Business leaders have long realized that creativity leads to innovation, which is a key ingredient to achieving success. They recognize that innovation is the most important single skill that an organization can possess if it is to remain competitive. There is an adage, which says that businesses need to innovate, or they will evaporate.

This is the same for the individual. It has been said that individuals either innovate or become stagnate. Some might think it is beyond their capability, but creativity can be developed or enhanced. Since creativity leads to innovation as the same for an organization, individuals can become stagnate if not generating ideas and new thoughts. The first step for the individual is to acquire, develop, or enhance creativity skills, which leads to innovation.

There have been numerous articles and books written on this topic. Two books pushing ‘out of box thinking’ were written by James M. Higgins. “101 Creative Problem-Solving Techniques” focuses on new ideas for businesses and “Escape from the Maze” describes Higgins’ nine steps to personal creativity. Together they contain powerful insight for organizations and individuals who want to be more creative.

The concepts used in these texts can lead to dramatic results. I used the concepts to train team members at a Fortune 50 company addressing a significant program to drive innovative and creative initiatives to improve quality and reliability. Multiple teams were trained to think differently, unconventionally, or from a new perspective to solve a variety of complex problems resulting in outstanding outcomes. This initiative provided value to the organization’s product, but positively affected the professional and personal lives of the participants beyond this program.

The quality of creativity is as valuable as any I can think of. Creativity must be encouraged and nurtured if you want to grow as a person or to be more successful professionally because the rewards are greater. You must be willing to seek out and develop that which is new in yourself. At the same time, you are letting go of old habits, beliefs, and expectations that are no longer useful – and could easily be holding you back from true success.

Just as valuable to creativity are tools like TRIZ, which is a problem-solving and inventive technique, developed by Dr. Genrich Altshuller, the late engineer, inventor, and author. While working with a team addressing a critical problem this technique led to a creative solution, which may not have surfaced otherwise.

Aside from tools and techniques designed to stimulate creativity the following are six human conditions, which can allow creativity and ultimately innovation to flourish.

  1. Solitude. Not withdrawal or being totally alone, but in the sense of spending time apart from the clichés and conventions of society to focus on your thoughts and ideas.
  2. Inactivity. Not loafing or goofing off, but planned inactivity as a break in your busy routine. I’ve known very productive and creative people to set aside part of their daily schedule to make it a regular occurrence so as not to be interrupted in their thoughts.
  3. Daydream. Daydreaming can be focused on out of box thinking and is often connected to inactivity. In daydreams, we make mental excursions into fantasy that breed creative activity. Several organizations have quiet rooms set aside for the purpose of stimulating out of box (innovating) thinking.
  4. Gullibility. That is right, gullibility. This is the willingness to suspend your personal beliefs and accept what comes from inside without insisting on rationality or logic.
  5. Alertness and discipline. Although they are necessary for productivity in any endeavor, these qualities have a special meaning in creativity.
  6. Mental replay. Allowing yourself to revisit past creative efforts and resolution of past traumatic conflicts leads to analogies which is one of the principles of TRIZ.

A twist to the Thomas Edison success quote could be “creativity is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration”. This means that creativity, much like success, must be accomplished by perseverance and hard work. So, while most of our conditions require loosening of control and openness to the inner self, the last and most important is your willingness to put what you discover into action.

Without this commitment to action, your creativity and ultimately innovation may never emerge, and you become stagnate.