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How to apply the creative process to your professional life

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The next time you go to Target, Wal-Mart, or any other huge, air conditioned, and sterile store, turn the drudgery of picking up detergent into a contest. Challenge yourself to spot something weird amidst the aisles.

That’s the premise of Big Box Archeologist, an activity included in Rob Walker’s book The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy in the Everyday. Perhaps you’re thinking, the world is on fire and, allegedly, 95% of us are considering changing jobs. Why should we distract ourselves with strange games while we run errands? …

Photo: Richard Newstead/Getty Images

Whether we’re making art, starting a business, or trying to forge a career path, success almost always means differentiating ourselves from the crowd. But how do we reach that breakthrough? James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, suggests a surprisingly simple strategy: Stay on the bus.

On his website, Clear shares what he calls the Helsinki bus station theory. In this scenario, all the buses start off at the same station and travel more or less the same path for the first bit of their journey. If you gave up on the ride and got off your bus early, you wouldn’t…

If you don’t understand it, you’ll always be heading down the wrong path

Green light walking sign on a street pole.
Green light walking sign on a street pole.
Photo: jaboticaba/Getty Images

A while back, my wife and I were talking on the phone with our daughter, who was away at college. She was struggling with one of her classes but assured us that she was asking for help — something we had always encouraged our kids to do whenever they felt stuck. She said she had sent several emails to the resource center and was trying to set up a meeting with her professor. All good, but in spite of her efforts, no one had gotten back to her.

As she relayed the story to us, I could tell she believed…

You rarely see how the sausage got made

Digital generated image of abstract multi colored donut/pie chart on pastel green background.
Digital generated image of abstract multi colored donut/pie chart on pastel green background.
Photo: Andriy Onufriyenko/Getty Images

Co-authored by Robin M. Hogarth

Think of a creative concept that helped to shape the life and culture of the 21st century.

Harry Potter is one example. So is Google. The personal computer is another one.

If you try to list various factors behind the success of whatever idea you thought of, they will likely spring to mind with ease. The Harry Potter books, for example, give us an underdog hero who grows and develops together with the reader. Audiences of all ages can find something for themselves in this saga: friendship, adventure, struggle, love, hate, good, evil.

Google’s search…

Photography: Daniel Dorsa

Even if you’re a neat freak, embracing the mess might just be the key to unleashing your creativity

I admit it: I’m a neat freak. Before I can tackle a work project, I have to make sure everything around me is in its proper place. This has been especially true during quarantine, when the nonstop anxiety and total lack of control just make me want to fold sheets and reorganize all my glassware in size order.

Even during normal times, tidiness is my religion. I never have more than 10 tabs open at one time. …

It turns out we don’t do our best work in hypercompetitive, ‘Game of Thrones’–style environments

Illustration: George(s)

Since the #MeToo movement ignited a national outcry about the rampant sexual harassment and abuse in industries from film and television to politics, workplaces have been much more attuned to the way “traditional” (some might say “toxic”) socialized masculinity can contribute to gender inequality, bias, and sexual misconduct.

But even progressive companies can struggle with “masculinity contest cultures,” according to a paper published in the Harvard Business Review last year. These cultures may include harassment and abuse, but the more “benign” elements will also sound familiar to many office workers:

... taking on and bragging about heavy workloads or long…

A handy guide to the most useful frameworks for work and life

Credit: Hero Images/Getty Images

All you do, every day, is make decisions.

At work, you might decide to spend time on problem A instead of problem B. You might decide to use this product strategy over that product strategy. You might decide to place pixels here, not there.

But how do you make those decisions? Yes, you use intuition. Yes, you use experience. But you can never be 100% certain of the outcome. The only thing you can be certain of is the quality of the process you use to make your decisions.

And that is exactly what frameworks are for.

A framework is…


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