Creativity isn’t just for “creatives.” Rather, it’s a mental tool prized by employers across all fields. Many believe it’s the key to business success, even if the word itself has become overused and blasé.

If you’ve been feeling uninspired recently, never fear: Research shows that creativity can be learned, just like any other skill. Everyone has this potential, but not everyone takes the time and effort to transform it from a potential into a strength.

You can’t force yourself to be creative on demand, but you can try your hardest to coax it out of yourself and your colleagues. Check out these tips to spark creativity in the workplace.

1. Have a hobby —any hobby

You shouldn’t expect to churn out good ideas if you’ve stopped growing the organ that comes up with them. Across all departments, exercise, art, music and other outside hobbies can vastly improve your creative abilities. You’ll also carry over that creative energy to your work, which impacts the way you approach problem solving and ideation.

Investing in creative after-work activities with your team is also a solid idea. Go out for a pick-up game, barre yoga, or wine and painting, for example.

Alternatively, have everyone stay in and create together. Work with whatever medium gives you the most clarity: On a whiteboard or wide swaths of blank paper, with clay or even Legos.

You could also turn these sessions into a weekly creative hour on a lax day of the week, where your team can problem-solve using these mediums. And rather than tackling work-related issues, try some crazy prompts to blow off steam — the creative way.

2. Set aside time to find inspiration and be creative

It’s frighteningly easy to get caught up in the same daily routine. Exposing yourself to plentiful outside experiences for inspiration is critical for forming new ideas — and avoiding the same old ones. Browse thought leaders’ online work, read a novel, free draw, talk to a friend or step outside.

Do this at the start or end of your day, preferably in distraction-free solitude, when you have the time and energy to digest all these components and turn them into connections.

You should also enforce a weekly creative block. If you set aside two hours every Tuesday at 3 p.m., you’ll have at least eight hours per month for both new and long-standing creative work projects.

3. Be OK with failure in a fail-happy environment

Whether you’re in a position of power or not, cultivate an office culture that rewards creative risk-taking.

Human nature regularly balks at the most innovative ideas proposed. But it’s critical that brainstorms and discussions take place in a feeling of confidence, not fear of ridicule or rejection.

Plus, the sooner you embrace the fact that not every idea will be successful, the more wantonly you can produce ideas.

4. Have something to write on 

 

PencilCup

IMAGE: FLICKR, ANGIE GARRETT

 

Something magical happens when you put pen to paper.

Writing down an idea can help grow it into something substantial, whether that idea takes the form of a quick drawing, a color or the perfect adjective. This can be vital to the creative process, especially for visual work. If an idea comes to you, physically sketching it out can feel more substantial than simply pulling out your phone and putting it into Evernote.

Also consider mind-mapping, which helps you form connections among ideas.

5. Keep a running idea file

As you find interesting ideas, throw them into a text file. You can review this every couple of weeks and see if anything catches your eye.

Use Google Docs, iCloud, or even index cards or Post-Its you can search through and cross-index.

Read more: 10 Ways to Spark Creativity in the Workplace

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