THE BLOG
01/15/2015 10:42 am ET Updated Mar 17, 2015

How to Unleash Creativity and Innovation

Alamy

Today's workplace is anything but predictable and static. As working professionals and businesses, the reality of the new normal requires us to be more agile, adaptable, and capable of making smart decisions on the fly - a process fundamentally rooted in creativity and innovation. Whether you're a senior leader, middle manager, junior team member or business of any size, it's imperative to be more resourceful and resilient with each passing day. Following are five ways you can train yourself to be more successful, and tap into your ability to constantly innovate, improvise, and raise the bar so dam high competition will struggle to keep up, let alone leap over it.

Turn Your "I Can't" Into "What If"

Whenever you say "I can't", it ends the conversation right there. It closes off all other possibilities. By stopping to consider "what if," we open our minds to all possibilities. Creativity and innovation die with "I can't." They live to their fullest potential only at the beginning of "what if."

Embrace Failure

In order to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs. That's an old way of saying that the creative process is by nature also a destructive one. You can't be held back by the fear of breaking things. Of course, don't risk breaking anything crucial to the operation of your business. But remember: To get different results, you've got to do things differently, and that means having to experiment and take risks. As part of this process, things are going to fail - but that's OK, as failure is a learning opportunity, and each new experience helps provide the insights you need to constantly tweak and refine your strategy to be more successful going forward. Genius inspiration isn't usually the root cause of creativity and innovation, despite the tall tales we've heard. It's actually the hard work put into learning everything possible out of our failures and reapplying ourselves armed with a more informed approach. Michael Jordan once said he had failed over and over in his career, and it was the very reason for his ultimate history-making success.

Change Your Perspective

Humans are creatures of habit. Our environment has a direct effect on our emotional state, our ability to focus, and our ability to generate creative and innovative ideas. If you're feeling uninspired, look around. You may need to physically get a change of perspective. Drab offices, gray skies, old furniture, and silence or slow-moving music can all impact our mindset. Even standing or walking versus sitting can have a great effect. Steve Jobs is famous for his walks around the Apple campus as well as his backyard. He said he exclusively did his best thinking while walking, as he was then able to take in the sounds of nature from which he drew great inspiration. Whereas some people find the constraints of an airplane seat to be wonderfully isolating and inspiring, others find it unbearable, confining and dismal. Learn what inspires you intellectually, spiritually, and creatively, and try different environments to see what output they produce. A change in perspective may produce a great change in your ability to create and innovate.

Put a New Spin on Old Things

Take a look around you and consider what's working for you in your life and business, whether in terms of individual skills, products, services or solutions. Then use these elements as a starting point from which to build on and put your own wonderfully original and inventive spin on what's going right. (For example: If you've got a successful blog, perhaps it's ripe for turning into an eBook, webinar or speech; if you're a successful web or graphic designer, maybe it's time to expand your horizons into programming so you can build apps that let you turn ideas into amazing interactive options.) It's a useful tactic that can be applied in any career or business. Starting with what's working, then expanding on it, can provide a great springboard to anyone looking for a creative surge - some of the greatest innovations come when you iterate on existing ideas, as opposed to trying to constantly reinvent the wheel.

Use Constraints to Your Advantage

A blank canvas, Word document, or whiteboard can be one of the most intimidating things we encounter. When choosing from a limitless set of choices, we can feel something close to paralysis. Where do we start? How do we know which direction to turn? It's that dreaded feeling of swimming in an endless ocean without an island in sight. What we need are some landmarks and some rules. In fact, the irony is that the clearer and more strict the rules, the more we are forced to come up with innovative solutions. Necessity is the mother of invention, so create some artificial necessity. Make a rule and push towards it. When you get there, push against it and see if you can bend or even break it. You may just push through to discover a whole new world of creativity and innovation that helps you blow past the competition.

As you can see, unleashing creativity and innovation doesn't have to be a difficult process. In fact, as noted in the recent book Make Change Work For You, many simple hints, tips, and tricks can help you shatter ceilings and move past stumbling blocks. Ultimately, the trick to moving from problems to opportunities is simply changing your mind. In the end, it's all a matter of perspective.