From finding the perfect name to figuring out a way to outflank the competition, every business needs to come up with creative ideas consistently to succeed. Coming up with something creative can help you overcome a tough obstacle, differentiate your brand from your top competitors, and innovate new products and services on a regular basis.
The trouble is, there's no way to consistently and reliably generate a creative idea; you can't force creativity. It's even harder in the modern era, when the Covid-19 pandemic and changing work cultures are keeping us further apart from co-workers and friends. With fewer people to bounce ideas off of and engage with on a regular basis, it's hard to come up with truly unique concepts.
You can, however, employ a number of strategies that can help you find more inspiration -- and better conditions to come up with creative ideas.
Though it may sound counterintuitive, one of your best strategies is to allow yourself to be bored -- and thanks to quarantine, you may already have expertise in this area. Oftentimes, when entrepreneurs are stuck on a specific problem or if they feel uninspired, their gut instinct tells them to work harder. They spend more hours in the office, they concentrate harder on the problem, and they tap more resources to make progress.
But it may actually be better to intentionally allow yourself to become bored. Boredom is usually an entrepreneur's enemy, but it's a great tool for coming up with novel ideas. When unoccupied, our mind continues working on our top problems -- giving us a chance to abstractly "wander" in thought and come up with new concepts. It's why so many people you know have come up with good ideas in the shower or on the boring drive to work.
Try to find a chunk of time in which you can do nothing -- even if it's just for 15 minutes -- and don't distract yourself with a phone or another digital gadget.
Use Content-Generation Engines
Next, don't underestimate the potential utility of content-generation engines and recommendation systems. If you're looking to come up with a business name, a product idea, or even strategic direction for your company, you may be able to use an intelligent algorithm to at least point you in the right direction.
For example, you can use a platform like Alter to generate business-name ideas -- and even see which domains are available for them. The beauty is that you can generate a far greater number of ideas than you could possibly generate on your own. Even if you don't find any with potential, you can use them as a jumping-off point to fuel your own brainstorming.
Review the Competition and Similar Ideas
Hopefully, you're already doing this, but make sure you at least periodically review your top competitors and similar businesses. How have people tackled this problem in the past? Has someone already come up with creative solutions? If so, how are those solutions working? Can they be improved on? What was the type of thinking that led them to this destination? Can you replicate it in any way?
Surround Yourself With a Diversity of Thinkers
Next, make sure you surround yourself with people who think in different ways. There's a reason companies with a diverse staff tend to perform better than their counterparts: They get the value of idea generation from a wonderful mix of different minds. If everyone has the same background and thinks the same way, they're going to get caught in the same mental traps and face the same mental limitations. If you talk to people outside of those groups, you'll be exposed to a much richer pool of potential starting points.
Don't let working from home stop you either. If you're not talking to people in person, you can talk to them on social media or in video chats.
In need of a new idea? Consider absorbing art in some way. You could hang an important, thought-provoking abstract painting in your office. You could put on an instrumental jazz album that helps you think. You could even head to a museum and just walk around. Anything that makes you think abstractly and appreciate someone else's work can help you adopt the right mindset for brainstorming.
You can also try to make your own art as an exercise of creative expression. The process of painting, sculpting, or drawing abstractly can force your brain to work in new ways while giving you more time to come up with an idea. Plus, it relieves stress.
Reward Your Employees for Thinking Creatively
You shouldn't be the only person in your organization coming up with new creative ideas. Your employees should be volunteering their ideas as well. Make sure you positively reinforce this behavior, offering rewards for employees who think in novel ways and offer their best ideas -- even if those ideas don't end up panning out.
Every person thinks a little differently and may find a different set of strategies effective for creative thinking. Make sure you experiment to figure out the strategies that work best for you and continue to mix them up as you get more familiar with the process of brainstorming.