Many people get stuck in their way of doing things. You work hard to become more efficient, but this is not enough.

To be truly successful, you need to find innovative ways of doing things that are radically different from others. Only in this way can you achieve success in your endeavours.

You are and can be creative

People have an in-built creative faculty. Roger Sperry, who won the Nobel Prize for his simplified model of left and right brain functions, says that the right brain helps you with intuition and to think creatively. The left brain deals with logic and language.

The reason you tend to think more logically than creatively is because many traditional education systems place an emphasis on fact-based learning.

Another reason is because that people are creatures of habit. You tend to do what you have done before because this produces a predictable result. Yet another reason is the fear of ridicule if you were to try something new and you fail. 

Here are three techniques to help you overcome these mental blocks and generate new ideas:

1. Brainstorming and fantasy

Fantasy has no limits and allowing the mind to go where it pleases can result in breakthrough ideas. A common activity using this technique is brainstorming. 

A shoe manufacturer was brainstorming to develop a new line of jogging shoes. Many ideas were thrown about, but the most ridiculous one came from a salesman who lived near an abattoir. 

He suggested sewing cow’s eyes at the front of the shoes so that they could see where they were going. Someone suggested that instead of the shoes being able to see where they were going, it would be better for other people to see where the shoes were going.

To this end, a proposal was made to add a reflector strip to the heel end of the shoe. Today, there are many styles of jogging shoes with luminous strips that glow in the dark so that the jogger can be easily spotted.

This has led to a whole new industry dealing with luminous strips on tracksuits, helmets and bicycle pedals.

2. Associations

The idea is to be able to see some patterns among different ideas and link them for a meaningful application.

The success story of the product “liquid paper” is a case of connecting painting to typing mistakes.

Ms Bette Nesmith worked as the executive secretary in a bank in Texas, in the United States, in the 1950s.  When the first electric typewriter came out into the market, her kind-hearted boss bought her one. 

She soon discovered that it was difficult to erase mistakes made by this typewriter model. She recalled painting holiday windows at the bank, and how she noticed that an artist never corrected an error by erasing, but by painting over it.

With the help of a chemistry teacher, Ms Nesmith developed an opaque white liquid which could be applied with a small paintbrush to cover up typing errors on paper.

She began marketing this fluid as “Mistake Out” in 1956. The name was later changed to “Liquid Paper”. In 1979, she sold the product to Gillette Corporation for a princely sum of US$ 47.5 million (S$58 million).

3. Breaking rules

Rules traditionally tie people down. Since breakthrough thinking is about coming up with something new and different, we sometimes need to break the rules.

A hotel was planning to upgrade its facilities, which included adding a new lift in the building. A group of professionals surveyed the ground floor, but could not find the most suitable spot to cut a hole through the ceiling to install the lift.

There were too many pipes and conduits occupying space above the ceilings. A janitor cleaning the floor overheard the discussion and became annoyed.

He reprimanded them, saying: “It is easy for you to drill holes, but I’m the one who has to clean up the mess. Why don’t you build your lift outside and let the passengers have a good view as well!”

The professionals found merit in this suggestion. Today, many tall buildings are fitted with external glass bubble lifts that offer their occupants a marvellous view.

Unleash creativity

There are several techniques that help us to awaken our innate creative potential and generate new ideas.

All we need to do to achieve breakthrough thinking is to reframe our minds to think differently each time we are faced with a challenge.  If we turn this activity into a habit, we are well on our way to achieving success in life.