August 10, 2012
The following answers are provided by The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.
Tech Cocktail asked: “What process do you use to spur creativity, especially when you’re feeling blocked?” Their answers are below.
1. Mindmapping Works Like a Champ
Start with a topic or question, and mindmap your way around it. Don’t censor yourself as you come up with all the surrounding topics and bubbles that go with your initial topics. This type of “hyperlinked” thinking is what allows us to come up with new ideas. You can also go really deep on a thread, which can help spur creativity in other threads of your mindmap. Mindmap as a group, and this takes on a whole new life!
2. Turn to Your Trusted Resources
When I hit a creative road block, I turn to other entrepreneurs for inspiration. Usually, I hit those road blocks at weird hours of the night, so I keep a business-related book or a copy of Entrepreneur or Inc. Magazine close by. I find that spending 15 minutes or so digesting other entrepreneurs’ thoughts and opinions does the trick and gets my creative juices flowing right away. I use a similar tactic when it comes to spurring creativity in my team. During our team meetings, everyone is required to share an article, story, quote or anything else that gave them creative inspiration this week. After everyone shares, we take a vote on our favorite creative piece and the winner chooses what is for lunch that day. It is a fun and interactive way to get everyone thinking.
3. Fun Equals Creative Thinking
It sounds simple, but some of the best ideas come from having fun and not thinking about the business. Get your team out of the office and take them out. Not having an “office atmosphere” allows people to open up and be themselves. Not only will it give you the chance to really get to know them but also the chance to let the creativity flow. If you aren’t having fun, then why are you doing it?
4. Look Outside Your Field
One of the best ways to jog my creativity is to consume media totally outside my field. If I’m at the airport. maybe I’ll pick up a magazine about farming or architecture. I’ll watch a documentary about a subject I don’t know much about or go see an experimental play. Listen to a random Pandora channel in a genre you usually don’t listen to. I think ideas tend to slow down when you get into a rut with the things you see every day. Even taking a different route on a walk can help a lot!
5. Movement Gets Me Going!
Our bodies provide as much information as our heads, but we usually ignore them in our work lives. You know, simply taking a walk while talking about important things makes the conversation more meaningful — so why do we sit in conference rooms instead of walking and talking? To think creatively, keep moving. What do I do? Bollywood dance breaks! Seriously — I have Bollywood-inspired Innovative Moves workshops (http://www.ericadhawan.com).
6. Get the Ball Rolling and Don’t Stop
Creativity comes often when one least expects it: in the shower, walking to work or in the middle of the night. These moments are gifts not to be wasted, but they’re also impossible to schedule into team’s meetings. As a founder, my company relies on me to take the lead on creative discussions, so I created a simple process to get the intellectual momentum going. We start by going into a conference room where we break down a problem or topic into its smallest possible parts. As ideas flow, we post them up onto our walls with flip chart paper. Surrounded by the information, people naturally start connecting the dots and the creative juices start flowing. Once you hit a rhythm, embrace whatever topics come into focus, dig deep and never let ridged schedules derail your flow.
7. Get Completely Uncomfortable
I’ve always found creative ideas come when you’re trying to do something new…and find out that you suck at it. Take a cooking class, try rock climbing, learn to play a new instrument. Inevitably, you will encounter some difficulties when experiencing something for the first time, and your brain will get to work. A lot of times, I end up saying to myself, “This is really hard…why don’t people just do ‘x’ to make it easier?” Or, “This is great, but it would be so much better if ‘y’ were added to the experience!” Putting yourself in uncomfortable situations where your brain isn’t used to operating often is a great way to get those creative juices flowing!
– David Stankunas, Founder at Beard Head, Inc.
8. Spark Creative Visual Conversation
By painting our walls with IdeaPaint, we’ve been able to have a lot of conversations by drawing out what we imagine. Instead of our ideas floating around in the air, we put them out on the wall for everyone to look at and soak in. This caters to those who are visual and audio learners and ultimately brings everyone together for a better, more creative brainstorm.
9. Wine Catalyst to Get Creativity Flowing
There is a reason why happy hour is such a crucial thing for co-workers to participate in together. Allow your employees to unleash their ideas outside the confining walls of an office over a glass or two of wine. You’ll be surprised how quickly the combination of a relaxed environment, and some vino will transform a casual hang out into an innovative meeting that just might leave you with a whole new creative direction.
10. Place, Purpose, and Post-Its
First, take your team somewhere stimulating. The beach, a grassy field, or even couches will do. If you go outside, be sure to bring some cardboard to use as an idea wall. Next, frame the discussion. “This morning we are generating ideas. Our goal is to come up with as many ideas as possible in 10 minutes. Wacky ideas are welcome – they might lead us somewhere unexpected and exciting.” Throw, slide, or pass colored markers or pencils and sticky pads to everyone. Everyone then captures ideas as fast as they can in 10 minutes before sharing their ideas. Depending on the size of your team, you will have twenty to several hundred ideas. Rinse and repeat. Each set of ideas will spark other ideas. Then your challenge will be moving to analysis mode!
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