Everyone wants to be creative but many people lack confidence when it comes to generating edgy ideas. The good news is, absolutely anyone can do it. It's just a matter of fostering the right conditions to make it happen. That's according to David Margolis, author of The Billion-Dollar Creative: Inspiring Insights for Unleashing Your Creativity and Achieving Higher Levels of Success. Here are a few of his tips:
Make idea generation a habit
Commit to surfacing one idea every day. It will build your creativity muscle, just like a daily routine of going to the gym should translate into a leaner, stronger body. "It's very difficult to just come up with one or two fantastic ideas every now and again," Margolis says. "You need to come up with hundreds and hundreds of ideas."
Practice your pitch
It's not enough to run through a creative presentation in your mind. Get on stage or in front of the room where you will deliver your pitch and act it out. Will you be standing to the left or right of the screen? How will you handle your gestures? "When you actually start simulating, you feed the brain so much more information than visualizing or just showing up on the day," Margolis says.
Leave the office
The typical business environment, with its open plan, is rife with distractions and a detriment to creativity. Think of yourself as a sunflower that would die if it were left in your office. Where can you go for a period of time away from email, your phone, and co-workers to concentrate solely on sprouting fresh ideas? "If you want to write a lengthy report, design a presentation, or try to come up with some innovative solutions, you might need two to three hours of peace and quiet literally just sitting there waiting for inspiration to strike," he says. "It could take 45 minutes, it could take an hour to slip into that creative zone, that flow state."
Push through blocks
Flow--a zone of productivity and creativity that seemingly comes out of thin air--is a much sought-after condition. But you won't have it every day, meaning you'll need to push yourself through blocks instead of wallowing in frustration. "Climbing up the mountain gives you the growth," he says.
Ask "what if" questions
Asking who, what, when, where, and why is a good exercise for delineating a situation, but if you want to move outside the box, ask "what if" questions instead. For example, try looking at the question of where you will take your next vacation differently. What if you took five three-day weekends instead of a week off? What if, instead of leasing a new office, all your employees became remote workers, or if you only came together as a team once a week?
Turn off the heat
Many people believe having a deadline forces them to be more creative, but the best ideas actually come during periods of relaxation, such as when you're playing golf or going for a run. So the next time you have to deliver fresh results on a big project, get started right away to give yourself plenty of room to expand your thinking along the way.
Be prepared to make revisions
Your first idea likely won't be your best. In fact, brilliant work often results from much tweaking, redoing, and going back to the drawing board. Think of a novelist half done with a manuscript who suddenly realizes that bringing in a new character makes sense. Such an introduction would necessitate editing everything already written--lots of work, but worth doing if the story will be a good one. "Creativity rarely follows a straight line," Margolis says. "Creative projects are full of back and forth."