5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Whether you’re a corporate real-estate agent or a marketing guru, innovative thinking is often what is needed to take your business to the next level. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to get stuck in a rut. If you’re not careful, that stagnation can easily cause your business to flounder.
If you need help thinking creatively so you can achieve better results for your brand, the solution may come down to retraining your brain. By reshaping your thinking process, you’ll be able to generate innovative ideas that make a real impact.
Related: 5 Key Trends in Innovation and How Leaders Can Capitalize On Them in 2021
1. Read a book
The time you spend reading and writing is always going to improve your creative thinking — studies have confirmed that habitual readers and those who have a positive attitude toward reading in general are going to have greater creative thinking abilities than their peers.
While entrepreneurs are often tempted to only read business books, it’s worth noting that reading fiction has been found to be especially effective in connecting your creative right brain and analytical left brain. In other words, feel free to curl up with The Lord of the Rings or your favorite Tom Clancy book.
2. Let yourself run wild with brainstorming
When it comes to improving your innovative capabilities, think of your brain as a muscle. Just like you would lift weights at the gym to strengthen your arms or legs, you should also “work out” your brain to enhance your creative thinking abilities.
One of the best ways to do this is to let yourself truly run wild with brainstorming. Consider periodically challenging yourself to come up with as many ideas related to a particular problem all at once. Write down everything that comes to mind — no crossing out ideas because they seem too outrageous or unfeasible.
The main idea is that you can get into the practice of writing down as many ideas as possible. This will help you become open to a wider range of ideas in the future, allowing for more creative thinking when it’s time to solve problems for your business.
Related: Can Brain-Training Games Really Make You Smarter?
3. Emphasize lateral learning
Many business owners pride themselves on being true specialists in their niche. There’s nothing wrong with developing specialized knowledge that helps you deliver better results to your customers. But to enhance creative thinking, you need to embrace lateral learning.
Lateral learning essentially means that you try to learn more about a wide variety of topics — including those outside of your chosen profession. You won’t necessarily become an expert in these areas, but the idea is that you will expand your knowledge to the point where you at least have a solid understanding.
Broadening your knowledge base gives you a wider range of facts and experiences to draw from when trying to come up with solutions. In the classroom, studies have found that horizontal learning enhances student interest, making learners more likely to seek out additional learning opportunities in the future. Increasing your thirst for knowledge will make you more innovative and help you make new discoveries.
4. Learn how to manage distractions
Distractions and creativity have a unique relationship. Highly creative people have been found to be more easily distracted than their peers, being more likely to pay attention to irrelevant information rather than filtering it out.
Though this seems like a disadvantage, it means they are actually taking in more information — more resources that can be used to generate ideas and solutions. This subsequently makes creative thinkers more likely to think of a variety of potential solutions, rather than just the obvious one.
That being said, some visual distractions will only detract from your thinking process. A messy workspace or too much smartphone access could draw you off task. While it’s clearly okay to allow distractions that help you absorb more information, maintaining a clean work environment will help you stay focused on the task at hand as you work towards a solution.
5. Don’t be afraid to take a break
Taking a break may feel like giving in to potential distractions entirely, but smart breaks can provide a massive innovative boost. To fuel innovation, taking a break can often come in the form of switching tasks. Task switching has been found to improve cognitive flexibility, making you better able to adapt to different situations.
Mindful task switching can fuel innovation without hurting your productivity.
For example, setting a timer for when to switch away from your original task can help you avoid the psychological tendency to keep working on a problem, even if you’re completely stuck. Switching tasks forces you to change the way you are thinking, allowing you to return to the original problem with a fresh perspective.
Related: Can Creative Breaks Boost Your Employees’ Productivity?
Unleash your innovative brain
Everyone has creativity and innovation inside them — sometimes, however, it simply requires a little extra effort to tap into these abilities. Whether that comes in the form of the perfect marketing slogan or a better way of serving your customers, you’ll be able to thank your brain training efforts as these breakthroughs begin to come more easily.