How to Retrain Creativity

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 (nb. I presented this speech at Toastmasters last year, but I thought i'd share it on my blog. Yes I'm a nerd, I go to Toastmasters… but my god it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made to date ha!)


At the age of 5, we use 80% of our creative potential. By 25, it DROPS to 2%.

We’re all here at Toastmasters to improve ourselves in our own unique way. No matter the context, there’s one thing that can help us: CREATIVITY. With creativity, we become better problem solvers, communicators, increase self-awareness and manage stress better than those who are otherwise close minded.

With these 3 easy steps, I hope to inform you on the value of being a little bit more creative. Ultimately, the goal of today is to inspire you to retrain your creative mind.



First off, why should you be more creative? Isn’t that something kids do with crayons and Lego?

As adults, the luxury of being creative is a rarity. There’s a perception that creativity is a fluffy soft skill. But see, the difference between creativity and imagination, is that creativity is tangible and demonstrable. It’s the action of doing something with your imagination. Like a chef experimenting with Spanish and African spices. Rather than just brain storming ideas for a cross-cultural menu.  

More importantly, being a little bit more creative makes our personal and professional lives a little more exciting and fulfilling. Research has correlated creativity to happiness. When we're in a creative process (whether we're writing, listening to music, dancing or building a table), our dopamine levels increase. The more positive emotions we accrue, the better it is for our wellbeing. From a business perspective, creativity is the driving force that fuels innovation. As machines begin to override our jobs, creativity is exponentially becoming one of the most sought after skills for employers. 

So let’s explore three easy steps to improve our 2% creative potential.



As humans, we are visual thinkers. 93% of what we understand comes from what we see. I’d hate to sound like a motivational coach, but pictures and visualisation really fuel the creativity in our reality.

As a strategist, I often I find it challenging to convey my thoughts, so I’m always looking for random photos on Unsplash or Pinterest to support my idea. Whether it’s a ballerina dancing in chalk, a flower stuck between two slabs of concrete or a dark sea shore… photos provoke imagination.

But if Pinterest isn’t your thing, you could look at architecture blogs, product design Instagram accounts or follow National Geographic on Facebook. If you have kids, fill their room with art, if you’re in an office, change your desktop once in a while to Time Magazine’s photo of the week; or get a desk plant –studies show that desk plants increase productivity and creativity by 40%. The key is to feed your brain with more colour, shapes and textures to induce creative juices.


TIP 2: Creative CROSS TRAINing

I’m a marketing strategist and I almost NEVER read articles about brands or marketing. Rather, I look to articles and listen to podcasts about life hacking, sport and neuroscience. I like to get inspired by the different approaches people take to solve problems; and apply their approach to how I might solve a brand or marketing challenge.

A great example is Ed Cutmul, Head of Pixar Animations. The production house that has brought us my favourite trilogy –Toy Story. Ed is one of the pioneers of linking computers with animation. He showed us that the two could work together to enhance movies and storytelling. If you’re in IT why don’t you read a book about human psychology, if you’re in science, what can you learn from history, or if you’re a chef, how can you take principles of art and replicate that on a plate?

My favourite quote from a hedge fund manager/ entrepreneur, James Altucher is:

 “The BEST IDEAS are byproducts of idea sex. Where two random ideas create something new.”

So go and get inspired by industries outside you’re 9-5. Cross train for your creativity. You’d be surprised what topics you’ll get into and plus, you’ll add way more value to random conversations.



Lose the keyboard and grab a pencil.

In the last 6 months, I’ve made a conscious effort to reduce my notes on a laptop. Instead, I’m trying to hand write more and improve my mind mapping skills. Hand writing or mind mapping allows us to draw patterns, symbols and identify connections you don’t see by typing lines on a computer. (The infamous JK Rowling famously wrote initial Harry Potter concepts on napkins!)

When we write, we send a message from our fingers up to our brain. It allows our memory and creative muscle to work harder.

So next time you think to bring your laptop or iPad into a meeting; swap it for a blank notebook. You’ll be amazed at how amazing your mind works when you’re not dictated by a Word document.  



As we wrap up, I’d like to share a quote from Steve Jobs.

 “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. And it seemed obvious to them after a while.”

I like his simplistic definition of creativity, it’s just connecting the dots. In essence, the more you expose yourself to different things outside your comfort zone, the more activated your creative muscle is.

To recap our 3 easy steps: 1. Increase visual stimuli, 2. Cross train with information outside your industry and 3. Grab a pencil.  

Osho, an Indian philosopher says that “to be creative, means to be in love with life.” Who wouldn’t want a little more fun, love and excitement in their lives? So ladies and gentlemen, I hope this talk has informed and inspired you to retrain your creative brain. Thank you.

(ps. If your also in Toastmasters, feel free to take this speech as your own! Let me know if you have any questions xx)

Liz PalComment