You sit down with your team for a brainstorming session and wait for the creativity to flow -- but nothing comes to you. When there's too much pressure to think up your next big idea, this is often the scenario that results. But if you can reframe your thinking and seek inspiration in unexpected places, you'll be amazed at the ideas that start pouring in.
These six entrepreneurs share simple ways to jumpstart your creative thinking. Remember: It often helps to think outside of the box -- or even outside of the office.
Seek inspiration from outside sources.
When you find yourself at a loss for ideas, looking beyond your brand can inspire your own upcoming project. Dalia MacPhee, CEO of clothing brand DALIA MACPHEE, turns to the greats in fashion and photography to jog her creativity.
"A few years ago, we were trying to come up with a new fashion campaign for our latest collection. I suggested we start looking up the best fashion and art photography published in the last 60 years," she says. "Just being exposed to similar creative got the juices flowing, and by the end, everyone at the table had at least three great ideas."
Get your blood pumping.
Derek Robinson, founder and CEO of digital marketing agency Top Notch Dezigns, knows that staying still can be a productivity killer when you're already stumped. If you take a break and get moving, you may be surprised at the resulting boost in creativity.
"I move from work to any task that is physically exhausting," he says. "A few months ago, when I was in a brainstorming session with our web design team, I could not think beyond my initial idea. A two-mile midday run had everyone around me surprised, but once I was back, I was raring to go. A couple sets of tennis tend to work equally well."
Don't limit ideas.
"I find a mental block is simply me being distracted or doubting my ideas," says Ben Landis, founder and CEO of social growth accelerator Fanbase. When you take the pressure off by embracing all ideas, good and bad, you'll likely find something to work with among the deluge.
"When I am in a brainstorming session, we have a rule that all ideas are good ideas. This isn't always true, but if you can say anything without judgment, more ideas will come out," he says. "We write everything down, then revisit the best ones."
Keep your environment clean.
Sometimes having an unobstructed mind is as simple as working in an uncluttered space. Jared Atchison, co-founder of WordPress form builder WPForms, finds that a clean and quiet environment with lots of natural light breeds the best ideas.
"I'm most creative when my environment is clean, minimalist and quiet. It also helps if the environment brings nature indoors with large windows, bamboo flooring or an outside deck," he says. "When my outside environment is free of clutter, my mind has more room for creative thought."
Change your surroundings.
If bringing nature indoors doesn't do the trick, try taking a walk outside instead. Matthew Capala, CEO of global boutique search marketing agency Alphametic, knows that vibrant city streets can offer a lot more inspiration than the four white walls of a conference room.
"Encountering resistance during strategy sessions is common, especially in the world of SEO. Finding creative workarounds and getting back into a flow state can be a matter of literally walking around," he says. "Our office is in an arts district in Miami, and the street art is one of the reasons I chose the location. Being inspired by the surroundings makes creative impulses contagious."
Eliminate the word 'but.'
"We get caught up in things we can't do and things that won't work," says Jen Brown, founder and artistic director of improv-based education program The Engaging Educator. By flipping the script and staying positive during brainstorming sessions, your ideas will take a turn for the positive, too.
"The word 'but' creates a block in our minds. By eliminating 'but' and substituting it with 'yes,' we open up possibilities and ideation becomes limitless," she says. "For one client, we used a 'but' button -- every time someone said 'but' during a brainstorm, we hit a buzzer. It broke the habit quickly."