Workshop Resources

How To Be Creative: Discover Tools To Spark New Ideas


Thanks for joining in the fun to discover tools for sparking your creativity!

Here are some resources for continuing your creativity practice.


Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley and David Kelley

The authors run an agency (IDEO) and a design thinking school ( at Stanford) which provides many real-life examples of how their creative thinking processes and exercises expand people’s thinking. Along with those examples, this book has quite a few of those exercises listed and explained. Great resource to have on your desk or close by!

The Creative Curve by Allen Gannett

Mr. Gannett interviewed quite a few creators, from songwriters to product designers then gathered his research into this book. He also brings in academic studies to build a foundation of what it means to be creative and how our brain generates new ideas. This book also has an interesting take on how to develop the right product at the right time – learning what the target audience and the market are used to and what they might be ready for. 

The Practice by Seth Godin

A great combination of mindset and practical processes, this is good book for anyone looking to reduce their frustrations with their work – whether that work is marketing, accounting, being artistic, etc. Written in tiny chapters, it is easy to digest even if you only have 15 minutes at a time.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

A terrific read for examining how mindset impacts our creative processes and artistic natures. Written by a bestselling author in such a way this book is relevant to anyone who wants to create anything – businesses, products, songs, stories, etc. 

The links to these books take you to the description and ordering page. I do not have any affiliation with the authors or 

Videos on Creativity

John Cleese via Oglivy’s Nudgestock 

Nice talk from the longtime comedic actor and writer in which he discusses how important it is to give space & time for creative play.

Creativity Exercises

Thirty Circles 

This was our workshop’s warm-up exercise and is great for getting your mind ready to do some big thinking. Good for groups or on your own.

Put 30 circles on a sheet of paper (yes, paper). Then using a marker or pen, make as many ‘things’ as you can with those empty circles within a set amount of time (one minute, five, whatever feels good to your situation). Most people start with the more obvious solutions: baseballs, basketballs, etc., but then see how ‘out there’ you can get and how quickly!


You probably know about brainstorming, but also consider brainwriting as an idea-generation exercise too! Both of these involve groups of people (about 6 or 8) and a limited time session. With brainstorming, a given topic or challenge on the board, then the group calls out whatever ideas come to mind. All ideas are welcome and encouraged as this exercise is meant to develop a long list of ideas first. The culling of ideas will happen at a later session. Some people may not feel comfortable expressing ideas verbally in front of others, so consider the writing version of this exercise. Brainwriting has everyone writing one idea to one sticky note. People are encouraged to write for maybe a minute at a time, then post their notes on the board. While up at the board, examine the other notes, then write for another minute. This encourages the building off of other ideas, which often happens during brainstorming’s verbal exchanges.

Six Thinking Hats 

Developed by Edward D Bono, a researcher in creative skills, Six Thinking Hats encourages a shift in thinking patterns by wearing different ‘hats.’ Each hat is labeled with a color and type: white/information, green/possibilities, red/emotions, black/risks, yellow/benefits, blue/thinking. As the group reviews the problem to be solved, they spend a few minutes wearing each hat, considering the problem or challenge from that point of view. For instance, the problem might be how to  increase loans. “Wear” the red hat then think of the emotions involved as a member considers a loan. They might be anxious about their credit score, confused about the terms, happy to get a new car, etc.

Storyboard For Empathy 

Credit union marketing people usually have a deep understanding of mortgages, online banking, and all other products and services, but when was the last time you saw those from a members’ point of view?  One way to see these in a fresh light is to use a different part of your brain to explain them. And to do so from the member’s point of view. Draw stick figures on a sticky note to storyboard the member’s buying journey – one note for each step. From when they first think about using mobile deposit, then through each step of the process. And remember, it’s not about how well you draw the step or emotion or benefit, but that you are using a different part of your brain – the one involving drawing – to open up some new idea pathways.

Daily Dozen 

This is a great solo exercise and even an amazing habit to incorporate into your daily routine. Set aside time each day to write 12 new ideas. It’s helpful to select a theme/topic for each day even if it’s not work related. Need topics? Notice what frustrated you on the way to work. A traffic jam maybe? Think of 12 ideas for relieving congestion at that spot. Just the process of generating 12 new ideas (on any topic) will keep your ideation muscle strong. Put 30 minutes on your calendar and stick to it!

Mind Map

Similar to brainstorming, mind mapping is a tool for generating as many ideas as possible. The difference? Brainstorming is a group activity within a set amount of time. Mind mapping can be done by a group or on your own and is completed over a longer time period. Start by placing the challenge in the center of your space. Have a large whiteboard in your department? Perfect. Write the challenge in the middle of it. Or use a digital space – those work well too. Then as people have ideas about the challenge, have them write each idea out from the center, with a line connecting the challenge to the idea. When someone sees the ideas, they might get a derivative idea. So they’ll connect or map the first idea to the second level. And the ideas continue to spread out like spokes on a wheel. Typically, the obvious ideas are ones written first, then as more ideas are written, they tend to become more novel and hopefully useful too! 

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