Innovate Yourself

Innovate Yourself

Too worn out, stressed out and spaced out to be creative? Here’s how to get (and stay) in the innovation zone.

By Taylor Mallory

Innovation has been a buzz word for years, but thanks to the economy, it’s a hot topic you can’t afford to ignore. Of course, being creative and forward-thinking can be challenging when you’re so busy doing. But there are some easy (and fun!) ways to get your creative juices flowing – and develop a future-oriented way of thinking, says Sarah Miller Caldicott, great grandniece of Thomas Edison and author of Innovate Like Edison. Here she shares her best strategies for unleashing your inner innovator.

1. Be a trend watcher – even if a topic doesn’t pertain directly to your work. “I read the Wall Street Journal every day, and without fail, there is something on some trend – whether it’s what’s going on in China or in the auto industry or in the fishing industry in Malaysia,” says Caldicott. She often clips or writes them down. “It helps you develop a future orientation, which is very important to innovators.”

2. Read books (fiction or non-fiction) outside of your area of work. “Science fiction is particularly great for innovators. It helps you develop a fantastical mind by letting you imagine things that don’t really exist,” she says, pointing out that Edison loved Jules Verne, who pioneered the genre.

3. Maintain an idea notebook, and keep it with you at all times, so you can jot down anything that comes to you. Edison did this, and so did Picasso, Virginia Woolf, Einstein and many famous scientists and thinkers, says Calicott, who notes ideas for article titles or client projects whenever they come to her. “This creates more neural connections in your brain, opening up more pathways you can use for thinking. And the more you write, the more ideas you’ll get.”

4. Change pace if you’re feeling too stressed out or over-extended to think creatively. “We get so busy we forget how to reboot. Literally slowing down (taking a walk, reading, relaxing) activates the exchange of info between the left and right side of your brain,” says Caldicott, who takes walks when she needs to think creatively. “When you re-engage, the ideas will come so much easier. You’ll have your ah-ha moment without expending so much energy.”

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