Creativity is highly valued but hard to plan. How do you come up with a new idea and nurture it to fruition? How do you think “outside the box?” What is the origin of innovation?

Well, there are certain time-tested ways to trigger creative thinking. These are methods of preparing the brain to concoct something completely new to solve a problem that’s confounded everyone, or to imagine a product that meets an unmet need.

Here are six techniques for nurturing the kind of thinking that leads to innovation.

1. Exercise the body to kick-start the brain. Engaging in a brief session of strenuous physical activity can set the stage for creativity. Use any type of exercise that rests the mind while the body gets a workout, such as jogging or swimming. Because all your focus is on the physical activity, your brain is free to wander and dawdle in ways that contribute to creative breakthroughs.

2. Rest the active mind to stimulate deep reflection. Meditation has been practiced for centuries, both within religious traditions and as a standalone spiritual and therapeutic technique. When meditating, you sit in a quiet place, close your eyes, and shut out all thoughts about grocery lists, upcoming appointments, and unwashed dishes. While it is impossible to completely shut out such stray thoughts, the attempt frees the mind to nurture insights and consider new solutions to old problems.

3. Write it down. Sometimes the key to innovation is simply writing down what you’re thinking. The act of articulating a random thought can result in the transformation of a lame idea into a useful insight. Many successful scientists and inventors, including Charles Darwin, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Thomas Edison, habitually wrote down all their ideas. They later reread their notes, discarded what was useless, and developed the best ideas.

4. Seek a change of scenery. Another simple technique that can trigger innovative thinking is travelling. Leaving your home base and traveling to another city or country can lead to a kind of disorientation that is fruitful. You are jolted out of familiar patterns of thinking by the strange surroundings and unfamiliar customs. This opens up the mind to new ideas.

5. Hold onto that thought. Many people have hunches, intriguing ideas that seem promising, but few individuals know how to let those hunches develop. The trick is to hold the thought in your mind without forcing it prematurely into a mold. Then, after a day or a week, the hunch may evolve into something really useful or relevant. This is a skill that innovative thinkers master.

6. Follow wherever the idea leads. Ultimately it’s important to have confidence in your ability to think creatively. Pursue your best ideas. Work out the kinks and then write down the idea in a way that makes it accessible to others. Finally, present your idea to those who can help you to transform it into a reality.

There is no blueprint for creative thinking. The innovators use many different approaches to develop their ground-breaking ideas. However, these six tips will help you to liberate your creative potential!