Get Creative! 4 Ways to Breakthrough

Getting "creative" doesn’t usually come as quickly as you’d like. In a high pressure world to breakthrough, today I’m sharing new research, and four ideas, that support how you can “get creative.”

There is new research evidence that substantiates how the act of walking stimulates creativity. The report from Stanford University researchers said “walking outside produced the most novel and highest quality analogies. Walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity.” 

Among participants, 81 percent improved their creative output when walking. People “became more talkative and within that chatter were higher-quality creative ideas.”

For those of us in marketing, our job is to “get creative.” Meetings and conference calls can be good for generating group-think ideas, but in my experience, it’s the solitude of thinking deeply while walking, or engaging in other non-work activities, that result in the best creative outcomes.

With that in mind, I share my top four ways to “get creative.”

  1. Take a walk. Taking frequent walks—daily when my schedule permits—have been one of my obsessions for years. I’ve made it a point to live where great walking trails are just steps from my door. Before I start my walk, I read or research the specific topic that I’m thinking through so I’m set in the right frame of mind.
  2. Go to the gym. Like many people, I really have to crank up my motivation to hit the gym. But every time I’m walking out the door of the gym after a work-out, I can honestly say I haven’t regretted the time. As I mentioned about walking, it’s helpful to put a specific problem or task in your mind before a work-out.
  3. Engage in a hobby. For over 23 years, I’ve sung in Vocal Majority. It requires weekly rehearsals plus about 15-20 public appearances annually. In our time-crunched lives, it’s really tough to carve out an evening a week for rehearsals, plus one or two evenings for performances each month. But some of my best ideas have come while I’m rehearsing or performing while my thoughts are away from work.
  4. Get out of the office. This one is easier for those of us who freelance (I’m writing this from a coffee shop). Not so easy if you work inside an office. So a word for senior managers: encourage your marketing and creative staff to leave the office and think—and if practical, take a walk outside.

Finally, a word about the amount of time a marketing or creative person should set aside to be creative. My personal recommendation is a balance of one to two hours daily should be allocated for any of these suggestions. To some, this may seem like way too much time away from a desk or computer screen. But from personal experience, it’s what most creative people need to stay on top of their game. 

But the bigger challenge may be to give yourself permission to go about activities that help you “get creative.” You (or your boss) may need to suspend work ethic guilt to make any of these recommendations work. It’s why Google has an 80/20 rule that encourages employees to spend 20% of their time on passion projects not directly impacting their normal job. Or why some companies have a gym inside their the office.