Some people develop a taste for good coffee or fine wine. Doing so effectively is a skill and requires effort. What if you could do the same with generating good ideas? University of Chicago economists Sendhil Mullainathan and Steve Levitt recorded a fun conversation about exactly this, where Sendhil outlines three points for improving creativity:
- Develop a taste for ideas.
- Tell people ideas you've heard.
- You get good at something by repeatedly doing it.
When two really smart and creative people talk about their creative processes, it's certainly worth paying attention! Times two when you learn that Sendhil is a MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient. Credentialing aside, these guys really are brilliant and have a great way of communicating.
The concept of developing a taste for ideas is akin to developing a taste for fine wine. It takes intention, enthusiasm, and a lot of practice. One big difference from learning all about wine is that the types of smart, ambitious people who might care about improving their creativity have a natural bias towards overweighting their own ideas and underweighting those of others. If you can get over this natural instinct to want to be the one in the spotlight of brilliance, it's empowering to learn from others. Sendhil and Levitt are abnormally curious about the world and relish in hearing interesting new ideas from other people.
"It is noteworthy how few people enjoy hearing a good idea from someone else."
Don't keep the good stuff to yourself! Surround yourself with curious people who enjoy hearing new ideas and have fun relaying the cool things you come across. The practice of enthusiastically sharing ideas puts you in the creativity zone, builds your toolkit of ideas, and generates productive interactions that can spur further thoughts.
"Creating new ideas is largely reassembling stuff you've seen or putting things together."
Getting good at anything requires putting in the time. If you want to be more creative, carve out time to focus on generating new ideas or brainstorming solutions. Make this part of your schedule and stick to it.
Finally, speaking of good ideas, I highly recommend adding Steve Levitt's People I (Mostly) Admire podcast to your feed. It's part of the Freakonomics radio network. I'll also be giving Sendhil's book, Scarcity, a read.