10 ways to get your creative juices flowing

Our friends at the Young Entrepreneurship Council asked ten entrepreneurs to share how they spur creative thinking — both internally and throughout their team. Here’s what they found:

Mind mapping works like a champ

“Start with a topic or question, and mindmap your way around it. Don’t censor yourself as you come up with all the surrounding topics and bubbles that go with your initial topics. This type of “hyperlinked” thinking is what allows us to come up with new ideas. You can also go really deep on a thread, which can help spur creativity in other threads of your mindmap. Mindmap as a group, and this takes on a whole new life!”

– Nathalie Lussier | Creator, The Website Checkup Tool

Turn to your trusted resources

“When I hit a creative road block, I turn to other entrepreneurs for inspiration. Usually, I hit those road blocks at weird hours of the night, so I keep a business-related book or a copy of Entrepreneur or Inc. Magazine close by. I find that spending 15 minutes or so digesting other entrepreneurs’ thoughts and opinions does the trick and gets my creative juices flowing right away. I use a similar tactic when it comes to spurring creativity in my team. During our team meetings, everyone is required to share an article, story, quote or anything else that gave them creative inspiration this week.”

– Kevin Tighe II | Co-founder and CEO, WeBRAND

Fun equals creative thinking

“It sounds simple, but some of the best ideas come from having fun and not thinking about business. Get your team out of the office and take them out somewhere. Not having an “office atmosphere” allows people to open up and be themselves. Not only will it give you the opportunity to get to know them, but also the chance to let the creativity flow.”

– Ashley Bodi | co-founder, Business Beware

Look outside your field

“One of the best ways to jog my creativity is to consume media totally outside my interests. If I’m at the airport, I’ll pick up a magazine about farming or architecture. I’ll watch a documentary about a subject I don’t know much about or go see an experimental play. Listen to a random Pandora channel in a genre you usually don’t listen to. I think ideas tend to slow down when you get into a rut with the things you see every day. Even taking a different route on a walk can help a lot!”

– Caitlin McCabe | Founder & CEO, Real Bullets Branding

Movement gets me going

“Our bodies provide as much information as our heads, but we usually ignore them in our work lives. You know, simply taking a walk while talking about important things makes the conversation more meaningful. So why do we sit in conference rooms instead of walking and talking? To think creatively, keep moving. What do I do? Bollywood dance breaks! Seriously — I have Bollywood-inspired Innovative Moves workshops.”

– Erica Dhawan | CEO, Erica Dhawan, LLC

Get the ball rolling and don’t stop

“Creativity comes often when one least expects it: in the shower, walking to work or in the middle of the night. These moments are gifts not to be wasted, but they’re also impossible to schedule into team’s meetings. As a founder, my company relies on me to take the lead on creative discussions, so I created a simple process to get the intellectual momentum going. We start by going into a conference room where we break down a problem or topic into its smallest possible parts. As ideas flow, we post them up onto our walls with flip chart paper. Surrounded by the information, people naturally start connecting the dots and the creative juices start flowing. Once you hit a rhythm, embrace whatever topics come into focus, dig deep and never let ridged schedules derail your flow.”

– Christopher Kelly | Co-Founder, Principal, Convene

Get completely uncomfortable

“I’ve always found creative ideas come when you’re trying to do something new… and find out that you’re bad at it. Take a cooking class, try rock climbing, learn to play a new instrument. Inevitably, you will encounter some difficulties when experiencing something for the first time, and your brain will get to work. A lot of times, I end up saying to myself, “this is really hard…why don’t people just do ‘x’ to make it easier?” Or, “this is great, but it would be so much better if ‘y’ was added to the experience!” Putting yourself in uncomfortable situations where your brain isn’t used to operating is a great way to get those creative juices flowing!”

– David Stankunas | President and Founder, Beard Head, Inc.

Spark visual conversations

“By painting our walls with IdeaPaint, we’ve been able to have a lot of conversations by drawing out what we imagine. Instead of our ideas floating around in the air, we put them out on the wall for everyone to look at and soak in. This caters to those who are visual and audio learners and ultimately brings everyone together for a better, more creative brainstorm.”

– Bobby Emamian | CEO, Prolific Interactive

Wine helps creativity flow

“There is a reason why happy hour is such a crucial thing for co-workers to participate in together. Allow your employees to unleash their ideas outside the confining walls of an office over a glass or two of wine. You’ll be surprised how quickly the combination of a relaxed environment, and some vino will transform a casual hang out into an innovative meeting that just might leave you with a whole new creative direction.”

– Erika London | Co-Founder, iAdventure.com

Place, purpose and post-its

“First, take your team somewhere stimulating. The beach, a grassy field, or even couches will do. If you go outside, be sure to bring some cardboard to use as an idea wall. Next, frame the discussion. “This morning we are generating ideas. Our goal is to come up with as many ideas as possible in 10 minutes. Wacky ideas are welcome – they might lead us somewhere unexpected and exciting.” Throw, slide, or pass colored markers or pencils and sticky pads to everyone. Everyone then captures ideas as fast as they can in 10 minutes before sharing them. Depending on the size of your team, you will have twenty to several hundred ideas. Rinse and repeat. Each set of ideas will spark other ideas. Then your challenge will be moving to analysis mode!”

– Kevon Saber | Cofounder , Fig

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

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