Some people seem to never run out of ideas. Richard Branson, for instance, has branched out from music to airlines and everything in between. The brains behind Amazon are using virtual assistant Alexa to set up conference meetings. Clothing retailer Zara comes up with new fashion designs on a near-weekly basis. What is it that these people and companies share in common?
The element that ties them together is creativity. According to an IBM survey across more than 1,500 CEOs from 60 countries and 33 industries, the most important quality towards navigating through complexities is not rigor, discipline, integrity, or vision -- it's creativity.
The CEOs explained that employees need to be able to deal with changes, given the volatility of the business world today. I have found that creativity is a must-have in engaging with customers and designing products that cater to their needs.
While the type of creativity required depends on the type of industry you work in, there are a few practices you can incorporate to start thinking up fresh ideas. Here are three ways to ignite that creativity:
1. Make one change to your morning routine.
What if you could improve your day by pouring milk into your bowl before the cereal?
A research team, led by Simone Ritter at the Radboud University Nijmegen, found that unusual events can break existing cognitive patterns, thus improving flexibility and creativity. The events that sparked changes included drastic situations, such as coping after a loved one has died or studying abroad.
However, her research found that the events don't have to be drastic. Changing patterns can simply mean making minor adjustments to your routine. Besides the above example, if you normally change into your day clothing before breakfast, try changing after breakfast. Personally, I like to change up the order in which I put in my coffee ingredients to start off the day.
One small change might be all you need to start the day off with an innovative mindset.
2. Travel somewhere.
When you immerse yourself somewhere new, you feel different. Your sense of smell, sight, and hearing are heightened. As Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School, told The Atlantic in 2015: "Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms."
Traveling doesn't mean you have to fly across the world, though. If you only have a weekend to spare, just going away for a couple days can be enough to pause your routine. Or as the American Psychological Association suggests, you could go out for a walk right now to get your creativity flowing.
Along the way, you might chat with a stranger, appreciate an awe-inspiring landscape, or reach a breakthrough in your business. When you take the initiative to immerse yourself in new places, you view your work with a fresh state of mind.
3. Go tech-free.
While computers, tablets, and phones are useful resources, they also have their drawbacks. When we use a device, we tend to use the same programs, sites, and apps. These programs reinforce the same ideas and concepts over and over.
In a study by the University of Utah, backpackers were found to have scored 50 percent better on a creativity test after hiking four days without any electronics compared to those who did not yet begin their trip. Even if you don't have any hiking trips lined up though, getting out of your usual electronic environment can help you think up new ideas.
For instance, you can use old-fashioned, non-electronic tools to share your ideas, such as board drawings or diagrams. When I feel stuck, I revert from a computer to drawing out ideas on pen and paper. Using my hands to physically express my ideas helps transform my thoughts into concepts more easily.
Setting aside time outside your devices can help you connect with your surroundings. This time can be spent catching up with people, checking out new books, or fully enjoying the taste and smell of a meal. I set aside tech-free time on a daily basis so I can interact with people and observe my environment. By stepping away from my electronics, I can explore interesting concepts that can later be applied to my work.
Creativity, though important for any entrepreneur, seems like an elusive concept at first. But if you can make small changes your routine, you can solve problems and think up new ideas more easily.