Evolutionary scientists have suggested that it's the human ability to think creatively that truly separates us from our animal cousins. So now that you know it comes naturally, don’t just sit around waiting, pencil in hand, for that burst of creativity to give you your next great business idea! If you're feeling uninspired, there are lots of ways to help yourself. Have a look at MOO's top ten:
1. Play "How many uses does a paperclip have?"
This is an easy game you can play by yourself. Take any household object – a paperclip is just one example – and write down as many different uses for it as you can in five minutes. Then, try again, but this time, spend 30 seconds before writing just staring straight ahead, moving your eyes horizontally side to side (this is meant to increase the communication between the brain's different hemispheres). Your new list is likely to be much longer and more inventive!
2. Feed your brain
When you're starting a long journey, you put enough fuel in your car – so why not treat your brain the same way when you're putting it through its paces? Tried and tested brain foods known to boost creativity include wholegrains, walnuts, almonds, pecans, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, eggs, green tea, avocados, spinach, broccoli, red cabbage and dark chocolate.
3. Make a list - 100 ways to (insert your goal here!)
Lists can help clarify your jumbled thoughts, and from a list of 100, you are sure to find one idea to run with. Take the question you're trying to answer – such as "What should my new business be?" – and write 100 answers to the question. The idea is to take your mind by surprise, allowing it no time to censor itself. There are only two rules – make the entire list in one sitting, and don't get distracted.
4. Get less sleep
Most people sleep far too much if left to their own devices and though it's long been thought that 8 hours is the optimum amount an adult needs to function, many people report getting more done on less. Don't stay up all night – but try not to sleep in either.
5. Start "Janusian thinking"
Janus was the two-faced Roman goddess who looks forwards as well as backwards (hence the month of January being named for her). Janusian thinking is the technique of forcing together unlikely ideas or ridiculous circumstances to spark something completely unique. So if your idea for a new business seems lacklustre, ask yourself something like "How would I sell this to a Martian?"
6. Immerse yourself in the absurd
Some artists have a propensity for the absurd, but most people are simply looking to find order in chaos, and meaning from experience. Participants in a study proved that those reading Kafka before completing a pattern recognition task were more successful than those who didn't. Try it yourself – read a few chapters of Alice in Wonderland (or a bit of Dr. Seuss) and see what you come up with.
7. Get the Medici effect
In his book The Medici Effect, author Frans Johasson expounds one very simple concept – the intersection of ideas from different disciplines, cultures and fields, in order to generate new ones. So if you have two ideas for two very different businesses, why not brainstorm ways in which you could combine the two? It may seem ridiculous, but you might just discover the next big thing.
8. Keep your stomach rumbling
If an animal is hungry, it will focus all its energy on finding food. Similarly, a Yale Medical School study proved that slightly hungry mice take in and retain information better than fully fed mice, due to a hormone produced by the stomach lining when the stomach is empty. This hormone, Ghrelin, also directly affects the part of the brain that controls learning and intelligence. So even when you're reaching for the brain foods – make sure you leave some on the plate!
9. Go all Jack Kerouac
Beat author Jack Kerouac pioneered a literary technique known as spontaneous prose, or stream of consciousness. He would put a roll of paper into his typewriter, and type – no stopping, no editing, no thought. Also known as "meditative writing", this is a tried and tested technique for writers suffering writer's block, to open up the subconscious mind and see what's inside.
10. Move abroad and learn another language
This one's deliberately last, because it's the most drastic – and potentially the most rewarding. If you're really determined to start a new venture, but can't quite unleash the creative juices, studies have proved that moving abroad and learning a foreign language is the perfect way to perform better creatively. Bon Voyage!