Creativity and innovation is essential to the success of any company, large or small, yours included. But how do you get more creative? How do you keep innovation coming, and new ideas flowing, especially when you feel like your day-to-day tasks have gotten you into a rut?
"We all get into those slumps of 'drawing a blank,'" says Robert Susa, president of InventHelp, a service that helps inventors patent and present their ideas. But, he says, there are regular activities and attitudes that will help you stay creative and mentally limber. "Innovation is a habit that you can practice and it becomes easier if you direct your mind to find ways to generate new ideas."
Here are four things Susa recommends you do every week to keep that creative energy high:
1. Ask for input and ideas from everyone.
"Your business might have only two or three people working within it, but that doesn't mean you all think exactly alike," Susa says. "Each person thinks differently. People with different backgrounds, personalities, and interests bring different contributions when discussing new ideas." So don't ignore the resource that's right outside your office door.
2. Ask lots of questions.
The more questions you ask, the greater the chances of coming up with something new or connecting two things that hadn't been connected before. "A lot of times ideas come from other ideas," Susa says. "Innovators are curious. They like to put two things together to create one, solve problems, and practice seeing things differently. Challenge yourself and existing methods of solving problems." And when something seems impossible, he says, ask impossible questions.
3. Put limits on yourself.
This may seem like an odd path to creativity, but it's extremely effective. In fact, the Twitter founders have claimed that the service's appeal comes from its 140-character limit which forces people to be both creative and succinct. "Small and calculated steps can help encourage innovation," Susa says. "Put constraints on yourself and do not do too many things at once. It's not always good to 'Go big or go home.'"
4. Make yourself uncomfortable.
This is why outside-comfort-zone activities such as performing improv can give you a creativity boost. "When you feel uncomfortable, your body has to react differently than it normally does," Susa explains. "This can bring new ideas not only to your invention or business, but to your life as well. Change helps your brain delve into new topic and become more inquisitive. You can take a leap in a new direction to find new ideas."
How do you get uncomfortable? Here are Susa's suggestions: "If you are someone who has a routine, make yourself uncomfortable and switch up your routine. Perhaps you drive the same way to work every day or you take the same path during your walk. Choose a different route and see if something strikes your creative spirit a little differently than usual." Also, "Talk out loud to yourself. Although this may seem strange to you, make yourself uncomfortable by talking about your ideas out loud. You may surprise yourself with something that comes out of your mouth."
Finally, he says, "If you are not comfortable in a social or network situation, put yourself out there and attend a networking event where you don't know anyone. Get outside of your comfort zone and take advantage of the event by talking to as many people as you can." If you do that, both your creativity and your company will benefit.