Coming up with creative ideas isn't easy. In fact, sometimes it's an epic struggle.
I've been there many times myself, and you probably have too. Creativity and inspiration just seem completely out of reach sometimes.
Inspiration has been known to strike out of nowhere like a lightning bolt, but who has the time to sit around and wait for that?
That's why you need these concrete steps to make that lightning strike when you need it to.
Walk it off
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner regularly have walking meetings. This is because walking around boosts creativity, and research conducted by Stanford University backs that up.
If you're in one of those 4 o'clock ruts, take a quick stroll around the office, or even go to a local park, and contemplate your work. This doesn't have to be a solitary pursuit either--you can implement a much-needed outdoor brainstorming session with your team.
They'll love the change of scenery, the fresh air and the sunshine, and they'll likely get a creative kick-start as a result.
Let's get critical
Sometimes, the key to forming your own new ideas can come from getting criticism. Constructive feedback can boost your creativity, as well as that of the person getting it.
Pixar was built as a ground-up organization where it's not only safe to give feedback, but expected. The creativity that resulted spawned billion-dollar franchises built on unique ideas. You just don't get that kind of independent thinking by surrounding yourself with sycophants.
At LexION Capital, my team goes quid pro quo with project feedback, at my encouragement. You should consider doing the same. You and your team will gain some valuable outside perspective as a result.
Avoid the boardroom
Boardroom meetings are probably stifling ideas more than you realize.
"I never had a conference with my managers to brainstorm," self-made real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran once said. "We might create better systems to manage the business, but we never had out-of-the-box thinking until we were out of the field doing ridiculous things."
Because of the way it's conducted, the traditional office meeting is the place where good ideas go to die. Corcoran has taken that meeting out of its element and seen creativity flourish.
Consider an office happy hour, or even a trip to an amusement park for your team. Unconventional ideas don't come from conventional meetings, so don't be afraid to shake things up.
I'm a huge advocate of taking a vacation as a way to avoid burnout. Apart from giving you an opportunity to enjoy drinks with cocktail umbrellas in them, relaxing on some Caribbean island will help you recharge your spent creativity.
Professor Brent Crane of Columbia Business School found that international travelers were behind the most creative fashion lines of the last decade. This is because experiencing new sights, sounds and smells opens up brain synapses and allows creativity to flourish.
If you don't have the time to get your passport stamped, consider a weekend trip, or even a day trip, to somewhere new. It might be just the thing you need to get the creative juices flowing.
Theodor Geisel--better known as Dr. Seuss -- wrote "Green Eggs & Ham" after betting that he couldn't produce a story using less than 50 words. He produced a timeless classic, and research shows that he was onto something more than just a lifetime of royalty checks.
Put your brain into overdrive by placing restrictions on yourself and on your team. Stale concepts emerge from the "that's how we've always done things" mentality, so forbid your team from going there.
They may not welcome the idea at first, but it will keep them off the path of least resistance and force them to think in new ways. So challenge your team to ignore the status quo. I've seen some of the best and most innovative ideas emerge when my team throws tradition out the window.