Innovative thinking and creativity have become one of the top skills for 2021. A recent CCL survey of 500 senior leaders found that innovation is a crucial driver of success for 94% of organizations, and 77% tried to promote innovation. However, just 14% said they were confident about their organization’s ability to drive innovation effectively.
While the number of innovative companies has risen considerably over the years, how do you continue this upward trend of creative thinking without getting stuck in mental blocks? Here are four research-backed tips for boosting your creativity that can help solve this predicament.
1. Change Your Surroundings
With the hybrid model of working, this task has become easier to accomplish. Take advantage of this opportunity to periodically work in different office areas or your home, explore the other rooms in your house, or even experiment in co-working spaces. While the change does not have to be significant, even minor adjustments could translate to a considerable creativity boost.
“The enemy is whatever is static. So just making changes sometimes, very small changes, can make a huge difference,” says Robert Epstein, a Senior Research Psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology. “For example, I sometimes put a strange-looking rock on my desk because it’s different. It’s unusual. It’s interesting to look at. You never know what’s gonna happen when you introduce some changes and you introduce some novelty.”
2. Start Thinking Like A Child
A study by Zabelina & Robinson (2010) asked participants to write about what they would do if school were cancelled for a day. One group was instructed to think like children, while the other group was not. The group thinking like kids generated more original and creative responses. This stems from the fact that children are not restricted by the ideas of the world. They see and interpret objects in new and fun ways that increase and boost creativity.
To enhance this skill, try exercising this muscle by putting your thinking shoes on as a child with no restrictions. Being around kids and playing with your kids if you are a parent can also significantly help enhance this skill further and open you up to new avenues of creativity.
3. Keep Time For Contemplation And Daydreaming
It is imperative to take time out for yourself to daydream, contemplate or just go for a walk. Previous observations have led to the belief that most epiphanies have happened while taking time off, for instance like Archimedes, who had his eureka moment while leisurely enjoying a nice, warm bath. “When your mind wanders, it is accessing memories, emotions and random bits of stored knowledge,” said Amy Fries, author of Daydreams at Work: Wake Up Your Creative Powers and a writer and editor for Psychology Today.
“Daydreaming is how we access our big-picture state of mind,” Fries said. “When you’re in a daydreaming state of mind, you can visualize or simulate your own version of events.” This visualization can, in turn, help us gain new perspectives on a problem or link two disjointed thoughts to arrive at a solution.
4. Challenge Yourself By Trying Something New
If you have ever tried a scavenger hunt — an adventure game where players find items by solving puzzles — your creativity has probably increased tremendously. That’s because challenges act as a catalyst to think innovatively and come up with multiple ideas or solutions. For example, you could start by learning a new subject you are interested in that is unrelated to your field.
It might not immediately be apparent how your learnings could be helpful in the future. Yet, the nuggets of information you are collecting will eventually come together when you are faced with a specific challenge or brainstorming ideas later on. “The more interesting and diverse the pieces, the more interesting the interconnections,” Epstein says.
While creative thinking is a skill that can take time to muster, it can significantly benefit you in the future. As Scientist William Brody said, “The calculus of innovation is really quite simple: Knowledge drives innovation, innovation drives productivity, productivity drives economic growth. “