike Young who runs the Your Creative Push podcast said just knowing that an audience is waiting for a podcast episode keeps him accountable.
Having a blog and writing their project intentions was a common theme. Instagram was also a good motivator and some people felt bad if they had many days without posts.
There are lots of different online challenges you can take part in to try and maintain your motivation. I am currently taking part in The 100 Day project, which was started by Elle Luna. You choose a project unique to you, drawing, writing, blogging, photography, music, business you name it. Then you create something every day, however, small for 100 days and post it on Instagram. I never thought I would take part in a project like this, but I did it for the first time last year. You somehow feel like you are letting yourself down if you don’t complete the 100 days (even if it’s a bit late). Plus you get motivated by seeing what everyone else is creating.
There are lots of similar challenges taking place in all different niches so why not give one a try or start your own. Crystal Moody did just that back in 2014, when she began a project called she called a year of creative habits. She would create a piece of art and photograph it really nicely alongside her breakfast.
“Each day I made a drawing and I shared a photo of it, usually with my breakfast. My year of creative habits project was inspired by artists that write about creativity like Twyla Tharp, Julia Cameron, and Austin Kleon. My rules were simple:
- Choose one creative habit. (That first year I chose drawing)
- Do it every day. (I didn’t miss a single day in 2014!)
- Share my effort/progress with others.
- Reflect and make changes along the way.”
Free Facebook Accountability Group
If you are interested in being in a free Facebook accountability group then I have just set one up. Each week I will create a check-in event where you can state what you achieved in the previous week and what you want to achieve the following week.
Put your money where your mouth is
This is something that has definitely helped me develop an idea. Many years ago I had an idea for a set of kids characters around the theme of the Weather which I had done a bit of work on. I booked a stand at the Licensing Show in London, this was not cheap! Once you commit to something like this you need to make the best of it, which meant creating materials for the show. After the show I had a call from someone who wanted to try and connect me with people he thought might be interested in developing the idea. At one point it was taken on by a TV producer who was trying to sell the idea to Asian TV stations.
Once you know someone is interested in your idea it is also much easier to justify dedicating time to that idea. The project fell through, I don’t regret it I learned a lot, but it shows how investing in yourself and your idea even if in a small way can help you make progress.
How do you hold yourself accountable for getting your self-initiated projects done? Put your suggestions in the comments below.
In the previous two mind mapping articles I went through:
Mind Mapping for Ideas Part 1: The Basics
Four Helpful Tools for Inspired Mind Mapping – part 2
Introducing doodles to your mind maps
Now I want to show you how you can do mind mapping with the addition of doodles (little sketches). If you’re not artistic keep reading because this doesn’t require fantastic drawing abilities. The doodles just let you think visually as well as verbally.
Start by mind mapping as you would normally, but now add in some doodles of the words you are writing down. Whereas before you were thinking of related words, now look at the doodles and think what else they look like too. It doesn’t have to be literally related. Maybe the shape reminds you of something else, or send you off into new directions of thought.
Example doodling on a mind map
Let me give you an example. I am going to continue using the contact lens theme I used before when I was trying to come up with advert ideas. So you could start with the words contact lenses in the middle of the page. Then you might also doodle a contact lens. Now as well as thinking of words related to contact lenses you can try and see if the doodle reminds you of anything.
So perhaps the doodle looks a bit like a mountain, write and doodle it. Then carry on in the same manner. Perhaps the lens also looks like a hat, or a UFO, doodle them and see if it gives you any more ideas. Continue branching off with ideas and doodles. When you get stuck go back to the middle word contact lenses and start a new branch. You could doodle an eye which looks like a wheel. This could give you new ideas about the contact lenses being good for night vision. What about doodling an eye chart. The large letters could make you think of giants and then you draw a beanstalk. Continue to fill your page with more words and doodles until you have lots of ideas.
Give it a go and let me know how you get on.
Ideo are well known for their creativity and design thinking.
They are holding a free webinar
Unlock a Creative Confidence Mindset
25th April 2017 9:00 AM in Pacific Time (US and Canada)
IDEO Partner Tom Kelley is passionate about moving organizations and people from understanding and utilizing the tools of design thinking to unlocking a creative confidence mindset. In our upcoming Creative Confidence webinar series, Tom and Suz will discuss how to make room for creativity within hierarchical organizations, Tom’s philosophy on leading for creativity, and growing from design thinking into creative confidence as an individual and an organization.
What specific challenges are you facing in making room for creativity in a more traditional or hierarchical work environment? Send your challenges to email@example.com or via Twitter with #CreativeChallenge.
Join us to sit down with Tom to talk about what he’s learned from his work with dozens of clients a year, using the power of storytelling to spark creative confidence in leaders and organizations all over the world.
You can register for the webinar here
My guest today is Jennifer Syme also known as The Cramped Creative. She’s a writer and creative who runs a website encouraging others to find their creativity and build their creative habit. In this episode we discuss her book Freeing Your Inner Creativity and online course Find Your Creative Freedom, as well as the strategies she teaches people to help them build a creative habit. Jennifer also shares her tips for generating and keeping track of ideas, and her favourite resources for the creative person.
What you will learn in this episode:
- Practical prompts for developing creative habits
- How to deal with gremlins
- Tips for generating and keeping track of ideas
- Jennifer’s favourite creative tools and resources
Practical Creative Prompts to Build a Creative Habit
Go outside and draw or take a photograph of something in nature that inspires you, and using that picture come back inside and do something creative with it.Try different creative things that you haven’t tried. If you’re a writer try drawing or vice versa!
It doesn’t matter if you’re any good at it. Take the pressure off of being any good because that idea that they need to be good at something is what holds people back. It’s all just about having a go and seeing where you end up with it.
Get outside to get inspiration flowing again. Get into fresh air, be quite active. Do something mindless but active, e.g. weeding the garden, cleaning the bath. There is science behind mundane tasks leading to creativity.
Everybody has gremlins, but some of those prompts (e.g. draw with your non-dominant hand) are to help get over those gremlins.
The gremlin is the inner voice that says ‘you can’t do this’. The trick to getting you past that is by doing small things. Doing something different comes in there as well. Jennifer says as a writer she wants to write, but if she decided to draw or take a photograph the gremlin ignores that because it’s not something that it sees as a threat.
Jennifer’s ideas come mainly from life. She often imagines the ‘what if’s in the mundane.
For others seeking to generate ideas, Jennifer says, “Keep your eyes and ears open and let your mind play with those ideas. Giving yourself the time and space to do that is key.”
Jennifer suggests also deliberately unplugging from all the distractions so you can really look or listen in to what’s happening around you. So often nobody’s paying attention and that stifles creativity. “Look for inspiration rather than sitting wishing the bus would come.”
For keeping track of ideas, although she does use a notebook she doesn’t write in it very much. Mostly Jennifer uses EverNote on her phone as it captures so much more than a notebook and also syncs easily with the computer. This is important because the tags make it much easier to find later on.
Creative tools and resources
Courses she has found useful were the Strathclyde University Online Writing Course and an in person Urban Writers Retreat called The Writer’s Playground.