Listen to music.
You may find that a little Mozart awakens your creativity, or you may respond better to a little Metallica. Whatever works for you, fire up your iPod, get into the groove, and let your mind work.
Take a shower, walk the dog, do the laundry.
How many great ideas do you get in the shower? It's not a coincidence that great thinking happens in the shower. Showering is a mindless activity (the only thing you really have to think about is ‘have I already repeated, or just lathered and rinsed?’). “And the warm water is relaxing. Other mindless activities are great for brainstorming too. Wash the dishes, walk the dog, or fold the laundry. If you give your mind the chance to wander, you'll free yourself to come up with a brilliant idea.
Make a list (and check it twice).
This is a tried-and-true method proven to work wonders. Get out a notepad, or fire up your computer, and write down everything you can think of related to your issue. For example, if you need a new slogan for a product, write down every feature and benefit you can think of, the types of people who need the product, the problems it solves, and so on. Pull out a thesaurus and start looking up synonyms. When you are done, you will not only have your slogan, you will have a library of words and phrases you can use in your marketing and publicity campaigns.
Wear a silly hat.
Use a prop when it is time to be creative. It could be anything that signals to your brain that it’s time to go into idea-generating mode. Have a routine that you follow when you want to be creative. It might be to put on your hat, grab a ball to toss up in the air, and lean back in your chair with your feet on the desk. Once you are in your creative-at-work position, start coming up with ideas. Do this a few times, and you will be conditioned to start generating ideas as soon as you see the hat. Your brain will have been trained.
Be a bookworm.
Read everything you can get your hands on: business books, novels, newspapers, magazines, blogs. The more raw materials you take in, the more you learn, and the more you know, the better you will become at putting together seemingly unrelated concepts to create something new.
Sleep on it.
Just before going to bed, think about the ideas you want to generate. Be specific: ‘I will come up with great ways to promote our new widget.’ Tell yourself you will come up with a solution while you sleep. Keep a pad and pen or a recorder next to your bed so you can capture the ideas as soon as you wake up.
Ask the almighty Google.
When you are stuck on an idea, try entering a few words related to what you are looking for. Google will try to automatically complete your query, and may come up with just what you need. Then look at some of the search results to see what inspires you.
Make random doodles on a white board or a piece of paper. Draw, jot words, make circles, or whatever you do when you doodle. As you loosen up, ideas may start to form on the page.
Forget everything you know.
Too often, we let our biases creep in and influence our thinking. Start fresh, without preconceived notions of what you must do or what is impossible. Be open to anything and everything.
Borrow an idea.
Everyone thinks their business is unlike anyone else's. The truth is that all of our businesses are more alike than they are different. Look at what others are doing in other industries and see how you can apply their ideas to your own business. If a solution is working for someone else, there's no reason it won't work for you, too. By the time you adapt their idea and tailor it to precisely fit your business, it will be unique.”
Hire a professional.
If you're really, truly stuck on something, or if a deadline is rapidly approaching, there's no shame in hiring a little outside help. Hiring a consultant can be a great investment. Often times, they don't even have to come up with the ideas for you. They simply ask the right questions that will lead you to the great idea that's buried in your brain.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Jim Kukral is the author of Attention! This Book Will Make You Money: How to Use Attention-Getting Online Marketing to Increase Your Revenue (Wiley, 2010). Mr. Kukral has helped small businesses and big companies such as FedEx, Sherwin-Williams, Ernst & Young, and Progressive Auto Insurance understand how to find success on the web. He is also a professional speaker, blogger, and web business consultant, and he teaches thousands of students worldwide as an adjunct professor for the University of San Francisco's Internet Marketing Program. You can follow Mr. Kukral on Twitter @JimKukral.