Too many people say to themselves: "I'm just not creative." But creativity is a skill that can be developed with practice and dedication. It's about solving problems and refusing to take no for an answer. The most creative people I know ignore what's widely accepted in favor of the unconventional. Let's face it: some of the best ideas -- like cellphones, for example -- were once considered too out there.
But exercising your creativity shouldn't be a chore. Sitting alone in a room, forcing yourself to come up with new ideas is unproductive. Let yourself be inspired and stimulated by the world around you. In the early stages of idea generation, it's not about what's actually feasible. The more ludicrous my ideas are, the better.
To inspire new ideas and force myself to think outside the box, I play these three games:
What two products could be brought together for the first time to create a new one? Don't be afraid to get unconventional. Walk down the aisle of your favorite retail store and ideas abound. For example, the decision to combine a flashlight with a screwdriver was ingenious. It's now possible to work in dark areas without having to hold a flashlight. And of course, what would our phones be without a camera?
One of my students came up with the idea to combine a license plate frame with a dry erase board. People want to have their license plate reflect their interests and style and with this product, they're able to craft and modify their own unique message whenever they want.
Tune into the world around you and question everything. How could things be better? Listen to the complaints of your friends and family. What difficulties do they encounter in daily life? What annoyances do you deal with in your own life? Identify problems, and start throwing out solutions. A lot of entrepreneurs and inventors work this way.
One of my favorite examples is a product one of my students created to help people better organize their stuff. He noticed his wife was always rifling through her purse, unable to find what she needed. In response, he developed a bag insert with adjustable elastic bands that hold items in place so that they're easy to find.
What if you could listen to music while swimming? What if you could throw a Frisbee three times the length you can now? Don't be afraid to let your mind wander and dream. What do you really wish were possible? One of my students wondered: "What if I could track how and when my children grow?" As an alternative to pencil markings on the wall, he created a magnetic height chart for the fridge.
The more you exercise your creative muscle, the easier it will be to regularly create new products and services that improve people's lives.
Related: How to Outwit Your Competition
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