Unleash your creativity. And zebras.

Day in and day out you're inundated with routine tasks. And they're important tasks, don't get me wrong. You need to get the little things done to move your business forward. But in between those daily obligations there will be pockets of time when you will need to unleash your creativity. Let's say, you're just starting out and need to come up with a company name and a logo. Or perhaps you're thinking about launching a new product and need to develop a branding strategy for it. Or you simply want to find an innovative solution to a tough problem. Whatever may be the case, you will need to tap into your "right brain" to get the idea juices flowing. Whether you do it alone or with your team, the best way to get this done is to... 

SHOCK IT.

That's right. Unleash the zebras. No zebras in your office? Imagine them. Can you imagine every single one of your employees as a zebra? How about a zebra with the head of an ant? A giant ant-zebra thing galloping through the corridors of your office building, startling neighbors below with muffled stomping on the cleanly vacuumed carpet. Can you picture it? Great. We're halfway on the path of untangling the neural networks of your inner artsy beast. Here are a few techniques you can try to unlock it further.

1. Switch hands.

If you're right handed, like 70-90% of the world population, start writing with your left hand. It will be slow and awkward at first. Persevere. It will be fun, too. You'll feel like you're back in the elementary school, sweating over perfect cursive. If you’re left-handed, try the reverse. I honestly don't know if this will work the same way, as I'm right-handed, but I assume it will. Do it for a few minutes. Feel the difference? It's fantastic to see what this little trick does to activate the right side of your brain, to get you in a creative state of mind.

2. Write a poem. Draw. Paint.

Yes, you heard me right. Write a poem about zebras. Why not? Zebras ate bananas while grazing on savannas. Prefer doodling or drawing? No problem. Take out an easel and tubes of paint or make it into a fun outing with your team to an art store and buy some. Get back, set it up, think of something simple and pleasant, like apples or flowers or penguins, and go for it. Try to solve your problem via creative expression. This works almost the same was as does writing with your left hand, although it's less pronounced. If you are not in the mood to produce something yourself, just reading a page from your favorite philosopher or poet might do the trick. Better yet, read it aloud, to yourself or to your team. It will help you visualize it better.

3. Force your brain into “panic mode." 

Release the adrenaline. A fight-or-flight response produces an effect close to the state of heightened artistic perception. Your senses sharpen, your pupils dilate, your heart rate goes up, your body gets metabolized to create instant energy. Most importantly, your logical thinking gets dulled, replaced by instinctive responses that are usually the prerogative of artists. You can induce the state of real danger with a few simple techniques. Set an impossible deadline for yourself. Make it real. Use an egg timer with an annoying sound. Or, back to zebrasforce yourself to write 10 sentences that solve your problem by using the word “zebra” in each sentence. Try to do so it actually makes sense. It's hard, if not impossible. It will get you into panic mode. 

4. Write down ideas you get in the shower.

Always carry a little notepad and pen with you, or have a note app on your phone where you can type in ideas you get while taking a shower, or driving a car (write them down after you stopped, of course), or running, or cooking. In other words, any time your brain is set on a task that doesn't require a lot of thinking or performs on autopilot and your thoughts are free-roaming. If you're not a fan of typing, you can record them as a voice message for yourself, to listen to later. They might sound silly to you at the time you come up with them, but later on they might lead to something more important, like the first link in the chain of events.

Your to-do list:

  • Write solutions to your problem with a hand different from the one you typically use.
  • Write a poem about your problem, or draw or paint the solution to it.
  • Read aloud a poem, or your favorite philosopher, or a novel, then get back to problem solving. 
  • Set a timer and write several solutions to your problem with the word "zebra" in each sentence.
  • Take notes on ideas you get outside of work and read through them to see if they can help you solve the problem at hand.