Innovation should never stand still. It's a skill to be practiced and a muscle to be exercised. If you don't take the time to explore new solutions and unique ways of thinking, it's easy to fall into the same old ruts. And as innovation practitioners all know, ruts only stand in the way of creativity.
The next time you're looking for inspiration, or even before you're in need of that creativity jolt, look to this list for innovation advice from the Fahrenheit 212 team. These 7 tips will have you thinking, creating and flying through your next idea generation session in no time.
Change Your Perspective
Innovation Director Tom Gray both suggests changing your perspective and your routines to help spark innovation. Sometimes you need to change your physical space – go outside, sit at a different desk, spend a weekend away – to push yourself into a new mindset. Other times, it's about your experiences: talk to a stranger, go to an event you'd never consider, visit a new neighborhood.
Any way you can think to break out of your routine and get a new perspective will help you discover new paths to innovation. Even a simple walk has been found to increase creativity, although once the ideas come, researchers suggest you head back inside for focused work.
Make Time for Maker Time
Speaking of focused work: The typical worker is interrupted every 3 minutes and it takes over 23 minutes to regain your focus, according to researchers at the University of California. That's why Senior Associate Shaye suggests making time for "maker time" every day.
Maker time is based on the idea that makers, or those who create more than they manage, should fill their schedule with long, uninterrupted stretches of time in order to truly create. Projects that require deep thought can rarely be accomplished in 30-minute windows between meetings. Instead take time to immerse yourself with zero distractions – no Slack notifications allowed! – to focus on letting your creativity flow.
Test New Mental Models
There are dozens of different mental models and frameworks that you can use to approach problems and generate new ideas. Innovation Analyst Rahul uses this list for inspiration whenever he wants to look at a situation from new angles.
When faced with a challenge that you're not sure how to approach, look through a list of mental models to see if any of them apply. Over time, you'll learn which frameworks apply to which situations and you'll develop your favorites and your own interpretations. Continually testing new models helps exercise your brain and encourages you to look at every problem or idea generation from a unique perspective.
Walk Away from the Problem
When you're stuck on a problem, the best way to get a fresh perspective is to just step away from it, says CEO and Managing Partner Todd Rovak. A different part of your brain will keep working while you take time off or focus on other things, and when you return to the project your mind will be refreshed.
Studies suggest you can take it a step further by putting mental space between yourself and the problem. Creativity often comes more easily if you're working on someone else's project. By removing yourself and approaching the problem as an outsider, you're able to get a refreshed perspective and open yourself up to creative new ideas.
Use Your Senses
When generating ideas, it's common to focus on words, lists and plans. One way to tap into new parts of your mind is by focusing on visual and audio inspiration instead. Design Manager Vuong suggests conducting image searches around relevant topics to spark new ideas. You might also spend time with different curated playlists, looking for inspiration outside of your usual music.
By tapping into all the different senses, you're able to discover new themes that are captured by the eye or ears, not just by your mind. Even different colors have been shown to activate new regions of the brain, with red aiding in focus and blue offering a calm that opens innovators up to new ideas.
Distract Yourself (The Shower Principle)
The "aha!" moment often comes when you least expect it – while you're shampooing your hair, for example. Companies like AquaNotes know that the best ideas can strike at the most unlikely moments, and great innovators will use that to their advantage.
This idea, better known as the Shower Principle, shows that sometimes our brains need to be on autopilot in order to think through complex problems. When your focus is devoted elsewhere and different areas of your brain are being exercised, you're most likely to recall the details and put together the crucial pieces needed for your "aha!" Just make sure not to get soap in your eye while you scramble for a pen.
Innovation Analyst Sebastian Hendra recommends taking a cue from the Shower Principle when you're stuck on a problem. Stop what you're doing, he says, and take 15-20 minutes to do something completely different. By shifting your surface-level attention to something else – an article, a coffee table book, organizing your desk – you might strike mental gold.
Prepare for Idea Generation
When innovation happens in a group setting, it's best to start each session with a little preparation, says Engagement Manager Sebastien Jouvenaar. People often move from meeting to meeting without much preparation, and that can hinder creative sessions as everyone works to get into the right mindset and spark their first ideas.
By asking everyone to come with 3-5 ideas already in mind, the whole group will have considered the problem ahead of time and will be better prepared for thoughtful, creative debate. The idea generation will go further, everyone will have a reason to speak up, and you'll be able to truly make the most of the group's time.
True innovation requires you to step out of your comfort zone, find new perspectives, and every resource at your disposal. You have to be ready to work with it when the inspiration strikes, but sometimes you also have to make time and plan ahead in order to make the ideas come to you. No matter how you choose to innovate, these 7 tips from the Fahrenheit 212 team will help you channel your creativity and break out of a rut to come up with your next big idea. Which tips will you be trying?