How to be more creative at work


5 min read

Creativity matters.

Finding new solutions to old problems is what some of the best careers and businesses are built on. Just look at Airbnb, Uber, Netflix and Tesla.

But where does creativity come from?

For some people, creativity comes naturally. For others, it takes a bit more work. But even the most creative minds need a way to come up with great ideas. You can’t just decide to be innovative and expect great things to happen.

Here are 7 proven ways to start practicing being more creative at work:


1. Ask the big questions

Ask the big questions like ‘Why?’, “Why not?”, and “What if?”.

Asking “why” can lead to understanding. Asking ‘why not?’ can take your thinking in the direction of new ideas and even breakthroughs. Asking “what if” opens your mind to a whole world of possibilities.

These are the questions that challenge conventional thinking and help you arrive at solutions you may not have considered if you hadn’t questioned the status quo.

How do you ask the big questions at work?

The next time you’re in a meeting or brainstorming session, don’t be afraid to ask your coworkers the big questions. And encourage people to do the same with you.

If you find yourself in a rut with your thinking, stop and ask the three big questions. You might be surprised where they lead you.


2. Become an idea collector

Every new idea has to start somewhere, whether that’s bringing together inspiration from all kinds of places or combining old ideas.

Make a new habit to collect ideas. Screenshot images and words you like. Take photos of billboards, ads and signs you like. Write down something you heard on a podcast.

Not only will this help inspire your own ideas, but it also helps you notice things that you might not otherwise pay attention to.


3. Make time to daydream

Remember all the times your teachers told you off for day-dreaming?

Forget all that.

Creativity needs time to happen. Research shows that people who do more frequent daydreaming during the day score higher on creative and intellectual tests.

Scheduling in time to let your mind wander might sound counterproductive, but it means your brain is more relaxed, which helps to encourage creativity.
It might seem like dead time or procrastination, but when your brain goes into a slightly bored state, you start noticing things, putting them together and playing with new ideas.

If doing nothing doesn’t come easily, work out what fuels your best ideas. A 2014 study from Stanford University showed that people are more creative when they’re walking around as opposed to sitting still. But for you, creativity might flow when listening to K-pop at full volume, cooking or taking a shower.

Work out what you need, then do it.


4. Stop being afraid

Legendary film director Steven Spielberg said, “Replace fear with curiosity.”

It’s great advice. While fear will leave you feeling powerless, curiosity will give you knowledge, new perspectives and new ideas.

Sure, many ideas will fail, some spectacularly so, but sometimes you’ll land on a winner. You can only know by taking risks in the first place


5. Play!

Remember how creative you were as a kid? You didn’t worry about whether you were a good artist, you just picked up the crayons and started drawing. And who cared if your mud pies tasted like dirt – you made them anyway!

To children, all things are possible because they have not yet learned that some things are impossible.

That’s why play can help unlock creativity.

Play stops you from worrying about the demands of ‘real’ goals and outcomes, and lets you experiment with combining things you wouldn’t have otherwise thought about combining. As social psychologist Karl Weick said, play “is not a direct means to an end” but “a crooked line to the end.”
Put some lego and playdough on your desk. Spend time painting and doodling – anything that sparks the creative process at work. The trick is not to have a goal – just start playing and see what happens.


6. Get a good night’s sleep

Ever been told to “sleep on it”? Science shows sleep is beneficial for generating creative ideas.

In On Writing, Stephen King tells of the time he fell asleep on a flight and had a terrifying dream about a famous writer who is captured and held hostage by a psychotic fan. When he awoke, he jotted down the dream on a cocktail napkin. That would go on to be one of his most famous novels, Misery.

No time for more sleep at night? Sleep during the day instead!

Research shows mid-day naps bring creativity benefits too. No wonder Google and Uber have sleep pods in their offices!


7. Seek out new experiences

The best way to start thinking differently is to expose yourself to things that are different from what you’re used to.

New experiences, sensations, states of mind and people – be open to new experiences and you’ll open your mind to new perspectives, which will help spark new ideas.


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