The first step to creativity is knowing how to ask the right questions, and it doesn’t have to happen in Paris with a rose in your mouth and beret in your hair.
Creativity comes out when you need a solution — and none of the old solutions work. That’s when you get imaginative.
An HBR piece on creative thinking puts it like this:
…Imagine ways out of the fix you’re in by imagining that the circumstances blocking your progress are being lifted one by one. This produces different versions of the challenge. One of these new hypothetical versions may well resemble a type of problem that you have solved in the past. Your mind will then fire out a whole new set of solutions, one or more of which may work. If the solution you select for the new version of the challenge is untypical for the original version, it can certainly qualify as a creative solution to the new one.
It’s like dreaming. One of the theories about why we dream states that we dream to prepare ourselves for things that maaaybe, just maybe, will happen to us. This creativity exercise goes the same way: by reimagining our situation to appear a tiny bit different, maybe we’ll see an out — or an in — that we couldn’t imagine before.
And that, my friend, is the baguette, wine, and cheese.