I used to think that being creative was something that you’re either born with or not. And if you’re not born creative, then you won’t ever be creative. I don’t think that’s true anymore. These are 10 techniques to spark your creativity.
Read Different Books, Travel to Weird Places and Talk to Strangers
One of the reasons it’s so hard for most of us to be creative is that we’re always exposed to the same information, same routine and same people. Read books and magazines on topics you normally wouldn’t even get close to. Talk to strangers at bus stops and waiting in line at the coffee shop. Hawaii and Disney World are fun, but try going to a less popular destination next time to travel.
The more different things you absorb, the more your mind grows.
Go for Quantity, Not Quality
I think that the main creativity killer is judgment. We dread sounding stupid, so we don’t come up with stupid ideas. But stupid ideas lead to great ideas. Next time you have a problem, write down 100 solutions to that problem. Don’t stop to think whether or not your ideas are good or even possible.
When you’re done see if you have any good ideas on your list. Feel free to combine ideas or adapt them.
Start with a Random Word
Let’s say I’m an accountant and want to increase my revenue but I don’t know how. I can start with a random word. Let’s use “corn” for this example.

  • Corn is planted by farmers. Farmers need accountants. Maybe I can position myself as THE #1 accountant for farmers and specialize in that industry, therefore bringing our clients a higher value than other regular accountants.
  • Corn is yellow. The sun is yellow, too. Solar power. Maybe I can install a solar panel on my roof and make some money off of it.

I’m sure some of these ideas are stupid. But it doesn’t matter, because most of the time you need only one great idea.
You can use this tool to come up with random words.
Reverse-Engineer the Problem by Asking “Why”
Let’s say I want to become a professional rugby player.

  • Why do I want this? To make money.
  • Why do I want money? To buy a house.
  • Why do I want a house? To have friends over for dinner.
  • Why do I want to have friends over for dinner? To have home-cooked meals and spend time with people I like.

Then try to find different ways to get the same outcomes:

  • Are there any other ways I can make money besides playing rugby professionally? Maybe I can start a business.
  • Are there other ways I can have friends over? Maybe I can rent a bigger condo.
  • Are there any other ways to eat home-cooked meals? Maybe my friends can cook if I buy the food or bring wine.

Reverse Assumptions
This is my favorite technique to come up with innovative business ideas.
These are some assumptions about restaurants:

  • You pick your food.
  • The chef cooks it for you.
  • You pay for the items you ordered.

These are some alternatives:

  • You fill out a profile and they pick your food based on your personality.
  • There’s a fixed menu that is different every day.
  • You cook together with the chef. He teaches you how to prepare the dish and then you eat it.
  • You don’t pay for the items you ordered. Instead, you pay a monthly fee that allows you to eat at the restaurant once a week.

Break It Down
This technique works really well with the previous one, because it’s about breaking a bigger issue into smaller chunks. “How can I come up with an innovative idea for a restaurant?” is too big of a challenge. But if you start writing down all the components of the issue, it’ll be much easier to come up with ideas for each of those smaller parts.
Ask Someone Who Wouldn’t Know the Answer
When we need advice about dealing with a difficult employee, we ask an HR expert. When we need to increase our sales, we talk to professional salespeople and marketing experts. But what if you asked your mom or your masseuse about these issues? What if you asked someone who’s not a parent how to deal with your teenage daughter?
Sometimes we’re so involved in a situation that we can’t see it very clearly. Don’t ever underestimate an outsider perspective.
Walk Away from the Problem
Sometimes, the harder we try, the harder it becomes. In those cases, you need to walk away from the issue. Take a hot shower. Have dinner. Make love. And the answer will come to you.
Talk to Other People
How many times do we feel stuck and never ask for help? This happens way too often, but it shouldn’t. Just ask everyone around you for ideas. Here’s a warning: we tend to discard ideas that other people have too quickly. Don’t do this. You need a fresh perspective, so don’t be quick to judge other people’s ideas.
Pretend to Talk to Other People
A friend of mine taught me this technique. Think about someone that could solve the problem. It could be Paris Hilton, your dad, Obama or Superman. And then have an imaginary dialog with this person. If you’re going to have this conversation out loud, make sure no one is around. Being crazy is awesome, but when other people start noticing, it isn’t fun anymore.