My associate once worked in the development department of a healthcare system and her department was next door to the finance department.  One day someone in the finance department commented to her and her boss, “I don’t know how you two do it, writing all that stuff and planning all those events.”  “Well,” her boss answered, “I don’t know how you can deal with all of those numbers all day!”

Of course, each profession has its challenges and those on the outside can wonder, “How do they do it?”  Other than years of training and still more years of experience, what helps is creativity.  That doesn’t mean sitting under a tree all day and waiting for ideas to come along.  Rather it means harnessing the ideas in your brain and channeling them to serve a purpose.  It also means always working to find creative ways to accomplish not so creative thing so that even if you do not work in a creative profession, you can use creativity to your benefit.

Be observant

Take time to sit outside and enjoy nature…look at the clouds in the sky, admire the flowers or watch people passing by. Does anything command your attention?  The object is to see what is out there and how it can inspire you.  Maybe what you see won’t lead to something immediately, but it may help to spur an idea.  Not every idea will work, still you might be able to take a piece of one idea and turn into something else.  Thomas Edison once said after testing a battery numerous times, “I now know the 3,999 things that don’t work.” And you can’t find a more creative mind than Edison.

Look for a way to do something differently

When music was first offered as MP3 files, people either listened to the music on their computer or saved the recording on a CD and listened to it on a portable CD player or on their stereo system. Then Apple came along the iPod and people were able to store the music on a device no bigger than a matchbook. While music needs were still being met the “old-fashioned” way, the folks at Apple developed a way for people to enjoy their music that was more portable and could store more music than a CD. Ask yourself, “What if?”  What answers do you get? Explore those answers to see what you can do differently.

Take the time to unplug

It is easier to be creative when you are alone and not glued to the latest information on the internet or in your social media feed. After all, don’t great ideas come to you when you are drifting off to sleep, showering or driving? That’s when good ideas tend to come up because there are fewer distractions and you aren’t working or talking with anyone.  Try to keep a notebook or recording device handy so that you can record ideas as they come to you.

Creativity can be cultivated by everyone. It is not just the domain of artists.  Everything started out as a thought. Pay attention to your thoughts to see where they lead you.  It could lead you to a developing a new product or service, starting a new business or doing something else that is great.