by Laura Veith
Have you ever found that your best ideas come when you're doing something really mundane, like taking a shower, driving, or just going for a walk? That's because you're giving your brain space to process whatever it is you're thinking about. As along as you actively think about the situation you are not giving your best ideas room to emerge. It may seem like a paradox, but sometimes the best way to find a solution is to step away from the problem. Are you wondering what you can do to speed up that process and become more creative and better at idea generating and creative problem solving? As a creative and designer it is my job to constantly come up with ideas, here are some things that work for me:
First things first: Step away from the computer! The computer is a great tool, but if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Get up, move around, go for a walk, if you're daring: dance. It helps to loosen your body and free your thoughts. Some people think better when they're moving. I know it helps me. Perhaps you're one of them and you didn't even know it.
Take notes and explore ideas using pen and paper. As I just mentioned, the computer is too limiting. With a pen you can switch between writing and drawing in an instance. You can sketch out ideas and write in the margins. You are more flexible and can follow your thoughts more naturally than when relying on a keyboard.
Let yourself get distracted (for a certain amount of time) and embrace it when a group conversation starts to get off topic a bit. Some of my best ideas have come from that, whether I was working on my own or as part of a group. The key as with so many things is balance, and to bring the conversation or the thoughts back to the issue at hand, and draw parallels between what just happened and why you are actually meeting. That distraction and off-topic talk gives you lots of material to draw ideas from.
Get your hands dirty. Literally, in some cases. You'd be surprised how much fun you'll have modeling your ideas with play dough, clay or other 3D materials and actually engaging with your problem hands-on. You'll gain a completely different feel and perspective for it, and will actually be able to look at the situation from different points of view. Metaphors are helpful for this type of activity. You may want to keep a notepad nearby for those strikes of genius and ideas that will hit you when you least expect it.
We look at objects and think of them for their intended use only, but we are letting ourselves miss a world of opportunities. Take five to ten random objects around you (office and kitchen object work well). Invite somebody to join you and give yourselves 10 to 15 minutes and come up with as many uses as you possibly can think of for each object or combination of objects. Talk about it for a bit and then go back to your issue and hand and see if perhaps you can transfer some of that thinking and see new possibilities rather than just challenges with what you're working with.
These are just some ideas and tools that I use to ignite my creative thinking hat. My not-so-secret sauce to creativity is play, and trusting the paradox that in order to come up with the best solution I must occasionally step away from the issue at hand. And once my creative juices are flowing, I stay with my challenge until I realize that I need a break or to play some more.
Engage with the world, engage with others, start conversations and have some fun. If locking yourself in front of your cubicle isn't working, give these ideas a try. You may actually start to enjoy it and move from a problem-solving mentality to designing solutions.