When people ask me what my creative process is, I tell them there is no process. Creativity cannot be planned — it can only be planned for. When you build the right setup for creativity to flourish, creative ideas will emerge at the most unexpected time.
Having said that, there are cases when we need to harness creativity to solve a particular challenge. While there is no strict process for coming up with a creative solution to a problem, there are specific things we can do to open our minds and get unstuck.
So, here are three simple ways to spark creative ideas when you face a concrete problem.
Talk with Someone
This will sound obvious, but we tend to forget how powerful a fresh perspective can be. When you are stuck, find someone to share the problem with. Surprisingly, someone who is not in the details, and maybe even from a completely different domain, can offer a whole new perspective on the problem you struggle with. A naive question can reveal new directions you haven’t thought of or refute some false assumption you took.
When you talk to someone about the challenge, listen. Don’t turn the conversation into a debate. It is not about being right but about finding new territories to explore.
Take a Walk
When your mind is continually processing a problem, it is worthwhile to take a break — let it cool down and recharge. But taking a walk does much more than that.
When you let the problem go and take a random walk, your mind still does some background processing. At the same time, you open your mind to random stimuli: anything you see and sense around you. This setup enables the creation of surprising fusions and new ideas.
A random scene on the street can shed new light on the problem. An ordinary object can spark a new idea. The more random and diverse the things you see and sense are, the greater the chances they will ignite unexpected insights.
Work on Something Else
Like taking a walk, working on a completely different task places the problem you struggle with in the background. Your mind can still process it, but you are mostly free to think about other things. And this, again, is an excellent setup for your mind to develop surprising connections.
It’s another way to let go. It is not trivial because time is pressing, and someone is pushing for a resolution. But diverting your energy to a different task does not only enable new creative solutions. Often, it is the more productive thing to do.