There are numerous tools to help individuals and teams be more creative. I thought I’d share some of my favorites here.
Climer Cards

Climer Cards

I developed this deck of cards a few years ago to help teams generate new ideas. We can all get stagnant. We need new sources of inspiration. Working in a stale conference room doesn’t invite new ideas. Next time your team wants to generate new ideas, pull out a deck of Climer Cards:

  • Lay the cards down with the colorful images face up. Spread them out so everyone can see them. If you have multiple groups you’ll need one deck per group.
  • Ask the team this question, “When you look at these images, now what new ideas do you have for _________ (insert problem you are trying to solve)?”
  • Be sure to use brainstorming/ideation guidelines and that you have created a space that supports new ideas, especially whacky ones.
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Thinkertoys Book

Zig Zag Cards

Creativity researcher Dr. Keith Sawyer developed this deck of cards based on his favorite creative activities. They follow the creative process he designed, which is explained in his book Zig Zag. The deck is divided into eight stages of the creative process, each with numerous activities for that stage. I interviewed Keith in a podcast episode and he talked about how he often uses magazines to spark creative ideas, an activity explained in the deck. These are a great deck for meeting facilitators, trainers, team leaders, or individuals.

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Box of Toys

Box of Toys

When I’m leading trainings or facilitating meetings I often have small toys scattered around the table. The toys provide a way to keep participants’ minds engaged on a low level tactile task while they pay attention with their higher level mind on the content being discussed. It’s the same theory that leads to getting ideas in the shower or while driving. It is amazing how much adults enjoy playing with the toys. It also keeps their hands off their phones and focused on the present! I buy inexpensive toys and wash them regularly. When they break, it’s not big deal to replace. My personal rule is I never spend more than $1 on a toy.

Prototype Kits

Prototype Kits

As ideas start to get more developed they start to take shape inside people’s heads. Sometimes communicating what we see in our heads is challenging. Designing a simple prototype in 20 minutes can fast forward communication and help teams work through ideas further. Prototype kits are simply a box of supplies that can be used to design a mock-up of an idea. I’m often impressed with what I see when someone verbally explains an idea to me then shows me a mock-up. The mock-up always helps me understand them better. Here is a list of items to include in your prototype kit:

  • popsicle sticks
  • cotton balls
  • cotton swabs (e.g. Q-tips)
  • scissors
  • colorful paper
  • sticky notes
  • glue
  • tape
  • pipe cleaners
  • wire
  • brads
  • paper clips
  • markers
  • googly eyes
  • string
  • a jar of nails, screws, hooks, bolts, tacks

Photo credit: Jo Szczepanska

Using these simple tools can have a profound effect on your creativity. They can help you get clarity, generate new ideas, and develop your ideas further.
Have you used any of these tools? If so, what happened? What are your favorite creativity tools? Share your comments below!

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