A recent book explains a half dozen ways to goose your creativity. The book is Jonah Lehrer, Imagine: How Creativity Works (Houghton Mifflin 2012) at 30-44. Lawyers practicing in companies need all the creativity they can muster, so here is my thumbnail of each method.
Spend time on a problem, then relax. Apparently, before a person is conscious of an insight, there is “a steady rhythm of alpha waves emanating from the right hemisphere” (at 30). We are more likely to trigger the alpha waves when we are relaxed, not when we are sturdily focused on a problem.
Smile and feel positive. Research conducted in Germany credits positive moods with enhancing creativity and fruitful associations (at 32).
Return to the problem shortly after waking up. “The drowsy brain is unwound and disorganized, open to all sorts of unconventional ideas” (at 32).
Collect and meld out-of-field ideas. What Lehrer calls “conceptual blending” comes from learning across fields – outside your normal routines of reading, listening, and learning (at 37).
Change the verbs used to describe the problem. In a footnote on 44, Lehrer cites research to suggest that if you use specific verbs to frame a problem – “lower effective billing rates” – you will come up with fewer creative possibilities than if you use more generic verbs – “reduce external counsel costs.”
Daydream, but with some focus. Akin to conceptual blending and the fertile disorganization waking, a trancelike state of mulling and musing can produce insights, so long as your reverie isn’t so complete that you miss the creative thought.