There’s nothing more exhilarating than coming up with an innovative idea that’s brilliant. It makes your heart go “zing,” and it’s these moments — when you’re firing on all cylinders — that make you feel like you're really great at your job.
It's great when creative thinking is supported by your company's organizational culture. Now you just have to, you know, be brilliant. So here are 10 suggestions for how to shake more of those genius moments loose. All 10 of them are about helping you see things in the fresh way truly new ideas require.
1. Meet on your feet
Conduct some stand-up meetings to foster more lively thinking. Staying upright creates a totally different, more active — and, let’s face it, less sleepy — vibe. People also tend to blab less when they’re standing, so meetings tend to be shorter too. Things also stay more focused because people are eager to take care of business in order to earn the right to sit down, and distractions like phones are easier to ignore when they’re not sitting out on a table in front of everyone.
2. Use your workspace to keep yourself excited
We all tend to get juiced up by things we think are cool, or moving, or just downright inspirational. Take the time to keep things around you in your workspace that delight you. They can keep you jazzed about life in a sparklingly creative frame of mind.
3. Find a brainstorming buddy
Pick someone at work you feel like you’re compatible with or whose way of thinking complements yours. Make an arrangement with that person to be each other's sounding board and supporter. Two minds can be better than one, and when you’re trying to creative, so much more fun.
4. Win small first
Some of the richest innovations aren’t really one massive thingf but instead a collection of smaller breakthrough elements. If you’re having trouble coming up with the Big Idea, break down what you’d like to achieve into smaller goals, and put your mind to work on smaller solutions. They’re easier to get going on, and over time you can put them together to pull off something truly amazing.
5. Break something that isn’t broke
Over time, we tend to develop habits for everything, from the way we get out of bed to the way we get back in at night. This also happens with the things we do all day at work. It may be that the way you do everything is the optimal way and can’t be improved. But it may also be that by changing the order in which you do things, or the way you do them, you can discover surprising new angles, and see possibilities for things you do — and other unrelated things — that never occurred to you.
6. Less talk, more action
Ah, the best way to keep from actually doing something is to talk to others endlessly about what you’re going to do. You rarely collect any constructive wisdom that way; it’s really mostly just stalling. It’s way better to just go ahead and do the thing. If it works, fine: victory. If it doesn’t, you’ll see why and be in a real position to discover how to do it successfully rather than just blabbing about it and guessing.
7. Put up some roadblocks
Noted composer Igor Stravinsky famously wrote about the freedom that paradoxically springs from limitations:
“I shall go even farther: my freedom will be so much the greater and more meaningful the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles.”
To Stravinsky, the most maddeningly paralysis-inducing starting point was one where anything was possible. Only after setting himself some boundaries could he get to work.
As you try to solve a problem, set up some artificial limits on how you can solve it: maybe the amount of money you can spend, the amount of time it takes, the number of people you can involve. These fake boundaries can help crystallize your thinking and offer new solution opportunities. They can also bring into sharp focus those elements you really can’t do without.
8. Get out!
Take a break. Go outside. Schedule some time every day to get out into the air and take a walk. Often this kind of mental reset can change everything, with you coming back to your desk refreshed and de-stressed. It’ll also remind you that your job isn’t everything — hey, there’s a world out there!
9. Consume something creative
Inspiration can be contagious. When you first get to work, slip in the earbuds for a few minutes to listen to a song you love or get lost in a podcast. Stare at a photo or artwork you think is awesome. These good, nourishing feelings can set your day off to a creative start.
10. Imagine your hero as you
We all have our heroes and heroines. (For the sake of this tip, let’s leave out those with superpowers, okay?) If you’re really stuck on a problem, try imagining what they would do to solve it. There’s no doubt something in that person’s attitude you admire. Maybe it could be the key for overcoming your current dilemma.
Give some or all of these tips a try. There’s nothing like looking at things from a different angles as a way to see possibilities you never saw before.