We all know the expression “think outside the box” — be more innovative and creative at work. And when we’ve experienced this ourselves, I think we can all safely say we are more successful at work, and happier because we’re using our creative potential. But what happens when we can’t get there, and we get stuck inside the box, so to speak? How can you help yourself and your team be more innovative? Here are a few ways to help you think more creatively and get out of a rut…
Analyze your project from different angles. Instead of taking your notes for a project and immediately working on it, take a step back and then dig deeper by approaching the project from a few different angles first. For example, if your notes say “strategy to attract more clients,” pause, walk around your office for a moment, and brainstorm ideas. Getting up and walking around can help get your creative thoughts flowing. Stop by a coworker’s office for a moment to get their opinion. While you’re thinking, write down ideas on a white board and ask yourself some questions: for example, what your clients’ needs are, what do they already have, how can you better help them, and how can you capture their interest? Bottom line: Instead of just diving right in, give yourself some free flow time to brainstorm and ask yourself the right questions to help you think creatively. As a manager, give your team several different angles to approach a task in the beginning to help them think creatively about which one might be best. The value of writing things down on a white board is enormous because you can see everything in one place, written out in black and white, allowing your mind to make connections between ideas that it may not have before.
Take a break. If you still feel stuck, take some time away from the project and come back to it later. If possible, sleep on it, exercise, go dancing — do something that is totally unrelated to your project even if it’s just taking a walk around the block. If you don’t have the luxury of taking your mind off of it for at least 24 hours, take your lunch hour to take a walk around the office, chat with coworkers, do some writing, or listen to some music. Physical movement can help shake up your thinking and free your mind. You will still be working on the project subconsciously. You may be surprised at the amazing idea you have after your break. If you supervise a team, give them time to be creative. Give them advance notice on projects and a generous deadline when possible. You will be happy with the results when they have more time to work together and come up with new ideas.
Break down barriers. Many times we limit ourselves from thinking more creatively because of fears or limiting beliefs. Perhaps we don’t innovate more because we don’t think it’s in our job description, or we tell ourselves we don’t have the creative gene. But really, anyone can innovate. It just means connecting things we already know how to do in a different way. When meeting with staff, encourage them to innovate, even if their ideas are for another department. Also keep in mind that when you diversify your teams, you will have better results. A diverse team means different strengths and different thought patterns, so when they work together there are better results.
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