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How To Think Creatively and Innovatively in Business


  1. Act Like it’s the First Day of School
  2. Exercise Boosts Creativity
  3. Question Everything
  4. Set Limitations

Creativity and innovation are terms that get thrown around a lot these days when it comes to leadership styles and techniques. But what exactly are they and what makes them different from each other?

Let’s turn to the late Harvard Economist, Theodore Levitt, to clear the whole thing up...

“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.”

Thanks, Theo!

His quote perfectly demonstrates that it’s not enough to think creatively, your actions have to take those ideas and put them into practice in order to be innovative.

In terms of business, creativity and innovation can seem like quite elusive terms to pin down, so let’s look at the practical methods you can use to actually think creatively and act innovatively in a business environment.

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1. Act Like it’s the First Day of School

Act Like The First Day Of School

Do you remember your first day of school? Do you remember the feeling of seeing everything for the first time? All bright-eyed and bushy-tailed?

That feeling is where creativity thrives!

In your role, try to think back to your first day, more specifically, your first impressions. Try to tap into that feeling and see everything with a fresh perspective. This technique will help you stand back from the old way of doing things and look for new avenues to take your team.

After all, just because a business process or culture has existed for a long time, it doesn’t mean it can’t be improved upon.

By placing yourself in the shoes of someone coming to your organisation for the first time, you can gain an insight into what their impressions might be. Could you be doing more to inspire creativity and innovation from the first day?

This question will pave the way to creating a strategy that will help inspire new ways of working and lead to brand new innovation as well as stopping your team from getting used to the lay of the land and losing inspiration.

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2. Exercise Boosts Creativity

Exercise Boosts Creativity

It’s clear that exercise is good for the mind and body. It keeps us healthy and generally more alert for longer, but did you know that it can help to boost creativity?

Some of the most well-known thinkers ever, such as Immanuel Kant, Henry David Thoreau, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Friedrich Nietzsche, made a point to go for walks in order to inspire thought. But is it all just a load of ambling nonsense?

Well, a study from Stanford University found that walking, either indoors or outdoors, boosted creative inspiration. But was it just the change of scenery that inspired new thinking? Well, the study found that the actual act of walking, not the environment itself, was the main factor for the spike in creativity.

I recommend you use the following framework to help you get the balance in these four areas to increase your vitality:

  • Movement
  • Diet
  • Quiet
  • Sleep

So, get up from behind that desk and walk head-on into innovation - ouch!

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3. Question Everything

Question Everything

One of the main reasons for a lack of creative thinking is assuming that things are going fine.

When it comes to championing innovation, ‘fine’ isn’t good enough.

When looking to do things more innovatively, you need to put every process you have up for scrutinisation - leave nothing out. Be curious in every aspect of your role and question what could be done better. The best leaders never stop looking for ways to improve their processes.

If you’re struggling, take a look at some existing ideas out there. Don’t just copy at what your competitors are doing - that isn’t creativity, it’s mimicry. Look outward and see if you can combine a few concepts into new ideas for you and your team.

Get your team together and brainstorm some new ideas for each process you undertake in your organisation. Cast your mind back, try to think about the reasons you’ve currently been doing things that way and think differently. Listen to your team and challenge them to think creatively.

You’ll soon find that the time you took to think creatively has been successfully converted into innovative processes.

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4. Set Limitations

Set Limitations

Creativity is limitless, boundless and endless. While these all sound like brilliant concepts, ironically, when faced with no boundaries whatsoever, it can be very difficult to think of anything at all. That’s why setting limitations is an amazing way of conjuring up new ideas.

Writer and actor, John Cleese, is a great believer in setting limitations to inspire creative thinking:

“You have to create boundaries of space and then you have to create boundaries of time.”

By doing this, you narrow your thinking and, in a strange way, inspire thought that might have been difficult to reach when faced with endless possibilities.

Let’s put this in a business context. You wouldn’t come up with a new strategy without knowing what goals you’re trying to achieve. It’s these targets that inspire the creativity needed to meet them.

Setting limitations works in the same way. Let your team know what you want to achieve, give them the space to think creatively and, pretty soon, you’ll have innovation on your hands.

So, consider the way you do things and look at what limitations you have for that process. By knowing the parameters you’re working within, you can throw the rulebook out the window and look for pathways as far reaching as your limitations will allow you.

“I think frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out.” - Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon

This kind of thinking helps keep your ideas realistic and applicable.

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These methods are not just things for you to consider. To build a creatively thinking organisation, you need to get your team to follow these methods in their roles too.

Don’t be put off by thinking everything has been done before. Remember that connecting existing ideas counts as creativity and combining strategies to make a process is innovation.

By using these methods, you can find new ways to think creatively and convert that thinking, helping you build a team that champions innovation at every step of the way.

Don’t hesitate - create and innovate!

Every success,

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About the author

Graham Wilson

Graham Wilson

I enjoy and specialise in teaching leadership skills, how to create winning strategies, how to build high performance cultures. Outcomes and results are the most important measures for me!