Fresh, inventive ideas are the lifeblood of entrepreneurship. By finding creative solutions to everyday problems or looking at an existing marketplace in a new light, the most successful entrepreneurs are able to develop ideas that completely transform their industries.
Of course, not all of us are able to come up with winning idea after winning idea. Whether we're too distracted by our phones or simply struggle to come up with creative solutions for the problems we've identified, becoming an "innovative thinker" isn't always easy.
The good news is that like so many other skills, creative thinking can be self-taught. By tapping into a few science-backed tactics, you can open up your mind to be better equipped to think creatively.
Burnout has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, with two-thirds of workers feeling burnt out at work. Not only does this harm your physical and emotional health and decrease productivity, it also makes it harder to generate ideas.
The antidote? Relaxation.
Research from the University of California, Santa Barbara has found that people tend to be more creative after giving themselves time to daydream. By giving your mind a break from processing information, you can let your thoughts and imagination run free, making it easier to generate new ideas.
It should be noted that watching Netflix or scrolling through Instagram on your phone does not count as truly relaxing. Daily walks, playing games, participating in a favorite hobby or even daydreaming can all help your brain relax so you can be better prepared to come up with new insights.
2. Challenge your assumptions.
We all have our own biases (perceived and unperceived) that influence how we think about and engage with the rest of the world. This can be especially limiting for would-be entrepreneurs, who can be tempted to dismiss ideas out of hand because they seem too expensive or unrealistic.
Allowing yourself to look past your assumptions and constraints makes it easier to generate new ideas. Sure, they may not all be winners, but when you allow yourself to explore more possibilities, you will be better equipped to find the concepts that can make a difference.
This became especially clear during a recent conversation with Perry Marshall, founder of Evolution 2.0. Marshall transitioned from a background in advertising to looking at the intersection of artificial intelligence, science, and design -- a move which would later land him an invite to Britain's prestigious Royal Society, alongside experts from Harvard, Oxford and MIT.
As he explained to me, this transition came as a direct result of challenging his former assumptions -- something he never thought he'd need to do. He grew up the child of a pastor. Because of this, he had to be willing to challenge many of his core beliefs. This helped him dig deeper, however, allowing him to better bridge the gap between creationism and evolution in a way that never would've happened if he'd refused to expand his thinking.
This concept is robustly backed by a basic scientific principle: you can never believe an assumption until you have experimented to prove whether or not it is true. As a result, challenging assumptions is vital for generating new ideas and validating what you have already come up with.
3. Internalize knowledge.
The more you know, the easier it is to generate ideas and follow them through to a logical conclusion. Unfortunately, our tech-driven world makes it so that this is often easier said than done.
Google has conditioned us to assume we can simply look up information when we need to know something. While this is convenient, it keeps us from internalizing knowledge, which is vital for creative thinking. Looking something up on Google can actually disrupt your train of thought, keeping you from reaching the full creative potential of your ideas and disrupting your workflow.
If you want to generate meaningful solutions and entrepreneurial ideas, you need to start with a solid base of knowledge. Investing in ongoing learning opportunities will help you internalize information so that you can have a better understanding of your industry and its associated challenges and opportunities.
Using your own knowledge as a guide, you can enjoy more uninterrupted time when trying to develop new solutions for complex problems. Find subjects that interest you, and learn as much as you can, going beyond the first results that come up in a Google search. Deeper knowledge will result in better ideas for your entrepreneurial ventures.
Training yourself to think creatively may take some practice, but it isn't as hard as you might initially think. By changing your habits, you can change the way you think. With the right mindset, innovative ideas will flow more easily, opening up the path for you to create the next big thing.