How can I be more creative?

The company I work for is trying to promote creativity and innovation on the team by having us work one day a month in some project of our own, but for the benefit of the company and its products. I’m always at a loss for what to do! I don’t know if it is lack of imagination, lack of knowledge of the product or lack of knowledge and experience as a programmer (I’m a junior engineer working mostly on fixing bugs and implementing small features), but I can’t come up with a good idea that is also attainable, and I’m beginning to feel like a real loser. I’m good at my job, but not being able to come up with ideas is making me doubt myself big time.

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I think it’s a good initiative by your company but what are the expectations ? Is it a hackathon-like type of day where you’re supposed to demo something ? Can you team up with other devs or is everyone expected to submit a project outline ?

Not really a hackathon. In fact, so far it has very little structure. It’s been going on for a few months but not much has come out of it.

We are supposed to have this one day each month for a few months to work on our project. We are supposed to announce beforehand our idea and I think we can team up with someone but very few people have submitted anything and the very few things submitted don’t feel like a good fit for me. We were supposed to have a show and tell a month ago, but it never happened.

I feel like I should be able to come up with some great idea, but I can’t and to make things worse the manager that started this has recently put me on the spot by comparing me with himself and other co-workers that “have ideas”. He told me not to feel bad if I’m one of those people that doesn’t have ideas of his own and simply execute other people’s ideas. That really hurt. :frowning:

Maybe it’s a sign that I’m not good for this? What can I do? Even thinking about side projects and pet projects is difficult. How to get the creative juices flowing?

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As you say , it doesn’t seem to have much structure and nothing much has happened. Doesn’t sound as if its very well organised. The company maybe haven’t thought it through as to what they want to come out it.

You say that you don’t think you are good for this, but you also say that ‘very few people have submitted anything’. It sounds like you are not the only one.

Do you genuinely not have ideas, or is it that you don’t think your ideas are worth pursuing? On the subject of having original ideas (not necessarily the requirement here) I think its difficult as there is so much activity going on its difficult to come up with something thats not just a variant of something thats gone before.

Also, I’m sure you probably know this, but execution is more important than just having an idea.

On a general note this link around the idea of creativity I have found to be useful -
Helsinki Bus Station Theory

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My company did that few times in the past, the way it worked the best was to have people adding ideas to a public list. Then after a while you could either come up with your own thing or decide to join one of the existing ideas. I really liked partening with people far from my team, just for seeing how other people think. I then realized that is often someone has a great idea but doesn’t know how to implement it (or vice versa.)

At certain point, the company decided to give prizes to it, then have a project manager looking at the follow up of these 1-day projects. That ruined everything.


It sounds like you might have a few things up your sleeve? I have a hunch that you’re probably not the only one that feels this way. Sounds like it might be difficult for people to put themselves out there / group up. Do you have any ideas that involve specific entities that others could help with certain aspects? I know I would feel great if a coworker approached me with, “I have this idea to do ______ but I need help with this part & I’d love if you could help with it.”