12/08/2013 08:37 BST | Updated 12/10/2013 06:12 BST

Overcome Your Barriers to Creative Thinking

We hear time and again how essential creative thinking is to business success. But it's often an elusive concept in the corporate environment - especially if you've trained in 'non-creative' skills like professional services.

Here's some of the key barriers that can stop you thinking creatively and ways you can overcome them.

1) Self imposed barriers. Sometimes we impose barriers to creative thinking on ourselves either consciously or unconsciously. Do you ever say "I'm not creative" or "My boss would never let me do that"?

Try This: Allow yourself to freely come up with ideas first before your internal critic steps in and shuts them down. Try asking yourself what would be an 'out of the box' solution or what would xx do? Try brainstorming different ideas - in brainstorming nothing is too outrageous to go on the list. Talk to others, particularly people who you think are creative, and get insights into how they think through problems. Then go can go back and start reviewing the ideas you've come up.

2) Patterns or belief in one unique answer. As professionals we're trained to establish systematic ways of doing things or to find one right answer. But creativity gets scared of 'getting it wrong' and will become blocked if you seek a perfect solution.

Try This: Get into the mind-set that there is more than one answer to everything. Then look at your best ideas and check them against norms - is it too crazy/different/outrageous to develop further? Could you change or tweak it to be less so?

3) Conformity. Many people feel they have to conform to what their colleagues or social circle are doing. In fact research now shows that creative thinking in groups, such as brainstorming, unless very well facilitated, is detrimental to coming up with creative ideas.

Try This: Use your concerns about fitting in, as a creative catalyst by asking - 'what would be totally outrageous to my colleagues, my manager, the company, my network, my friends, me?' Initially come up with creative ideas independently and then, if appropriate, get together as a group to discuss them.

4) Not challenging the obvious. It can be tempting to find and use the most obvious answer as there is a lot of effort required to challenging the obvious solution. But actually 'slow thinking' can come up with more creative solutions.

Try This: Put ideas on hold for a day or two and then review/add to them. You may find some ideas seem better/worse after some time or have some new ideas to add.

5) Eliminating ideas too quickly. Evaluation of an idea is instinctive when ideas are put forward, however doing it too quickly can eliminate possible solutions or areas of thought at an early stage.

Try This: If your inclination is to say 'this won't work' try instead to say 'this will work if we do xx' or 'what would be the benefit if it did work'.

6) Fear of looking foolish. This is something everyone worries about.

Try This: Experiment with people you trust and are comfortable with. Tell some colleagues that you are consciously trying to be more creative and so will be making more 'out there' suggestions. If you prepare your environment it feels safer and you are more likely to take risks.

We all have our own things that inspire creative thinking, you can also try standing up or getting out of the office, making creative thinking in to a game, even just changing how you jot creative ideas down - writing bigger on a large piece of paper works or simply shifting from using a pen to a Sharpie - can all make a big difference.