Tapping Your Inner Muse

Follow this road map to creativity.

By SHARE

Are you creative enough? With more and more jobs in today's economy requiring creativity, workers often need to come up with new ideas, as opposed to simply following protocol. Here are some ways to sharpen your mind-and those of your employees.

FOR INDIVIDUALS

Branch out. Read a magazine you would never normally look at, suggests Todd Henry, founder of the Accidental Creative, an online forum and podcast. "You need to be intentional about experiencing new things in your life," he says. Collect ideas and interesting articles in a folder that you review regularly for inspiration.

Recharge. Henry says that people tend to think about time management but neglect energy management. Take time out between meetings. Avoid socializing with people who leave you feeling drained. Set aside time each week for relaxation.

Protect your time. Don't let anyone interrupt the creative time you set aside for yourself. For Henry, it's at 5:30 a.m., before the rest of his family wakes up.

Get into a "relationship" with art. Whether it's museums or music, Gregg Fraley, creativity consultant and author of Jack's Notebook, a novel about creative problem solving, suggests incorporating art into your life because it can inspire you to approach your work in new ways. Fraley recently started playing guitar.

Write down your ideas. Fraley says people have lots of good ideas, but they ignore and then forget them. He suggests keeping a notebook handy.

When you're stuck, take a break. Brad Fregger, author of Get Things Done: Ten Secrets of Creating and Leading Exceptional Teams, says whenever his employees were struggling with a creative problem, he asked them to work on something else for an hour. That mental break allowed them to see their problem with a new perspective and make a breakthrough, he says.

FOR LEADERS

Foster a climate of trust. Marty Sklar, executive vice president of Walt Disney Imagineering, says it's important to prevent people from spending time worrying about whether management will support their creative endeavors.

Blend workers of different experience levels. Some of the best ideas for Disney theme park adventures have come from people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s, Sklar says, so don't count out the older generation while giving younger workers the opportunity to grow.

Never dismiss someone's idea as stupid. "If you tell someone they have a stupid idea, you'll probably never get another one from them," says Sklar. Plus, he adds, ideas that appear dumb at first often generate new, useful ideas.

Let your employees pursue their passions. If people are working on projects they enjoy, then they will be more creative, says Fregger.

Tell employees to think like a boss. "We encourage our employees to think like owners.... It frees up a lot of the boundaries," says Wendy Miller, chief marketing officer for Bain & Co.

Embrace diversity. Miller says Bain recruits people from top business schools as well as concert violinists and top athletes. "That diversity is very helpful in not getting too narrow and bogged down," she says.