Creativity and Innovation

“I’m just not a creative person” is a claim that plagues offices around the country. Are you someone who doesn’t feel creative? The truth is, creativity is a skill you can learn. Phil McKinney, former CTO of HP’s PC division and current innovation consultant, wrote a book on how to become an innovative person. He says, “People seem to think that innovation is a special gift. That someone’s got, they are born with it. That’s bogus. Innovation is a skill that you can learn, practice and become skilled at.”

His book, Beyond the Obvious, gives important strategies for tapping into your creative abilities. Business Insider gives a great synopsis of his strategies, as well.


To figure out how to access your creativity, brainstorm daily about anything. What you brainstorm doesn’t have to be work related, life related, or even earth-shattering—just think of a question you can find solutions for. Keep thinking until you reach 50 ideas, and don’t discount “lame” ideas. McKinney explains, “The first third of your ideas will be obvious, the second third will be challenging. The final third are really hard and where the diamonds are.”

When you learn how you can access 50 ideas to solve a problem, you’re ready to focus your brainstorming. Narrow your question to a problem you’re facing at work or at home. Don’t stop at the first solution you think of.

Jumping out of your comfort zone

“Get out of your comfort zone. Innovation is looking at things in new ways. If you talk to the same people or hang out at the same Starbucks, you don’t see anything new.” McKinney recognizes the need for stimulation when it comes to creativity. You can’t rely on your imagination to do all the work—go experience new things to give your mind the raw material it needs to come up with the winning idea for your project.

Be sure you are not following arbitrary rules that are holding you back. Sometimes basic assumptions we make are not only incorrect, but they prevent us from thinking outside of the box. Make sure the reasons you can’t use an idea are blockers, not just artificial walls that could be broken down.

Believe in yourself

If you doubt your abilities, you are already curbing your creativity. Let yourself go and trust that you can come up with and follow through on a winning idea. Don’t let outside factors hinder you—sometimes not having what you thought you needed allows you to think of an even better solution to your problem. Your ideas are going to involve hard work, and you can’t ignore that. Don’t give up early because you don’t think you have what it takes to finish a job.

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