Unleashing Creativity

Creativity is at the core of process improvement necessary for the advancement of the medical profession. We need to unleash our creativity to meet the rapidly changing needs of graduate medical education.  Think of that one person in your department who always seems to be coming up with the newest trick for doing a procedure or a creative method of delivering medical education. What if there was a way for you to become that creative person? The good news is that creative thinking can be learned, and with practice, can become a habit to where it comes naturally.


Collect Good Ideas

There are no new ideas. Creative thinking is making new connections between old ideas or recognizing relationships between concepts. It is taking what is present and combining it in ways that have not been done before. Steve Jobs echoed this thinking when he stated “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.”

Start by learning how to “Steal Like an Artist” [1]. This is the main theme of Austin Kleon’s book on creativity. The concept is that you are a mashup of all your influences. So, collect good ideas. The more ideas you collect, the more you can choose to be influenced by. Look outside of the field of medicine for inspiration in books, comics, artists, musicians, social media, children, and nature. Consider creating a list on Twitter of the people who inspire you, including accounts not in the field of medicine. Reference this list when you are needing inspiration or incorporate it into your daily twitter scroll. Another option is to keep a desktop folder of pictures or articles that inspire you to review when you need inspiration.

Example of a Twitter list for inspiration including medical and non-medical accounts.


Just Get Started

There is no limit to an individual’s creativity. The more creative thinking is practiced, the easier it becomes. Simply starting a project and not waiting for “the perfect idea” is a way to gain momentum towards even better ideas. This concept is supported by many well-known authors. Madeleine L’Engle, the author of the award-winning book A Wrinkle in Time, stated that “Inspiration comes during work, not before it.” Start with an outline of your ideas. Then write in details. Then write in more details. Eventually, you will start having full sentences and then full paragraphs. More support for this concept comes from Jodi Picoult, a best-selling fiction author, who states “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” Even if what you initially create isn’t what you intend, it can lead to something unexpected that is even better than what you initially planned.


Give Yourself Permission to Fail

If you are afraid of making mistakes or creating an idea that others won’t like, you won’t be free to think creatively. Giving ourselves permission to create less than perfect ideas and solutions can make for steppingstones to the end result. Start by thinking of a truly bad idea. A “bad idea” may spark inspiration leading to a practical idea. Or maybe with a little tweaking, that bad idea could be a great idea. “Bad ideas” are the radical thinking that is needed to find the solution to a problem. If you ever doubt yourself, just envision the brave soul at a meeting who pitched the idea for a movie involving a tornado full of sharks.


Use Paper

Starting a project on a computer can be difficult. The computer forces us to have our ideas fully formulated before we can write them down. The restricted formatting forces us to shift our ideas into paragraphs. Paper, however, gives freedom to break away from the enter and tab button and allows us to underline, strikeout, circle, highlight, and draw arrows. Another reason to start on paper is to avoid the enemy of creativity: the delete button. The delete button is tempting to use and can lead to editing before our ideas are fully formed and written down. This can cause ideas to be deleted that may have been helpful later when revisiting the project.  Once ideas are fully formed on paper, the project can then be edited and transferred to a digital format for saving and sharing.

Example of an escape room created on paper and then transferred to digital format.



  1. Kleon, A. Steal Like an Artist. Workman Publishing Company, Inc; 2012.
By |2021-08-05T05:59:19-07:00Aug 13, 2021|Academic, Creative|

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