Hire an ideas guru
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was somebody out there who could come up with all your ideas for you? Forget ever having a blank piece of paper; that paper would always be jam packed with creative solutions and ideas for your next project. Well luckily, this dream could be a reality if you hire an idea’s guru, also known as an innovation consultant. Jodie Newman is founder of Creative Consulting (http://www.creativeconsulting.co.uk/), and she runs idea generation sessions to help businesses come up with fresh ideas. She says: “the biggest blocks to creativity that I have witnessed in my 14 years of doing this is when businesses simply fail to ask: How can we do this better?”
Newman’s idea-generation sessions can last from a few hours to three days, and use a range of techniques to help people brainstorm. “When I have worked with a business on an idea generation session - the output of which can be literally hundreds of ideas - I always try and then work with the project team to help evaluate the ideas. It’s unglamorous, but critical nonetheless. If a business is investing in ideas, then a robust evaluation and implementation phase is essential.” Newman explains that one of the toughest things about coming up with new ideas is evaluating them objectively, and this is when an ‘ideas guru’ will come in handy.
“I have seen more than once a business leader or senior team who decides to be more creative simply announce it to the rest of the business and expect the creative juices to start to flow. Creativity, like most immensely valuable activities, takes time, commitment, training and encouragement. And sometimes, the simplest place to start is to ask yourself: How can we be more creative?” Then, hopefully, the ideas will flow.
Leave social media well alone
You may think that reading through Twitter might inspire you, but in reality all you’re doing is sifting through other people’s achievements or their great ideas. If you’re feeling uninspired, this can just make you feel worse. Looking at what contemporaries are achieving - especially as people always put their best side forward on social media - could just result in your writer’s block worsening.
Why not use the time instead to write a blog post about everything you’ve achieved this month? Or, if self-promotion isn’t your thing, jot down the five best things you’ve done this year already. If nothing else, it should give you a feel good boost and should reassure you that you and your business are heading on the right track.
If you need social media to survive, then at least try a different channel. If you’re always on twitter, scouring through posts, try instagram. Likewise, LinkedIn can sometimes throw up thought provoking articles that aren’t always shared on more mainstream sites.
Take a walk
Andrew Middleton is head of innovation practice and learning innovation at Sheffield Hallam University. This means that he spends an enormous amount of time brainstorming creative ways to engage students and often conducts meetings while walking. “I know walking inspires my creativity and I find that it inspires others too. It is an unusual and relatively relaxing way of spending time together. The mood and general pace is quite different to other situations you find yourself in at work. Taking a walk is a simple commitment that even busy people can fit around parts of their working day.”
A study (http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2014-14435-001/) conducted by Stanford University found that people were able to brainstorm about 60% more ideas when walking than when sitting at their desks. The study found that walking continues to help even after having sat down. Dr Oppezzo, who conducted the study, found that even after sitting down, volunteers continued to produce more creative ideas than those who hadn’t moved. So whether that’s a walk around the office, or a trip to the newsagents, getting your legs moving will help to inspire creativity. Dr Birdi agrees. She explains that “taking a walk increases blood flow to the brain and puts you in a good mood (from endorphin release), both of which are good for creative thinking.”
It sounds simplistic, but drawing and doodling has been shown to really enhance creativity. If you crunch numbers for a living, or are trying to work out exporting logistics, art can help you too. Even if your painting skills are more like a toddler’s than a Georges Braque masterpiece, studies have shown that doodling can enhance your creativity, whatever your job. Companies like Dell and Disney are even encouraging their employees to doodle on the job, and studies have shown that sketching provides greater knowledge retention and creativity. In 2015, the University of Haifa found that a doodle can spark a "dialogue between the mind and the hand holding a pencil and the eyes that perceive the marks on paper," which in turn leads to greater creativity, perfect for wriggling your way out of creative blank spots.
Matt Pascoe is a senior illustrator at Rawnet and thinks that doodling can have other purposes as well as driving through a creative block. “Having an ability to quickly turn an idea into a visual concept for people to understand is so important. Being able to sketch it and map it out gives you the upper hand with getting concepts progressed and can save you money as a business, for client meetings you can draw anything, so you don't need to waste endless hours mocking up concepts.”
A 2011 study in the Lancet Journal also found that doodling keeps the creative side of our brains stimulated, which is why we respond more creatively after having doodled. So get those crayons out, and don’t be afraid to cover that white piece of paper with some colourful drawings.
If you’re an SME or an entrepreneur, chances are you spend most of your time in a small team or by yourself. Although this can be great for productivity, when you’re stuck for ideas it can mean you spend lots of time going round in circles.
Make the most of networking groups and meet-ups. Who knows? ‘Meet up’ hosts a special entrepreneur group, and ‘Entrepreneurs in London’ hosts events on a wide range of topics that help people start or improve their business. ‘Business Networking London’ and ‘Open Coffee’ are also groups that help to provide networking opportunities for businesses.
Read the newspaper
If you’re looking for that killer business idea, what could be better than to start a business that responds to an actual need? Reading a magazine or newspaper can encourage you to reflect on different opportunities and help to remove you from your own hard-working bubble. “Take a break and come back to it. This phenomenon is known as incubation and it can work” recommends Dr Birdi.
If reading a magazine feels like slacking, take a pen when you read it and make notes next to features or ideas that sound particularly interesting. Monocle and the Financial Times have strong entrepreneur sections: learning about new start-ups in Japan, or that the focus for autumn fashion is sandals with beads could be the kick-start you need for a big project or new business idea. Who knows?
If Archimedes had his Eureka moment in the bath, then there’s no reason why yours won’t come then too. Studies have proven that creative block can be broken when you’re most relaxed. This is why keeping a notebook by the side of your bed is ideal if you’re a creative, as ideas that come to us just as we wake up or drift into REM are often our best.
This is because our brain allows our mind to wander in ways it can’t when we’re constrained by daytime tasks and emails. Similarly, taking a bath or having a shower helps to release dopamine, which can aid idea creating, and scientists have found that more is released when we have a hot shower because people are relaxed. It provides an ‘incubation period’, one where ideas you’ve spent the day trying to formulate have a chance to develop while you enjoy the hot water on your back and the feeling of a release of dopamine.