Dr Robert Epstein, a psychologist at Harvard, is well known as a leading thinker on creativity. He developed a simple model which identified the following important dimensions of creativity (creative competencies):
Capturing This relates to how well you capture and preserve ideas as they occur to you. For example, artists carry sketchpads, writers carry notebooks and use mobile devices to record, photograph or video things that they encounter. They might also use special times and places when they know ideas are likely to flow and will use ideas that emerge during dreams. Most creatives I know will clip or record interesting images or ideas as they find them, regardless of whether they have any relevance to current projects.
Challenging Challenge – and failure – helps to stimulate new ideas through a process he calls “resurgence”. Creative people seek our challenging situations and see failure as an opportunity for growth. This competency is also helpful in dealing with stress.
Broadening This is about broadening your skills and knowledge base as previously established ideas compete and become interconnected. Learning new things supports creativity – and the further from your current areas of knowledge and expertise the better. In intelligence and ability tests, this often relates to intellectual curiosity.
Surrounding His research shows that creativity is stimulated when people are exposed to novel or ambiguous stimuli. He suggests that you should deliberately manipulate both your physical and social environments on a regular basis.
You can take the Epstein ECCI-I (Epstein Creativity Competencies Inventory for Individuals) test here http://drrobertepstein.com/ECCI-i-unabridged/managers/
Problem solving, creativity and innovation is an occasional course I run at the PM Forum http://www.pmforum.co.uk/training/index.aspx