INNOVATE

One Habit That Will Instantly Jump-start Your Creativity

Creativity is the currency of modern success. By building this one simple habit, you can ensure you'll never be at a loss for ideas again.
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The days of a company riding for decades on the strength of a single product are long gone. With technology trends, tastes, and available knowledge changing almost weekly, businesses that can’t generate a steady stream of groundbreaking ideas are doomed to fail.

The same holds true for marketing and sales. When an organization can’t regularly come up with fresh concepts for exciting content--blog posts, articles, videos, and so on--they get ignored by search engines and potential customers alike.

In short, success in the modern world means generating a lot of ideas quickly, which is something that doesn’t come naturally to most people. Fortunately, there’s a habit you can build that will immediately give your creativity (and that of your business) a boost.

Force Connections Between Unrelated Things

The best ideas are not created from scratch. Consider the person that many of us think of as the pinnacle of originality--Thomas Edison. The Wizard of Menlo Park was notorious of borrowing concepts that other people came up with and combining them in new ways. For example, Edison came up with the idea for the light bulb’s screw socket by observing how bottle caps worked--not something most people would associate with world-changing electromagnetic breakthroughs.

Not all of us can be an Edison, but we can still get in the habit of approaching idea generation like he did. Stop trying to figure out ways to pluck fully formed ideas out of the sky. Instead, work on exposing yourself to a wide range of diverse influences and then develop processes for making connections between them.

How to Get Started

At my company, when I need to generate a lot of great ideas quickly for myself or my clients, the first thing I do is gather all kinds of raw material that has nothing to do with the topic I'm trying to innovate around. Sometimes that material is based on employees’ interests, hobbies, and inside jokes. Other times, it’s a collection of articles ripped out of magazines or random junk that people toss in a box over the course of the week. Then I ask every member of the team to spew out any connections that occur to them between the subject I care about and all the random stuff. Incredibly, by forcing people to make connections between topics where none previously existed, they begin to generate ideas they never would have thought possible.

The process you may come up with may look nothing like mine. But regardless of the specifics, get in the habit of encouraging yourself and your team to work on tying together unrelated concepts. Because creativity occurs in the blank space between once unconnected ideas.

Last updated: Mar 24, 2014

MICHAEL SCHEIN | Columnist | Founder and principal of Michael Schein Communications

Michael Schein is the founder and principal of Michael Schein Communications, a digital marketing company. He has created or facilitated the production of content for companies such as eBay, LinkedIn, Avectra, Tesla, SEER Interactive, Interneer, Arise Virtual Solutions, and Citrix. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with honors and got his start at Spin the Bottle, the production company behind VH1 hit show Pop Up Video.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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