That said, the modern business world is complex, competitive, and full of distraction. We're all overworked, under-resourced, and overloaded with communication. In Is Thinking an Endangered Management Skill, we discussed the problem of not having time to think. But how about when you're too stressed, too distracted, or for whatever reason, the synapses aren't firing and inspiration simply won't come?
Try these 10 Things to Boost Creativity You'll Likely Overlook
- Rethink the problem. Probably the most overlooked way to come up with ideas that aren't coming is to rethink the problem, change the question or goal, whatever's appropriate. Flip it on its side. Look at it from a different angle. All that stuff works.
- Other people. The most inspiring and creativity boosting thing I can think of is talking the problem or question over with other people, and not necessarily those you'd ordinarily think of. Brainstorm sessions with peers don't always work. Sometimes great ideas come from an impromptu hallway conversation.
- Your office. But only if it's comfortable, comforting, and most importantly, makes you feel safe. When you feel comfortable and safe, your limbic system is quiet and your mind is free for higher-level function. When you're emotionally distraught, forget about thinking.
- Your personal life. Sometimes work becomes sort of like a box you feel trapped in. Why that is, I have no idea. But the best way to break out of that is a dose of personal life. Talk to your spouse or a friend, do some shopping, cook a meal, or just take stock of your life. Look around, you'll find perspective there.
- Zoning out. When I'm zoning out, taking a relaxing shower, whatever makes my mind go blank, that's when things come to me. I don't know why, but it works.
- Sleeping. It's a popular myth that sleep or food deprivation opens up the mind. What a bunch of crap. All that does is make you hallucinate. If you're working your tail off for long hours and then you need to really think and be creative, get some sleep. It'll help to order thoughts in your head and allow you to look at things in a new light -- literally.
- Drugs. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm a big fan of drugs. Some caffeine by day and a couple of drinks at night do wonders for creative thinking. Just don't overdo it -- or reverse the two. And if you have a headache or are in pain, for god's sake, take something for it. You can't think when you're in pain.
- Mindless tasks. The theory is that mindless, repetitive tasks focus one part of the mind while allowing higher level functions to operate freely. I don't know if that's true or not, but it often works.
- Nature. Not the view, but living things: Dogs, cats, grass, insects. Why? Because, through natural selection, nature has found ingenious ways of solving really tough problems. And those solutions are both inspiring and specifically useful. Just now, looking at water droplets hanging on a plant outside my office, voila, I came up with the tenth way --
- Stick with it. Don't get up, walk around, do things, get distracted. Just stick with the problem. Focus. Of course, if you're blocked and nothing's coming, then do something different. But first, try sticking with the problem for a while. The block may be that you're distracted and just not focusing. Happens all the time.
Also check out: