You've got an important task to do, project to handle, essential strategy that you and your team need to create, but the ideas just aren't flowing. Despite countless brainstorming efforts, collaboration meetings and insight strategies, you've hit a wall. Who hasn't been here before?
You may be sitting at your desk staring at your computer screen or in a conference room with a blank whiteboard. One thing is for certain: You're stuck.
The good news is that you're not alone if you're experiencing an idea block. The better news is that getting out of a slump is easier than you think.
Here are nine ideas that can – and will – help you and your team find inspiration when it feels like all is lost.
1. Get out of the office.
It may seem trivial, but simply changing your surroundings can spark ideas and inspiration. Instead of locking down in the office and not leaving until this thing is figured out, go somewhere new and just talk about anything.
If the weather is nice, take your team outside for a picnic-like lunch where you can talk in a relaxed atmosphere that doesn't come with the pressure of formality. Green has been proven to be a color of energy and life, and the serenity and calmness of nature can help you reboot your vigor and inspire you with a refreshed mind. Nature tends to trigger happiness and ultimately elevates your level of inspiration.
If you can't go outdoors, try simply changing the venue. Sometimes, all you need to do to trigger inspiration is to look at things from a different angle – at a different place. Try going to a coffee shop. You'll find writers, artists and thinkers all around you, searching for the same inspiration.
2. Travel down memory lane.
Everyone loves a good story. When you're stuck in a rut, try reliving a story of a past success. Talk out loud to the team about a successful project you all completed together, and invite all members of the team to talk about it too.
Not only will the reminiscing boost everyone's mood, it may even spark inspirations for how you can achieve the same thing with the current dilemma. Often, the things that made a past project successful will make future projects successful as well.
3. Catch up on some reading.
There's no better place to derive inspiration than from inspirational sources. If you and your team find yourself in a rut, pick up a few magazines that are related to your industry (or business in general) and see if you can learn anything from them.
Pick up other publications, such as news or entertainment magazines, to stimulate your mind. By not focusing directly on the task at hand, you'll be more open to reading what others have to say.
4. Draw inspiration from others.
Chances are, whatever challenges you and your team are facing is not unique. Someone, somewhere at some time has probably faced similar circumstances.
Try drawing your inspiration from what those people did in those situations. It could be from other teams in your company. It could be from thought leaders and inspirational speakers. It could be (gasp!) from your competitors.
Whatever the source, know that someone else somewhere else has faced a similar challenge and overcome it. Find out what they did, and you might draw some inspiration from that.
5. Ask for outside input.
You should never be afraid to ask for help in business. If you and your team has hit a wall, one of the best things you can do is ask for outside help.
Find a trusted co-worker – it doesn't have to be your boss or another supervisor – to sit in on a few minutes of your brainstorming session. Run this person (or people) through the challenge, the scenario and what you've come up with so far.
Then, sit back and listen. Because this information is new to this person, he or she will have no presupposed notions or biases and might be able to see it from a different angle.
Sometimes, it's hard to draw inspiration out if you're in too deep or if you've already invested countless hours trying to find a solution.
6. Do something else.
Forcing an issue rarely results in something positive. If you and your team are lacking inspiration, instead of putting your heads down and trying to will the challenge forward, take a break.
Don't just call a recess, though. Really take a break. Call it a day. Go home, rest, grab a glass of wine and read a book. Or, if it's still the middle of the day, have everyone return to their desks to work on a completely unrelated project.
By stepping away from the issue altogether, you or someone on your team may have an enlightening idea when you decide to reconvene.
7. Give your brain a break.
The human brain is quite powerful, but it needs a break every once in a while to recharge. But how do you give your brain a break without going to sleep? Do something that requires little thinking.
Go for a drive. Eat a meal. Take a shower. Go for a walk. Go to the gym. Listen to music. Go out with friends.
These are all tasks we do every day that rely more on muscle memory than they do on critical thinking. And, most importantly, they don't require you to be dressed up, sitting in an office or staring at a screen. Try doing something that doesn't overload your eyes with technology – avoid browsing the internet or watching TV.
When you're done, go to sleep. Giving your brain a break with menial tasks and then letting it recharge overnight could help you feel refreshed and renewed the next day.
8. Listen to music.
We're all inspired in some way by music. Whether it inspires us to dance or sing, makes us laugh or cry, music is something that moves us all in some way.
If you and your team have hit the proverbial wall, tell everyone to take time to relax and listen to music they love. Listening to your favorite song, album or artist might not spark a direct idea on how to solve your challenge, but it will no doubt take your mind off the task at hand and inspire you to create.
9. Get away for a while.
There's nothing more recharging than getting out of town. If you have the freedom to do so, completely changing your environment for even a few days can do wonders for the mind, body and soul. It doesn't have to be an elaborate 10-day cruise on the Mediterranean, either.
A simple overnight getaway to a favorite place you can drive, or even a day trip to a place you've never been, can be a refreshing experience. By removing yourself completely from your daily routine, you'll allow your mind to focus on other things, getting the respite it needs.
These are just a few simple ways in which you and your team can become inspired if you are feeling anything but creative. By looking at the challenge from a new angle, by getting away for a while and by giving your brain a break, you'll be inspired to tackle the task at hand.