The techniques described here are not very useful for a musician or a painter (or they are, but not directly). The goal is to get new ideas and break old thinking habits. The essence of the theory is as follows: Usually your mind is in a rut. In order to move your thinking wagons out of the rut, you provoke it. You will find it to be very simple and it will work immediately. With practice, it will work even better!
(Here it would be nice with a picture with thinking wagons stuck in a rut. Can you draw one?)
Sometimes the brains seems to be slow, lacking energy and wit. Maybe you have to finish an article before you go to bed. Ideas don't flow easily. To get the brains into full swing so thinking goes with a bang, you might try the following exercise:
Point at an object in your surroundings and call it by another name. Point at a lamp, and say snake! Point at a floppy disk, say spoon! A book -- dance! Table -- Swimming! Etc. Try to increase the speed until you cries out weird words immediately when you point at something.
I will not say how it feels afterwards. Do it and you will know! You might observe that it is easy to slip into patterns, like "Cow! Milk! Breakfast! ...". Practice a little bit more to get rid of these patterns.
Now I will give you two good techniques to get new ideas. I think it's all you need. There are thick books about this, and you may read them if you think it is interesting. But if you are intelligent, understanding the essence is all you need (everywhere, always, in every theory. Am I overenthusiastic?)
The first one is to simply have something to think of. Instead of looking at the whole problem at once (if you have a problem), look at a tiny detail. If you walk down the street, force yourself to only look at -- for instance -- a lamppost or maybe even only at the hold or the very lamp. Then think, how could this be done better? Compare this to looking at the whole street at once, thinking "Can anything be done better here?". Make this a habit if you wish to be the guy or girl who always have new and funny ideas. It is like a burning glass which produces a warmer spot if the spot is smaller. So have a small focus point!
The second thing, which you can combine with the above idea to get good results is to have a thought in mind, a thought you want to develope. Then provoke your brain with a random word, like "pancake batter!" or "machete!". Then let this word bring new ideas. Often all you need is to be provoked. The very provocation, the weird word, is only needed to bring the thinking out of the rut.
Here is an example: In my hands I've got a CD case. I want to make it better. As a focus point, I choose the hold. I need a provocation word. FROG! Frog? They are slimy... Gluing the disk is not a good idea... But one could hold the disk with suction cups! There is actually free space on the plastic of a CD where no data is written, so leaving suction marks doesn't matter.
Maybe this is a very stupid example, but this is how it works even when you're thinking of not so stupid things. Remember the essence! You must provoke your brains. People who haven't provoked their brains in years get dull and robotic. People who provoke their brains often get creative and non-robotic.
Additional Techniques for Provoking Creativity and Intelligence
Random associations. The point of this exercise is to be able to state how a ___________ is like a ________________. Use whatever method you choose to fill in the blanks and state how the two are alike.
For example, suppose you want to make a game of this with a child. Place assorted objects into a bag. Gather the objects from various places, so that they are not all related by location, toy figures count as well. Then have the child, without looking and, doing so quickly as not to select by feel, pull out two objects. Then have the child describe how the two objects, say a bottle opener and a (toy) giraffe are alike.
Additional ways of filling in the blank might be to randomly select words from a dictionary of telephone yellow pages, select images from advertisements or commercials (it takes some of the mindlessness out of television watching), with multiple people have each select a word individually secretly (nouns work best) then fill in the blank with the two word and see who can come up with the most connections.
No-name naming. Describe a scene, or the room that you are in without using nouns, except for the names of geometric shapes. Use only adjectives and verbs. Try describing a specific picture from a group of pictures that are not too dissimilar with enough detail that another person can pick out the one you are describing.
Smallest differences. From a group of 4-6 similar objects, such as lemons, oranges, eggs, unsharpened pencils, choose one specimen. Spend 5-10 minutes getting to know your specimen. Then return it to the group and mix them up. Test yourself to see if you can differentiate yours from the rest. (This is a useful skill when doing magic tricks with cards. If you can discern small differnces, every deck of cards becomes a marked deck with use.)
Observation. This is the most basic skill of all, and the one others are based upon, the ability to observe. Where ever you are, take time to observe and verbalize (even if only internally) what it is you observe. Start with one sensory channel, such as visual, then proceed to auditory, then kinesthetic, and olfactory.
Looking at things upside-down. Or sideways. Turn your head so that you look at things upside down. Think about what would happen if suddenly gravity changed directions. Or imagine the building you are in suddenly turned over on its side and imagine how you would climb out.
Sudden difference. Look at something and imagine what it would be like if a particular detail about it changed to its opposite. For instance, what if CDs were suddenly square?
Different use. Think of alternate ways to use things than for the original purpose for which they were intended. For example, children often consider their parent's bed a trampoline instead of a bed. Kitchen sink could be used as a mixing bowl. For that matter, mixing bowls could be made into sinks! CDs could be used as frizbees.. or light catchers... or christmas tree ornaments. I've heard of people using doors as desk surfaces. (This kind of exercise is particularly helpful for conserving money in times of unemployment.)
Creativity is simply making new intellectual connections. Everyone has some potential to be more creative than they are now; it just takes a willingness to allow their minds to wander in an unforeseen direction. When an unusual thought enters many people's heads, they dismiss it as silly or pointless. They may be right, but that's beside the point. By judging these spurs of creativity before the mind is given a chance to follow them to their conclusion, they are closing themselves from creative thoughts that may be relevant, useful, or entertaining at the very least.
Next time you get an odd idea, run with it. If you see a man walking his dog in the park and you begin to wonder how things would be if the dog were instead walking the man, follow that thought and see where it takes you. It may sound silly, but sharpening your creative process for these simple observations will sharpen your ability to come up with original solutions to things more relevant to your life too.
Be creative! You have nothing to lose and only a sense of humor, a newfound ability to express yourself, and an ability to solve problems better to gain.