April 07, 2008
100 Simple Ways to Be More Creative on the Job


Have you ever noticed America's strange fascination with lists? Cruise any supermarket magazine rack and you will invariably notice some version of the following:

"5 Sure-Fire Ways to Find Your Soul Mate"
"10 Ways to Profit from the Recession"
"50 Ways to Retire Before 40"
"The 100 Best Companies to Work For"

For years I ignored this phenomenon. Then I mocked it. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Perfect sense.

Lists simplify.
Lists cut to the chase.
Lists help people make sense of the world.

And in today's world, where the collective sum of printed knowledge is doubling every four years, anything that helps simplify life -- without oversimplifying it -- is a good thing.

And so, in honor of America's love of lists, the little known patron saint of the phenomenon, and your own commitment to innovation, I cheerfully present to you Idea Champions' time-tested, easy-to-read, highly compelling, imminently practical 100 Ways to Be More Creative on the Job.

1. Find the most creative people at work and ask for their ideas.
2. Brainstorm daily with a co-worker.
3. Tape record your ideas on your commute to and from work.
4. Present your biggest challenge to a child.
5. Take your team off-site for a day.
6. Listen more carefully to your inner muse.
7. Play music in your office.
8. Go for a daily brainstorming walk.
9. Ask someone to collaborate with you on your favorite project.
10. Exercise during your lunch break.
11. Turn on a radio at random times and listen for a "message."
12. Invite your customers and vendors to brainstorming sessions.
13. Think of five other ways to define your challenge.
14. Assign a "fun fairy" to each of your meetings.
15. Reward yourself, in specific ways, for small successes.
16. Introduce odd catalysts into your daily routine.
17. Get out of the office more regularly
18. Play with fun toys in your office whenever you get stuck.
19. Take more naps.
20. Take the train, instead of driving to work.
21. Work in cafes.
22. Transform your assumptions into "How can I?" questions.
23. Write down as many ideas as you can think of in five minutes
24. Redesign your office.
25. Take regular daydreaming breaks.
26. Dissolve turf boundaries.
27. Initiate cross-functional brainstorming sessions.
28. Arrive earlier to the office than anyone else.
29. Turn a conference room into an upbeat "think tank" room.
30. Read odd books -- having nothing to do with your work.
31. Block off time on your calendar for creative thinking.
32. Take a shower in the middle of the day.
33. Keep an idea notebook at your desk or in your briefcase.
34. Decorate your office with inspiring quotes and images.
35. Create a headline of the future and the story behind it.
36. Choose to be more creative.
37. Recall a time in your life when you were very creative. Feel it.
38. Wander around a bookstore while thinking about a challenge.
39. Trust your instincts more.
40. Immerse yourself in your most exciting project.
41. Open a magazine and free associate off of a word or image.
42. Write down your ideas when you first wake up in the morning.
43. Ask yourself what the simplest solution is.
44. Get fast feedback from people you trust.
45. Conduct more experiments.
45. Ask yourself what the market wants or needs.
46. Ask "What's the worst thing that could happen if I fail?"
47. Pilot your idea, even if it's not completely ready.
48. Work "in the cracks" -- small bursts of creative energy.
49. Incubate (sleep on it).
50. Test existing boundaries -- and then test them again.
51. Schedule time with the smartest people at work.
52. Visit your customers more frequently.
53. Benchmark your competitors -- then adapt their successes.
54. Enroll your boss or peers in your most fascinating project.
55. Imagine you already know the answer. What would it be?
56. Create ground rules with your team that foster new thinking.
57. Ask stupid questions. Then ask some more.
58. Challenge everything you do.
59. Give yourself a deadline -- and stick to it
60. Look for three alternatives to every solution you originate.
61. Write your ideas in a notebook and review them regularly.
62. Make connections between seemingly disconnected things.
63. Use creative thinking techniques.
64. Play with the Free the Genie cards.
65 Use similes and metaphors when describing your ideas.
66. Have more fun. Be sillier than usual.
67. Ask "How can I accomplish my goal in half the time?"
68. Take a break when you are stuck on a problem.
69. Think of how your biggest hero might approach your challenge.
70. Declare Friday afternoons a "no-email zone."
71. Ask five people how they would improve your idea.
72. Create a wall of images that inspires you.
73. Do more of what already helps you be creative off the job.
74. Laugh more, worry less.
75. Remember your dreams -- then write them down.
76. Ask impossible questions.
77. Eliminate all unnecessary bureaucracy and admin tasks.
78. Create a compelling vision of what you want to accomplish.
79. Work on hottest project every day, even if only 5 minutes.
80. Do whatever is necessary to create a sense of urgency.
81. Go for a walk anytime you're stuck.
82. Meditate or do relaxation exercises.
83. Take more breaks.
84. Go out for lunch with your team more often.
85. Eat lunch with a different person each day.
86. Ask for forgiveness, not permission.
87. Invite an outside facilitator to lead a brainstorming session.
88. Take more risks outside of the office (i.e. surf, ski, box etc.)
89. Ask for help when you need it.
90. Know that it is possible to make a difference.
91. Find a mentor.
92. Acknowledge all your successes at the end of each day.
93. Create an "idea piggy bank" and make deposits daily.
94. Have shorter meetings.
95. Try the techniques in Awake at the Wheel
96. Don't listen to or watch the news for 24 hours.
97. Make drawings of your ideas.
98. Bring your project or challenge to mind before going to bed.
99. Divide your idea into component parts. Then rethink each part.
100. Post this list near your desk and read it daily.

NOTE: If your favorite way to be more creative on the job is not included on the above list, you may want to enter Idea Champions' First Annual 100 Ways to Be More Creative on the Job contest by clicking on the comment link below.

Prizes will be awarded in the following FIVE categories:

1. Most Intriguing Suggestion
2. Funniest
3. Most Likely to Start a Revolution
4. Wished We Thought of It First
5. Biggest Bang for the Buck

KIND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS TO: Anne Howe, David Beath, Jim Aubele, Gary Kvistad, Howard Moody, Farrell Reynolds, Hector Cruz Rosa, Jill Peckinpaugh, and Marcy Turkington for their wonderful suggestions.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at April 7, 2008 01:16 AM


You may like Michael Michalko's "Thinkertoys" -- an entire book on this sort of thing.

I personally do not find this approach (using little prods from a list) workable. When I am feeling uncreative, I just need to get away for a bit -- maybe take a walk. The creative spirit eventually comes back if I am patient and don't try to hurry it or trigger it.

Posted by: Venkatesh Rao [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 7, 2008 10:06 AM

Corollary to #55. "If you knew the question that you wanted an answer to, what would it be?"

Corollary to #81. "Go for a walk or a run, whether you're stuck or not!"

Posted by: Jefferson Freeman [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 7, 2008 02:34 PM

1. try to describe your idea like you need to explain it to Homer Simpson
2. don't go from work before you write one idea in your idea-notebook
3. do a research about some destination, even if you don't plan to travel there, maybe you'll find something inspiring

Posted by: tinno [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 11, 2008 08:23 AM

Eat something you have never before tasted.

Find someone you have never spoken to and introduce yourself, then listen.

Volunteer for a few hours at a local charity

Posted by: JP [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 22, 2008 08:55 AM

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