When you think about creativity and innovation, what comes to mind? The iPhone? Driverless cars? Art and sculpture? Or things that were once considered innovative, such as the humble toaster?
Creativity and innovation are all around us. It extends to products, services, processes and methods, and can be complex or straightforward. It's easy to think the only source of innovation is creative and inventive people, but we can all be innovative.
There are two ends to the spectrum. More radical innovation, or what Clayton Christensen, author of , called disruptive innovation, is about making things people haven't yet realised they wanted. It is this type of innovation that disrupts industries and changes how they work.
Simple innovation, however, is about making things better, and in this context, we can all find ways to create, innovate and improve.
Don't box yourself in
The esteemed economist, John Maynard Keynes, said: "The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones".
It can be hard to let old ideas go, but it is equally hard to find new ideas for many people. Why? Because they convince themselves that they aren't creative or the 'idea's person'. Likewise, we often unhelpfully box people into the category of either creative or non-creative.
If your fixed mindset is saying, 'I'm not innovative,' then you'll miss the opportunity to see what could be different. You won't take the time to ponder what could be, as you'll be satisfied with what is.
Making progress comes in different ways. You can reinvent, tweak around the edges, improve the process or start from scratch.
Find the new angle
People often develop new ideas because they looked for a solution to something that annoyed them, they were curious, or saw a better way to do something.
For example, Velcro was invented in the 1940s by a Swiss engineer, George de Mestral. It was a day to day activity – walking in the Alps – that ultimately resulted in his invention. He paid attention and wondered, 'what if?'. He saw how burrs stuck to his clothing and his dog's fur and then took that curiosity one step further.
Consider in your day to day work:
What frustrates you?
What are you curious about?
Where are the pain points in your everyday work processes?
What can you do better or differently?
What are your competitors doing that you're not?
Create space to think
What we can do is nurture sparks of creativity.
Crucial to that is dedicating space and time to exploring, playing and wondering. Finding this time doesn't happen by accident. It takes deliberate planning and conscious thought.
Expand your field of view
When you move to a new environment, the brain shifts, and you can think differently. So, when you want creative inspiration, move somewhere else, go outdoors, spend time in nature or do something new, and see how the change generates new thoughts.
Similarly, have a broad network of contacts and read widely. If you only read from one genre or one style, you narrow your field of view. When you read widely and seek knowledge from a broad range of sources and people, your potential ideas are limitless. You will be able to bridge gaps and draw new connections from a wide range of sources.
Remember, when it comes to creativity, sleep is one of your best friends. During sleep or when we are resting and reflecting, we often come up with our best ideas. By stepping away from the busy energy of the day-to-day routine, you have space to see things differently.
So you don't lose your thoughts, keep a notebook and write down your ideas, even the ones that aren't yet fully formed. Often ideas arise during the night when your brain is doing its nightly processing, so keep a notebook by your bed, and as soon as you wake up, write your thoughts down.
Creativity is an iterative process, so keep collecting, refining, reflecting and enjoy the exploration.
Michelle Gibbings is a workplace expert and the author of three books. Her latest book is Bad Boss: What to do if you work for one, manage one or are one.