Creativity Exercises & Examples

Creativity exercises. Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

Improve Your Creativity With Exercises Perfectly Designed to Engage the Creative Brain for Incredible Results

Being creative is something that is built in to all of us. Everyone has the potential to innovate and create. The trick is understanding how to unlock that creativity.

In the previous post, entitled Creativity: A Scientific Definition & Tutorial, we learned how creativity is not something mysterious that only certain gifted people can access. It can be defined in a usable way (for anyone and everyone) as follows.

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Creativity is a heuristic process of semantic association leading to novel concepts.

If that definition doesn't mean much, I recommend you check out our definition of creativity before starting the exercises below.

Knowing what something is on a theoretical level is not nearly as useful as putting it into practice. With that in mind, here are a list of graded exercises in creative thinking that should help you quickly go from novice to expert.

Creative Exercises

The goal of any creative exercise it to come up with an innovative or unusual concept that has some novel meaning, utility or purpose (either for the creator, or its consumers).

For the purposes of these exercises, you can judge levels of creativity by how interesting and compelling are the resulting concepts are.

Here's how it works. 

Each exercise will present two or more semantically related concepts that you will have a minute or two to associate in some way shape or form. The association should merge the initial, loosely related concepts into a single new concept. The goal is for the resulting, merged concept to be new, counter-intuitive or novel in some way.

Here's a simple example to demonstrate.

Gelato Creativity

Gelato. Image by KIM HOJIN from Pixabay

Combine the following seed concepts into a single, novel concept.

  1. How to make
  2. Gelato

Your brain probably had an answer before you'd finished reading the list.

  1. How to make gelato

Simple enough, right?

This result isn't too creative because there is a single, obvious association to be made between the two concepts. However, at its heart, that's all there is to creativity. The only difference is the number of seed concepts and their semantic distances. 

Let's add one more seed concept to the list to demonstrate how quickly the number of possibilities quickly increases as the number of seed concepts grow. Consider the following list of 3 seed concepts.

  1. How to make
  2. Gelato
  3. Flowers

I'm guessing your brain probably wasn't able to flash a result at you quite as quickly as the first time? If it did, well... you're a natural.

In this instance, there is a larger semantic distance (again I recommend you read the definition of creativity if the concept of 'semantic distance' is new to you) between Gelato and Flowers than we are able to associate instantly. That's because these two concepts are not adjacent in our built in semantic mind maps.

Instead, we need to give the storyteller time to associate these into something new and creative. Here are two ideas I came up with:

  1. Indulgent Gelato Recipes Using Flowers
  2. 5 Ways to Use Flowers for Extra Special Gelato

Got the hang of it? Great; let's ideate and create.

Solar Creativity

Solar panels. Image by Maddy Bris from Pixabay

Associate the following two concepts into at least 5 creative new ideas.

  1. Solar
  2. Park

Don't be fooled by how commonplace these two terms are. Just because your mind is familiar with them individually doesn't mean there aren't some unique associations waiting to be made between them.

Try to think about how they might fit together. In particular, how would they fit together with different, altered or augmented meanings of those two terms?

  1. ________________________
  2. ________________________
  3. ________________________
  4. ________________________
  5. ________________________

The trick is to get out of your brain's way and let it do its thing. Don't try to control the creative process. If your logical, controlling brain was creative it would be known as your creative brain.


Hint: 'park' has multiple meanings. It might refer to a place where people hang out, play sport, or relax. It might also refer to something a car does.

Perhaps a solar powered outdoor gym (in the park) might be one creative interpretation. How about a solar powered car park in which the panels provide shaded parking for electric vehicles that can also recharge using that power. Might be an awesome idea to sell to shopping malls with big open carparks full of juicy sunlight currently going to waste.

Lesson Creativity

Hat. Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

Associate the following three concepts into 10 creative new ideas.

  1. Lesson
  2. Hat
  3. Rain

Remember, there are no limits set upon how you associate these concepts. Use two of them, or all three. What about changing the words, or using ambiguity? Lesson is similar to lessen. Rain sounds like Train.

There are no rules. All bets are off. Like Scotland choosing the unicorn as its national animal, your brain should not be encumbered by sense, reason and logic.

Real creativity is unapologetically out-the-box.

[Insert Concept] Creativity

Insert creative concept. Image by mijung Park from Pixabay

Add your own 3rd seed concept to the following two and ideate up to 10 new creative ideas based on your unique combination of concepts.

  1. Base
  2. Chimney
  3. [Insert Concept]

Each of us have a very similar semantic mind map hard-wired into our brains. What's different about us is that each of us is in a unique semantic state at any one time. You might be thinking of lunch while working on this exercise. Someone else might be interested in buying a dress, or thinking about taking a headache tablet, or, or, or.

The semantic state you're in right now is different from anyone else. It's what makes you uniquely creative. It's also the reason brainstorming works best with lots of different people in the room (because it increases the diversity of the input semantic states).


Hint: Can't find good ideas with only one inserted concept? Cheat. There are no rules. Add a 4th. Perhaps the combination of two new concepts and one or more of the existing ones will yield something fresh and innovative.

Of course, brainstorming by yourself as effectively as 20 creative people is both possible and relatively easy. You simply need to practice with the online equivalent of 20 creative people.

Let's try that now.

Advanced Creativity Exercises

Advanced creativity exercise: Healthy Food Writing Prompts

Pick your own niche topic and add 5 seed concepts to a new ideation and generate at least 20 creative new ideas in under 10 minutes.

If you haven't already, create a free ideate bot account. This allows you to ideate around 5 seed concepts and adds hundreds, potentially thousands more semantically related (both close and distant) concepts to work with.

Each raw idea generated by your ideation will contain 2 or more semantically related concepts. Be careful to give each one due consideration.

The most creative ideas often emerge from seemingly disconnected or unrelated semantic concepts.

It takes a bit of practice to get a feel for which concepts might lead to something innovative and creative, and which should be forgotten about. Once you have the hang of it, the quality and volume of your creative output will be drastically improved.