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Develop great ideas by breaking routines and patterns with these 4 steps.

Having a solid daily routine definitely benefits your work and private life. Not only will you check more things off your to-do list, you will also reduce stress, increase your mental health and break bad habits. However, once you settle into a routine your brain begins to function on autopilot and suppresses interesting information of the outside world. This results in you stopping to look for novel ideas and restricting yourself to work with limited information. Breaking routines from time to time is a good challenge for your brain. It has to re-evaluate what is happening and will start operating with heightened ability. Once you break your daily routines, you will see the world from a totally different point of view. Perceiving your environment through fresh eyes grants you the possibility to question what you base your thinking on. This allows you to think differently and develop ideas that you would not have thought of before.

In his TED talk Steven Johnson underlines the importance of breaking patterns through engaging in stimulating environments. In his opinion you need to go places where you can meet creative people and just soak in all their inspiring ideas. For Steven ideas are like networks. They consist of recently connected thoughts. Therefore, if you want to come up with brilliant ideas you need to develop fresh thoughts and connect them to an invigorating network. Breaking routines and trying out chaotic environments will help you to do so. Watch his speech and learn why “chance favours the connected mind”.

Everybody tends to get stuck in certain thinking patterns. By breaking these patterns you can unstuck your mind and start creating novel ideas. Here are four techniques you can use to crack established thought patterns:

Challenge assumptions and rethink your perception from different point of views. No matter what situation you will have to face, you are certainly holding on to a set of predefined assumptions. Challenging these key assumptions permits you to broaden your awareness for possibilities you have not seen before. Start by asking “why” and keep drilling down by asking why again and again to each new answer. Using this approach you are likely going to find some useful insights.

Rephrase the problem and try to look at it from a more distant perspective. Expressing the problem in various ways often leads to different ideas. To reword your problem look at the issue from different angles. “Why do we need to solve the problem?”, “What challenges and obstacles do we have to overcome when solving the problem?”, “What are the consequences for not solving the problem?” Asking these questions will give you greater insights. Solving new problems helps you generating ideas for your initial problem.

Provoke and take your thoughts to the extreme, reverse ordinary conventions or bring up some radical alternatives. If it seems that you can’t come up with anything new, try turning things upside-down. Instead of focusing on solving a problem or boosting product development, consider how you could create the problem or impair product development. You will be surprised by how much reverse ideas you will come up with. Regard these new thoughts, once you’ve reversed them again, as feasible solutions for your original issue.

Express yourself through different media and discover new possibilities to shape your idea. According to psychologist Howard Gardner, everybody has multiple intelligences rather than one general intelligence. Nonetheless, when faced with complex challenges, we tend to express ourselves solely by our verbal reasoning ability. Next time you have to face a huge challenge, try using different media types to communicate your thoughts. Be creative, there are various ways to express the issue. For example, you could use clay, toy blocks, music, word associations or paint. Most important though, don’t try to solve the problem in this phase. Just express it and have fun discovering new tools. Your brain will continue working unconsciously on your initial problem, trying to process the information in different manners. In doing so, it might trigger new thought patterns, which may generate much more creative ideas.