Days of uncertainty are designed for creativity, and so far, 2021 promises to have lots of uncertainty in store. My experience shows that that creativity and entrepreneurship go hand in hand. You must create audacious vision and strategy for the business, be tenacious with business development, and tend to the minutiae and infrastructure of the business. The best way to flow between all three competencies is to exercise your creativity.
That said, here are 21 creativity hacks for you and your team. When practiced with both wonder and rigor, they can yield amazing results.
1. Micro-size retreats.
Why wait for an annual retreat that is cost intensive and often leaves you wanting more? Organize smaller scale, low-budget, monthly mini-retreats that last just a half-day.
2. Take a five-minute walk every day.
Humans are designed to be in motion. The blood circulation delivers oxygen to our brains, which helps our cognitive function in spades. I'm always surprised by the ways inspiration comes to me during these walks.
3. Take time to daydream.
Daydreaming is essential. It allows our minds to rest from the frontal lobe intensity and fires up neural synapses in other regions of our brains, where all great ideas come from. Depending on the day, I time my daydream breaks for anywhere between 90 seconds to five minutes.
4. Become a clumsy student.
What hobby, new skill or fun thing do you want to explore? Start learning it and embrace how bad you are at it in the early stages. You develop a sense of humor about yourself, and you exercise what I call the 3-i creativity system: inquiry, improvisation, and intuition.
5. Practice rigor sprints.
When you have a big task in front of you, don't set aside three hours for it. Instead, work in 20-40 minute "rigor sprints." Turn off your phone and all notifications. Remove tantalizing objects from view and beverages from your reach and just work it out. Then reward yourself with a daydream break.
6. Think laterally.
Attend a webinar in a completely different sector than your own. You will walk away with two discoveries: tweaks on similar approaches in a very different context, and a totally new approach to tackle a similar problem that you and your team face.
7. Draw gratitude bouquets.
Throughout my day, I doodle an awkward looking flower on my whiteboard, with a caption underneath that captures gratitude. It could be for a proposal request, a completed project, unexpected found time, or a nice catch up phone call with a friend. At the end of your day, your drawn bouquet will keep you positive and aware of the interconnectedness of all things. This is key to integrative, systems thinking--a cornerstone of creativity.
8. Redesign your relationship with time.
We rush from meeting to meeting and this causes stress. Stress means we dwell in being reactionary, which is the opposite of being creative. Try reserving certain sections on your calendar for deep, focused work with no calls and no meetings to get in the way.
9. Redesign your work space.
If you're working from home these days, commit to cordoning off your work space for work and work only so you aren't distracted. That means no exercise equipment, dishes, or crafts nearby.
10. Pay attention to your senses.
Pay attention to how light, smell, and temperature affect your creative mojo. For example, I know that I need a strong, focused light at my desk. I also invest in expensive candles or incense and make sure I'm not too chilly or too warm.
11. End each meeting with a question.
Sure, it is good to culminate meetings with calls to action, but also try ending your next meeting with a provocative question. Questions are inputs. Ask new questions, and begin to arrive at new outputs.
12. Log intuition.
On a personal level, keep an inventory of when you follow and when you ignore your intuition and the outcome of each situation. Such evidence will help you to act on the nudge going forward.
13. Take time to play.
Play time isn't just for kids. When we play, we practice executive function skills such as collaboration, negotiation, active listening, and anticipating what's next. So start integrating play into the culture of work at your organization.
14. Conduct a premortem.
This foresight exercise requires you to imagine it is six months from now and the project had failed. Require your team to generate a list of all the things that went wrong. The opposite actions become a prescription for success.
15. Use time constraints.
Creativity loves constraints on time, money, and people talent. In those bottlenecks, great ideas bubble up.
16. Bring back recess.
Intentionally schedule an organization-wide break time when no calls or meetings are scheduled and your team comes together for light-hearted moments.
Try doodling for one minute every day for a month on a Post-It note. Not only will you achieve some fun wall art, but you will also experience the rigor of keeping a promise to yourself.
18. Have show-and-tell.
Ask senior leaders and older tenured associates to share out on initiatives that the company has developed in the past. Invite newer and younger employees to share ideas they have considered. This builds trust--a primer for creativity.
19. Pause regularly.
It sounds counterintuitive, but pausing more will boost your productivity. Incorporate padded time buffers between meetings to stand up, and walk away from your desk. Try gradually moving to a four-day workweek.
20. Conduct thought experiments.
Here's one: Set your timer for one minute and observe one object in the space around you. Think about all the people necessary to create the ideas, materials, and delivery for that object. The stillness and recognition of interconnection builds greater awareness of your own tasks at hand.
21. Read fiction.
This helps us to enter a culture, geography, gender, time, and/or space different from our own, resulting in greater curiosity and empathy.