As an entrepreneur and founder, you’re constantly forced to solve complex problems, whether it’s responding to high-level competitive pressure or figuring out how you can make a tight client deadline without completely shattering your profit margin. There’s rarely a single “right” solution, and you know the best solutions require some lateral thinking. Unfortunately, even the most creative and experienced people can’t summon a creative solution by sheer force of will.
Instead, you’re better off creating conditions that allow you to brainstorm more freely, ultimately coming up with a more diverse array of possible solutions. But how can you improve your brainstorming process?
1. Mix Solitude and Group Exercises
If you have a team of people, you’ll want to leverage them in your brainstorming sessions — but only some of the time. Group-based brainstorming has a ton of advantages: You’ll get the benefits of several different-thinking minds, and you can help each other flesh out a nugget of an idea.
However, groups are also susceptible to groupthink; in an inefficient meeting, you could end up wasting time. Accordingly, you’re usually best off utilizing a combination of solitary and group-based brainstorming exercises.
2. Get Bored
When you’re trying to find the perfect solution to a pressing problem, it’s tempting to drop everything and focus on that problem. You crank your brain to 11 to start thinking about the problem as hard as you can. Unfortunately, this approach is usually counterproductive. Overthinking will not only prevent you from thinking in novel, creative ways, but it will also tire you out and prevent you from working productively.
Instead, it’s much better to give yourself time to relax. Think about the problem for a while, and focus on it, but then walk away. You can go on a walk, take a long shower, or simply sit in a park. Whatever you do, let your mind relax. There’s a reason we come up with our best ideas in the shower; even when we’re not aggressively thinking, our brains are doing background work, combining different ideas to try to solve the problem. If you give your brain enough time, it will probably come up with something actionable.
3. Achieve a Different State of Mind
Any psychedelic rock fan will tell you that one of the best ways to achieve more creativity and improve your brainstorming is to alter your state of mind. Depending on what’s legal in your state, you may have a few options. For example, the biggest dispensary in Arizona offers a wide selection of cannabis, which you can peruse if you have a medical card. If you live in a state with recreationally legalized cannabis, you may have even more options.
Of course, psychedelic drugs aren’t the only way to achieve a different state of mind. Some people swear by meditation. By practicing mindfulness meditation consistently, you can eventually get to a different “level” of consciousness, allowing you to think in different ways. Even if you don’t experience a next-level realization, meditation can help you relax, allowing you to come to a better solution naturally.
4. Surround Yourself With Art
The best works of art are the products of people thinking outside the box. If you expose yourself to that art, you’ll undoubtedly be affected by its novelty. You might find yourself thinking in slightly different ways or discovering something new about your problem.
Fortunately, there are many ways you can surround yourself with art, and all of them can have a positive impact. For some, the best approach is to hang pieces of abstract art on the walls and stare into them when you’re facing a tough problem. For others, it’s to play experimental music or their favorite genre of music. Whatever you choose, make sure to change things up occasionally to keep it fresh.
5. Change Your Surroundings and Routine
We often find ourselves thinking in the same ways because we’re always in the same place, doing the same tasks in the same order. You can alter your thought processes just by breaking those routines. Work in a coffee shop or a co-working space. Take a different route to work. Anything different can be helpful.
You’ll never be able to force creative, genius ideas. Experiment with many different methods, including the ones you’re skeptical of; it’s hard to tell what will work for you and what won’t, so everything is worth a try. Either way, you’ll be shaking off the cobwebs and moving toward something new.