Highly structured lives, busy schedules and constant communication mean that employees today have less of a propensity to be creative. We think we have to buy tools, refurnish offices, and hire consultants to help us be creative, when what we really need is a little old fashioned down time.

Ironically, the innovation that has led us to this point is what’s stopping us from continuing. We need to get back to the basics to be creative.

Here are three forgotten ways to boost creativity.

Be bored.

Remember when you were a kid and you told your parents you were bored? What was their response? While today’s parents would hand over an iPhone to play with, the old-fashioned response would be something to the effect of “A little boredom will do you good.” It turns out they were right. A study by Mann and Cadman reported in the Creativity Research Journal shows that being bored can elicit divergent thinking — the generation of new and different ideas. (read more…)

Today marks the anniversary of Thomas Edison’s birth in 1847. Modern society owes a debt of gratitude to this man who invented the incandescent light bulb, phonograph and early movie cameras, amassing 1,093 U.S. patents for these and other inventions.

What can we learn from innovators such as Edison, especially in how they cultivated cultures of creativity and innovation?

Edison famously said, “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” Continuous experimentation, learning from one’s failures and persevering were obvious aspects of the culture Edison cultivated among the team supporting him.

A closer look at Edison and other successful inventors shows that creativity and innovation are social in nature, and frequently arise when a fragment of knowledge from one domain is combined with a fragment in another domain. For example, the shoe was combined with the wheel to create roller skates, and the shape of a waffle was adapted to hold a scoop of ice cream, giving us the waffle cone. (read more…)

Allowing people room to conceive and try things. Bringing in “troublemakers and tinkerers.” Encouraging ideas from everyone, then allowing “people to collide and generate ideas.”

These traits are part of the process that allows companies to adapt to change, to disrupt themselves and fend off competitors, and improve without losing sight of what they are. But it wasn’t just speaker Dirk Beveridge of 4th Generation Systems saying this — it was a CEO of a $50 million company and a corporate sales manager of a $1.6 billion operation. They model these traits as part of their vision, instill them in the culture, and ultimately inspire companies that iterate, think and adapt with guidance, but not micromanagement, from their leaders.

All this matters because, as Scott McKain said later on Thursday at the NAW 2015 Executive Summit, “Great isn’t good enough to grow a business in today’s economy.” If you are doing great work but can’t say what makes you different than your competitors, than your marketplace, then you aren’t differentiated or truly focused on customers. (read more…)

Early in the year, many leaders will take their teams “off-site” for a day or more. An off-site meeting can be a great way to develop strategy, get creative, develop a team, learn and re-invigorate a team. Of course, they can also be like a sentence in purgatory if not planned and run well.

There is plenty of advice on how to run effective meetings, but not enough on planning. A well planned meeting can prevent a lot of the problems associated with bad meetings. Given that off-sites typically involve more time and people than regular team meetings, more thought needs to be put into preparation.

Here’s a few planning tips that will ensure your upcoming offsite is a fun, productive and rewarding experience, and doesn’t turn into an all-day meeting from hell.

1. Ask: “What is the overall purpose of the meeting?” Is it to develop a three-year strategy? (read more…)

The term “smart creative” is often heard today in the hallways and conference rooms of some of the nation’s leading tech companies. Not surprising, since it was coined by Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman. But the concept is not necessarily unique to Google, or even to the tech world.

Smart creatives (SCs) can be found almost anywhere, from the corner coffeehouse to the corner office.

  • How can you tell if you are a smart creative?
  • How can you spot a smart creative?
  • How can you maximize smart creatives’ potential in your organization?

Here are four key characteristics to look for:

  1. They are master integrators. SCs are analytically savvy but also business savvy. They know how to analyze problems and issues, but they avoid getting stuck in analysis paralysis. Instead, they use their analytical skills to create excellent products and services. They know what the consumer wants because they are early adopters themselves, power users of their own products.
  2. (read more…)