I recently read an article about two young women, engineering students, who came up with an amazing invention. It’s a soccer ball that stores the gyroscopic energy it gets from being kicked around and converts it into power for an LED lamp. The women had these balls and lamps produced and gave thousands of them to children in impoverished countries. Now the kids can do their homework at night even if their homes don’t have electricity.

It’s such an elegant solution, you wonder why no one thought of it sooner. It got me thinking about where great ideas like these come from.

In the case of the ball-powered lamp (dubbed the Soccket), the women were brainstorming and someone thought of those emergency flashlights that get their power from being shaken.

Collaboration is one way people come up with innovative solutions like the Soccket. In other cases, the solution arrives via solo daydreaming. For me, brainstorming sessions get my mind pumped, but then I need to let the ideas sit. Take some quiet time and wonder. This combination helps my brain make connections it might not see right away.

What’s your creative style? Perhaps you’re competitive by nature and like the energy and interaction of a group. Or maybe you need to be alone in order to think. Do ideas tend to come to you while you’re out on a run? After you sleep on it? Do you need to put a whiteboard in your shower?

Whichever method works best for you, here are some ways to get and keep those creative juices flowing.

* First of all, let go of the belief that you’re not the “creative type.”(Read this post about how to stop labeling yourself.) Just because you’re not a concert pianist doesn’t mean you’re not creative.

* Flexing your brain will help it get used to generating ideas. Try this exercise: sit down and make a list of 50 ways to use a safety pin, drive to work, or solve some small but annoying problem. The sheer length of this list means you have to think fast and accept whatever pops into your head. Don’t censor yourself. Give yourself permission to be sillyand serious.

* Remember, not every idea has to be a winner. Many of us are perfectionists and have a hard time conceptualizing anything that might not be successful. But in order to be creative, you have to put that perfectionism aside. Just as in the safety pin exercise, give yourself permission to churn out ideas without the requirement that you must implement them all. Later, you can choose which ideas are the best fit for you and your company.

* Relax! Some of the world’s greatest thinkers and inventors say they arrive at their ideas while not thinking about the problem. Not only do great inspirations happen in the shower, but while you’re doing the dishes, walking the dog, even while you’re asleep. Sometimes, in order to solve a problem, you need to step away from it for a while. Give yourself permission to daydream.

* Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep. Coming up with ideas when you’re exhausted can be a real challenge. If you’re considering using chemical assistance, don’t: it’s more likely to hurt than help. All those tortured geniuses who supposedly produced their masterworks while downing a fifth of scotch or ten gallons of coffee? In real life, creativity doesn’t work that way.

* If all else fails, go for a walk – preferably in a natural setting. Mother Nature is the undisputed master of innovative solutions. Something you see in the environment may give you just the nudge you need to make that idea burst forth.

The end of August is a good time to approach creativity with a new mindset.How can you build regular creativity time into your schedule?

Author's Bio: 

Andrea Novakowski, MBA, is an executive coach who has been helping clients align their professional goals with their personal values since 1997. She guides executives from strategic vision to measurable action plans, and works with high-potential employees seeking to move up in their careers. By tapping into Andrea’s knowledge, tools and skills, clients are able to meld career development and personal growth to reach higher productivity and deeper levels of job and personal satisfaction. Learn more at http://www.coachandrea.com.