Creative thinking is a tough act to pinpoint—it is, at the same time, highly specific and wonderfully simple. Which is to say that it can be hard to practice and engineer. All companies try, of course. Some succeed only to the extent that their culture allows; others, especially those helmed by forward-thinking entrepreneurs, manage over time to inculcate creativity into their very fabric of being.
Within the context of these divergent realities, insiders agree that creative people in business share some highly effective habits. After talking with a variety of business leaders, we boiled down these suggestions to a list of seven can’t-miss tips to facilitate creativity. Somewhere, Steve Jobs is smiling.
1. Take time to ruminate.
Innovative concepts need to germinate and mature. For this reason, one of the most efficient ways to engender creativity is to simply give people time and space to think.
“When I need to go deep and ideate, I turn my car into a mobile office and work out of parking garages. I work in Los Angeles; we have so many of them. There’s no internet connection in most of them, and there’s no way for me to be disturbed. You can lose track of time. You can write. You can sketch. You can do whatever you need to do. Being interrupted when you’re trying to go deep can really hurt your ability to be effective.
“I call this process of actively putting myself into an environment with no distractions ‘ruthless prioritization.’ It’s kind of like you’re taking kid gloves off and saying you’re aware that you do better work when you’re not distracted. You’re being aggressive with yourself about guaranteeing success. The only downside to this approach is that when your laptop isn’t charged, you have to leave the car on to charge it. That, and I usually have to pay for parking.”
“I give every idea time to ‘bake.’ It’s a period of time when I’m not really honest with myself that I’m thinking about the idea, but I know I’m thinking about it, working it out in my head. Running is a great way to do this, when you don’t even realize you’re moving your arms and legs, and your mind starts to wander. For me, being in the shower is another great place to accomplish this. The best baking always comes when I’m doing something else. For some reason, it opens up my thinking. I get clarity. I can solve a problem quicker because the baking helps me get to the answer quicker.”
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