How to Spark Creativity at Work When You Feel Stagnant
Even if you’re lucky enough to be in a career and job you love, there are going to be days, weeks, and even months where you feel stagnant and bored. You can’t always wait for creativity to strike, though; sometimes a project has to move forward, even if you’re feeling sluggish. These are the times when you have to work harder to shake things up and spark creativity at work. Here’s how to do that.
Make It Visual
It’s hard to get creative when you’re confined to a screen. Get offline and start putting your ideas down on paper or a whiteboard. Visualizing your ideas is powerful. When everyone can see what you’re working on, it will spark even more ideas. If a team of people is brainstorming, gather everyone in a room together and write down all ideas in a list or mindmap on a large whiteboard.
The brainstorming phase is a time for anything and everything; it’s not the time to edit, worry, or play it safe. Embrace and even encourage failure during this phase. You never know when a great idea will be born of an improbable premise or when one person sees the possibility in a “silly” idea. Most importantly, everyone should know that they’re brainstorming and dreaming up ideas in a safe, accepting environment and that they won’t be ridiculed or judged for thinking creatively.
Think About “What” and “Why” Instead of “How”
By worrying about how you’re going to accomplish a goal, you immediately limit your creativity. Action should only come after ideation. Creativity needs room to flow and grow, and that room can’t be walled in with preconceived strategy and tactics.
When you are ready to think about the actions that need to be taken, “what” and “why” should still be guiding you. Think about where you want to go and why you want to go there — your purpose and objective — and then work backward from there to figure out how to accomplish it all.
Say “And” Instead of “But”
Another way to spark creativity at work is to say “and.” This is a tried-and-true method in improv classes. Instead of saying “but,” replace it with “and.” This forces you to think positively and solve problems instead of stopping your creativity in its tracks. By saying “and,” you allow creative ideas to develop further.
For example, let’s say you don’t have the budget to support a campaign you came up with. Instead of saying, “This campaign is a perfect fit for us, but we can’t afford it,” you would say, “This campaign is a perfect fit for us, and we’ll have to find a way to fund it.”
Diversify the Team
If your team has come together a few times now but you’re not getting any new ideas, it’s time to diversify. Teams should not be formed according to one person’s plans — you’ll only get one point of view that way. Instead, bring together different, competing or opposing strengths, views and skills. When building a solution-oriented team, it helps to know the traits of flexible, creative thinkers. They:
- Care about the project goals and the client’s or business’ needs.
- Focus on the solution, not the problem.
- Are flexible and can adapt to changes.
- Empathize with others and picture a situation from diverse points of view.
- Are curious and enthusiastic about the project.
Once you have your creative team in a room together, sit back and watch as spirited debate and new ideas come out of the process.
Get Outside and Clear Your Head
Can’t find new members to add to the team? Maybe you have a small business and you’re not able to hire new people simply for the ideation phase. In that case, get everyone to start thinking differently by putting them in unique situations. For example, you can take a company field trip to go on a hike or try a new sport like fly fishing. Simply being outside may be enough to shake up everyone’s creative thinking.
Wait, what? Isn’t the whole point of creativity to not be confined but to have freedom, flexibility, and tons of blank space to play with? In theory, yes — but that can be too empty and directionless for some people. If you have too much to consider and brainstorm about, you may be so overwhelmed that you don’t know how to start.
In these cases, boxing yourself in will help you focus. Pick one aspect of the project that needs creativity and start there. For example, maybe you have to come up with a company name or tagline. Once that’s done, you can start thinking about the logo. After that, you can worry about branding, the website, or the first marketing campaign.
In the past, the word “creativity” was meant just for creative professions — artists, writers, musicians, etc. Today, it’s a must-have in practically every field. Creative thinkers and professionals can help in all sorts of ways: by designing a marketing campaign in a cutting-edge way, by thinking outside-the-box when it comes to customer service, or by brainstorming creatively to solve pressing problems. With creativity being embraced by companies everywhere, team members should know how to spark their imagination when it’s not coming easily. These tips to spark creativity at work can help you rise to the top.