As an entrepreneur, your job is to be one step ahead of the market, always ready with the next big idea. Whether you want to design a new product or disrupt a market, you need to be able to come up with creative solutions for problems of everyday life.
Creativity often eludes us because we’re accustomed to certain norms. “We’re highly socialized and have fixed assumptions about what the world looks like,” says Barry Staw, an organizational behaviorist at University of California, Berkeley. “You have to try to envision another world.”
To do that, Staw suggests a series of exercises, all designed to help you consider a wider range of options as you brainstorm.
As you do each of these exercises, resist judging your ideas for as long as possible. “A creative person is willing to suspend their caveats for a longer period of time,” Staw says. The selection process can come down the road — creativity requires freedom.
To flex your creative muscles, try these three easy exercises:
1. Re-imagine a familiar situation. To think more creatively, consider alternatives to obvious choices. If you assume that a restaurant will buy and prepare the ingredients for your meal, then make a list of other options. Perhaps the customers bring their own ingredients for the chef to prepare, or the restaurant provides ingredients that customers cook at their tables. “Think of opposites or radical differences,” Staw says.
That exercise can lead to exciting new business ideas. For example, companies like Bag Borrow or Steal and Rent the Runway, which both allow customers to rent high fashion goods, started as alternatives to the assumption that we have to own our wardrobes.