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creative thinking

Solving problems, one sentence at a timeiStockphoto/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Kick-start your thinking

Indiana-based consultant Kevin Eikenberry recently shared on his blog a simple tool you can use to unearth innovative ways to handle your personal or team challenges. He has no idea who developed the technique, but he likes the way it uses the subconscious to overcome obstacles.

Begin by writing the start of a sentence based on the problem you face, such as, "We'd have more customers if …" Then write six to 10 different endings to the sentence. You now have some ideas; but leave them, and come back the next day without reviewing what you have already written.

Repeat the exercise, trying for different endings. Carry out the exercise for seven days if you can, because the more days you can stir up your subconscious, the better. If a sentence comes to you in the midst of your morning shower, add it to the list.

"At the end of your pre-determined time period, review all of your sentences, looking for the gems that you can use to break down your obstacle or solve your problem. You will likely have some silly ones that will give you a laugh, and some simply powerful ideas too," Mr. Eikenberry writes.

You can vary the game for a speed round: Instead of extending the process for a week, try to come up with 25 or 30 ideas in a short period. You can also play it with a team, with everyone contributing their ideas over a week, which might lead to a breakthrough.