It happens to the best of us. Your project has simply hit a wall. Your boss is breathing down your neck, your teammates are uninspired and, worst of all, you feel powerless to stop the cycle of negativity. Inspiration and innovation can be elusive at times but there are some rut-busting techniques that can help ignite your project and push your company -- and career -- forward again.
Get Out of the Office
Familiar places breed familiar ideas so the easiest thing to change is your surroundings. Let yourself think or take the group out to a new or unusual space. Many workplaces these days have collaborative spaces that are meant for impromptu or less "heavy" meetings than the standard conference room. Shift the dynamic by doing something unusual like asking the group to take their shoes off for the meeting. Go outside on a beautiful afternoon and let the fresh air inspire you. Get loose and let the ideas flow in a less encumbered, more fun area.
Find People Who Hate You
Innovation can come from uncomfortable places. Candid feedback is important to fostering innovation and helping overcome creative blocks. Who better to give you unfiltered advice on areas where you can improve than someone that you are not friendly with. While you may not want to seek out a bitter enemy, someone that is not as concerned with your feelings may be able to provide you with the constructive feedback you need to help right the ship. Just as professional athletes have coaches to help them when they are faltering, the right nudge by an impartial bystander may be invaluable. Find unhappy customers and listen to their experiences. It's amazing what a little eye-opening research can inspire.
Tap Into Experience and Naiveté
It's important to shake up your collaborators from time to time. A blend of experience levels and disciplines bring fresh perspectives to problem solving. This type of socialization also exposes you to different ideation methodologies which can help unlock your own creativity. Oftentimes, people with extensive experience will have clever tips and tricks into how they overcame adversity in various projects. Millennials, on the other hand, are the proverbial "bulls in the china shop" and their proactive, ultra-confident personas can serve as a breath of fresh air. Mix it up with these two groups and see what happens.
Swing for the Fences
Nothing stifles innovation like looking at problems through too narrow a focus. It is important to think about the larger picture and try to shoot for the moon from time to time. Nothing reenergizes a person more than overcoming a challenge so while your first instinct may be to get back to basics, it may be beneficial to focus on something that scares you. I'm sure his buddies laughed at the founder of FedEx when he said he was going to take on the US Postal Service in the shipping industry, but they have succeeded despite the daunting odds. Creative blocks often stem from stagnation, so push your boundaries. Turn every idea on its head and tinker with every variable to come up with new, innovative methods to challenge preconceived roadblocks.
The key to overcoming a creative rut is to keep focused, but in new ways. Churn and fight until you are back on your feet and do not be afraid of trying new things, working with new people and otherwise getting out of your comfort zone. Innovation and creativity can be fickle mistresses so it is important to continually evolve your skills through exploration and hard work to keep your edge.