Many entrepreneurs extoll the virtues of a creative environment, but all the whiteboards and toys in the world won't surface creativity amidst the mundane work process of daily business. Much of creativity happens when people are given time, space, and stimuli without the pressure of completion.

Creative thinking can add productivity and new vision to a company. Of course, if your office isn't filled with creative types, it will be tough to start down a creative path. To help you find your creative spirit, my Inc. colleagues and I provided some creative techniques below.

1. Do something really different.

You won't stimulate creativity doing the same things with the same people in the same old way. You need some stimulus to get people thinking differently. Invite some people to come in to the office who make their living in creativity. They might be musicians, artists, comedians, theatre people, or even a clown. Have them perform and then discuss their creative process. At the very least, your people will get a brain break from the doldrums of work. At best, they will pick up inspiration and practical technique that will get them to think outside the box.

2. Ask more questions.

I like to play "What If" games. Instead of just brainstorming, ask more specific questions. "What if we lost our biggest customer -- what would we do?" "What if we lost a (key driver) of our business -- what would we do?" "What if we needed every customer to be a repeat customer -- how would we set that up with the initial sale?" Or one of my favorites, "What is one stupid rule we need to kill today?" Then sit back and actually listen. --Owner's Manual

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3. Stimulate yourself.

I work for myself and so the only person I need to stimulate creatively is me. To stimulate my own creativity, I take frequent breaks, I read lots of articles on a variety of different online news sources, and I stay open to new possibilities. And every once in a while, when I hear a song playing on my computer that I really like, I grab the guitar next to my desk, turn on my amplifier, and rock out. --The Leadership Guy

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4. Build a conscious culture.

If you encourage and allow their thoughts and ideas to be heard, your employees will tap into their creative resources freely and eagerly. I have a client who begins every employee meeting by asking everyone to reveal one thing they are grateful for and one recent personal or professional "win". This type of approach encourages team members to be themselves and breeds the perfect environment for creativity. Let go of some of the control. A leader who is willing to allow her employees room to explore without fear of criticism is a leader who is seen as strong, confident, and innovative. --The Successful Soloist

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5. Get out of the cubicle.

Even if your company is located in the coolest loft office space, it is not always the best place to get you or your team's creative juices flowing. When a team I am working with is stuck in a rut, I get them out of the office. This is especially true when I want to conduct an ideation session on moving an objective forward or thinking about a problem differently. Many co-working spaces provide great rooms for this kind of work that include whiteboard walls, coffee bars, and outside patios. I have even used bowling alleys, putt-putt courses and go-cart tracks as a venue to drive bursts of creativity that have moved a company forward. --Lean Forward

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