Towards human flourishing

Nine Easy Things You Can Do to Think Creatively and Innovate

statue of the legion of honor thinker

Are you stuck in a rut? Having trouble coming up with an answer to a nagging issue? Do you need to overcome a challenge or are you struggling to innovate? Follow these nine tips and tricks and you'll be thinking creatively and innovating in no time.

1. Change your routine

Force yourself out of your daily rut. Work in a pub for the afternoon, watch a matinee, listen to new genres of music, especially classical if you’re not already a fan, drive new routes to work, take a bath, watch a play. Mixing it up will have an impact on your ability to think creatively.

2. Avoid the computer

Tools can force you to think and work a certain way. The computer is a big culprit of this dynamic. Use paper and pencil for a few hours. Get away from your desk and don’t look at the computer for a bit. Just scribble, sketch and scratch out ideas and thoughts.

3. Use mind maps

This is a powerful tool. Start with your issue in the center and start drawing and writing connections and ideas. You’ll be amazed at how much comes to mind. Avoid mind mapping software options and instead start with a large sheet of paper and a pencil.

4. Forget about it

Your mind is always working and sometimes you just need to leave it alone so it can get its work done. Don’t be afraid to sleep on a problem for a while. If you can, give yourself time and don’t pressure yourself to get an answer. Once some time passes and you get lost in other things you’ll often find the answer to your challenge pops up unheeded.

5. Define the problem

Sometimes the issue is not with your creative thinking but rather your thinking is being applied to the wrong problem. Circle back and look at the problem again. Try to redefine it. Is this the real issue? Can it be restated? It’s possible that once redefined you’ll quickly come to a solution because your mind is now working on the real challenge.

6. Turn off the glowing screens

Turn off your television, the cable box, the Blu-Ray player, your iPad and any other media device that delivers passive entertainment. It’s too easy to use these as distractions and they stilt your mind’s ability to think creatively because it becomes passive when there’s a news program, movie to sitcom on.

7. Read

Read. A lot. Read all kinds of books and don’t get stuck in one genre, topic or author. Read fiction and nonfiction alike. Read on topics that you don’t typically think of. For instance, if you’re a business owner, don’t just read books on business, but try philosophy or history or a spy novel. Read a broad spectrum of topics and a broad spectrum of media, including books, periodicals and digital sources.

8. Use your body

Take a walk, go for a jog, paddle a canoe, shoot some hoops, go fishing, break out the cross-country skis—get your blood flowing and your lungs working. Your mind is part of a larger system. When one part does well, all does well. Regular exercise is a great stress reliever and frees-up up your mind to relax and think creatively.

9. Take a day trip

Spend the day in a new place. It’s cheap and easy to take an early flight to a new city and be home that evening. Arrive in a new place, do some exploring and then find yourself a park bench, cafe or pub. You’ll be amazed at how many ideas start flowing once you’re out of your usual environment and in a new place. And, you can be home in time for dinner.

There are all kinds of things you can do to fire-up your creative thinking ability. Start with the tips I've listed and you'll find yourself thinking with innovation and coming up with creative solutions to the challenges you face.