You don't have to be rich to be creative. Or even talented, to be quite honest. What you really need is an open mind, patience, and time. Time may be the most important part of the equation. Because if you don't have the focused minutes of the day to reflect and the hours needed to hone your skill, incubate an idea, and watch it move from concept to reality, well, don't even bother.
But if you're willing to grapple with problems really worth solving, and prepared to fail, fail, and maybe even fail again, and then (fingers crossed) finally succeed, this post goes out to you. I've done the hard work for you, gathering three easy tactics to spark your creativity--essential lessons I've learned from decades in the startup trenches. These are real tactics for you to try yourself, either solo or with your team. If you're really sincere about realizing your creative potential, I suggest you incorporate them. Today.
1. Take two.
Either solo or with a team of up to five people, go and grab two to eight (solo or pairs can do this with just two) everyday objects at random. Now put them on a table. The challenge is to consider these objects and mash them up into one super object. Then, come up with a name for that new object, and explain its functional utility (what job does that object do? what problem does it solve?). For example, you might have a light bulb and a door knob. Nurture your ideas and you could probably come up with many new types of super objects. This challenge encourages out-of-the-box thinking, brainstorming, and collaboration. It also forces participants to get their cerebral synapses snapping at mach speed, which helps forge the team-building skills that create leadership and trust, all essential for productive relationships. Real creativity, especially in a group, is about just that--if you don't feel comfortable speaking your mind, and trying something that might seem crazy, and failing, then you'll never succeed.
2. See your blind spots by visualizing the opposite.
Welcome to the world of DIY brainstorming. Creativity experts like Chic Thompson recommend an innovative modus operandi that might seem a bit out of the box: Be crazy. Brainstorm solutions you would never suggest as real possibilities. Start by asking: What would I never do? Then list at least five of those "nevers." Have fun with it. Don't be politically correct, and don't be afraid to list something truly outlandish. Then, when you've done that, ask yourself: What if I actually did this "never" solution? What's right about this crazy "never" solution? Finally ask: What's the exact opposite of the way others are solving my challenge today? Then ask: What if I did this opposite solution? Could there be a breakthrough idea here? If so, flip an opposite into an opportunity. It could give you that chance to effect the change you want to see.
3. Embrace diversity.
The birth of my company was inspired by the fresh cultural and professional perspectives of MBA classmates from 100 countries that I encountered at Thunderbird. The diversity of different perspectives is the reason we have everything from fusion food (think cronuts) to principles like mathematics and democracy. We wouldn't even have a written language without it. But how does that apply to creativity? And to your life? Think about culture, fashion, even the way we cook. The intersection of different peoples and concepts drives innovation. My longtime friend Frans Johansson, in his book The Medici Effect, makes the case that the most groundbreaking ideas occur when contrasting cultures collide. Here's an example: the wildly successful chef Marcus Samuelsson. He's a judge on a cooking reality show, ABC's The Taste, and he got there because he's known for cooking up creative recipes inspired by his time living in both Sweden and the U.S., and his Ethiopian heritage. The result is tremendously daring, innovative, amazing food. This is the intersection I'm talking about. Stop fighting what you think are random patterns around you, and embrace them. Those differing parts of your background, the very makeup of your daily life, may be signs--or better yet ingredients--for you to spice the way you approach the world.
Try it. In fact, try all of these tips. And get in touch with your stories. I want to hear how you stay creative.