Have you ever tried very, very hard to come up with a creative solution to a problem? To impress someone in an unexpected way or to fix that annoying last bug in a system? If you did, you know that forcing yourself to be creative is like forcing yourself to be funny: The harder you try, the farther you are from your desperate goal...
Thinking out of the box is not exactly made easier by the fact that the average white collar worker literally spends a typical working day in boxes. Cubicles, meeting rooms, canteens and office buildings can be quite uninspiring when you want to let your imagination roam in order to overcome your mental boundaries.
Unsurprisingly, research shows that in spite of all the frowning and fidgeting in front of your computer, and the miles of ink lines on meeting room flip charts, real breakthroughs tend to come when you are not at work. Harnessing such off-times does not necessarily mean taking your work home. You can increase the chances of turning up on the next day with a smashing new idea by putting yourself in out-of-the-box situations more often... and keeping a notepad handy in case you get inspired.
Get naked. No, not in your cubicle! According to research conducted by Korn Ferry, the number one place where business executives get inspired is the bathroom. I'm sure you can recall such ablution-inspired moments in your life. In a documentary, fashion designer and filmmaker Tom Ford admits having an executive bathroom in his office as a result of this observation.
Get moving. The brain is an organ that, however, doesn't thrive when we sit still for too long. When you stop moving, your brain stops developing, warned LEGO CEO J. Knudstorp in a recent interview. 15 minutes of aerobic exercise a day already results in measurable increase in cognitive performance. Exercise also shifts our attention away from work routine, opening mental paths for creative thoughts.
What would Picasso do? Many breakthroughs are based on the simple concepts of turning things upside down, inside out, backwards or asking enough "Why not" questions. Such approaches, as described by Edward De Bono in Lateral Thinking, engages the creative right hemisphere and helps us overcome self-imposed mental boundaries. Ditching the keyboard and turning our mental processes into sound recording, drawing or even music can unlock creative potential that you didn't know you had.