4 Ideas to Ignite Innovation

UPDATED: October 2, 2019
PUBLISHED: May 13, 2014
Ignite Innovation ART

Can boring people be creative?

I’ve met many people who claim that in order to be creative, you have to “think outside the box” or “let your inner creative take over.” If that’s the case, I fail.

I like boxes, especially strange-looking ones that make unexpected noises when you open them. My inner creative has definitely not taken over. I actually believe Garanimals are one of the greatest inventions of all time because they make matching your kid’s clothes easy. Yep, I’m that kind of creative person.

So what can someone like me do? My doodles don’t attract attention, and my quotes on Facebook get 100 shares, not 1 million. So should I go to a creativity school? (Yes, those schools exist and will happily take your money.) Must I go on a dramatic, adrenaline-laced adventure that sparks my muse atop a frigid Mount Everest? Probably not. I’m more of a beach person.

Instead, what I’ve found are four unorthodox ways to unlock creativity without a tattoo, all-night jam session or blue hair (although I’ve secretly pined for each of those at some point).

1. Think about creating your opportunity canvas or solving your problem as if you had no money, no connections and only 24 hours to meet a challenge. We too often rely on ready-made resources—think PowerPoint templates—instead of tapping into our raw creativity and vision. These resources become a crutch that holds us back and makes us dependent rather than creative. Take away the “easy outs” and you’ll be shocked how creative you can be.

2. Imagine trying to create, communicate, solve a problem or paint a picture without one of your five senses—such as sight. How would not having this sensory input affect your view of the world, options you identify and new pathways for possibility? To really expand your creativity, try going a day without one of your senses, such as by wearing noise-canceling headphones or a blindfold for 24 hours. I find that when we take away one of our senses, our creativity relies on the sixth sense that is always nearby and often undervalued: common sense.

3. Try to think about your situation from the perspective of someone young, such as a 10-year-old, and from someone with much more experience, such as an 80-year-old. How would they think about your situation in terms of limits, priorities and possibilities? What would they say, consider or do? I’ve found the 10-year-old will ask, “Why?” and the 80-year-old will ask, “Why not?”

4. Ask strangers for their opinion. Seriously. I love doing this, especially when I’m waiting in line at a coffee shop or airport. I love saying to the person behind me, “Excuse me. I’m so sorry to bother you, but I need an outside perspective. What do you think about ___________?” Ninety percent of the time you’ll get great answers from a perspective you didn’t consider; the other 10 percent will think you’re crazy, which is fun, too.

And if those four strategies don’t work, you can always try a tattoo, all-night jam session or blue hair—just make sure the blue washes out after you have your breakthrough idea.