How (and why!) to be more creative at work

If you want to get to the top, you need to be able to show your creativity. It’s the quality that was singled out by the majority of 1,500 company leaders surveyed on what it takes to succeed.

It’s notoriously difficult to be creative on demand – when ideas are called for in that high-pressure meeting, sometimes you just draw a blank. But with practice and a bit of know-how, it gets easier: here are some of the tips and tricks successful people try to keep their creativity in peak condition.

Keep a journal or scrapbook

One way of being creative under pressure is to make sure you’re always filing away good ideas whenever you come across them. Keeping a notebook full of inspiration means you won’t just have ideas written down, you’ll be more likely to remember them.

Author Joseph Grenny says he highlights interesting ideas as he reads, then pastes key lines into a document, helping him to remember them and “to conjure fertile connections” later.

Start new conversations

Sometimes a new perspective that can offer you a rich source of ideas, and there are few better ways of acquiring it than by speaking with a wide variety of people. Try attending conferences in your field or simply inviting people from other departments into your meeting for a fresh look at things.

“It’s critical that you amass as much knowledge and perspectives from the broadest range as possible. Creativity, after all, is all about combining knowledge in new and unique ways,” says Jim Miller, CEO of 3D printing company Arevo.

Visualise the problem with a sketch

If talking about the issue isn’t producing a solution, you might try another approach altogether. Research suggests that doodling can improve our focus on a task and help with creativity.

“When the mind starts to engage with visual language, you get neurological access that you don’t have when you’re in a linguistic mode,” says  Sunni Brown, author of The Doodle Revolution.

Go for a walk

The Romantic poets may have been onto something when they set out for lakes and mountains in search of inspiration: walking in nature is good for creativity. A study by the Stanford School of Education found a stroll could boost creativity by 60%.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is convinced: he is reported to favours meetings on a trail near the company headquarters, which offers sweeping views of the valley.

Practice creativity

 Creative people often say that generating ideas is like using a muscle, and the more you work on it, the stronger your ideas get. The entrepreneur and writer James Altucher sets himself the task of writing down ten new ideas every day to strengthen his creative thinking.

“Don’t be afraid to test, fail, test, fail, try again, repeat, improve, test, fail again, and keep improving. The way to keep improving? Keep coming up with ideas,” he says.