Before I became a professional speaker I used to work in the advertising industry, where it's widely acknowledged that the more creative you are, the more successful your campaign will be. And exactly the same is true when it comes to developing your business. Encourage your people to be more creative in their thinking and it will pay dividends in the long term. The famous maxim that says 'If you always do what you have always done you'll always get what you've always got' is nonsense. In today's climate you will get less. Because everyone around you is looking for new ways to improve and you will get left behind.

The problem is people are scared of new ideas. They like the tried and trusted. The well-worn and familiar. Particularly when trading in a tough economic climate. But my advice is to resist the boring and be bold. And above all, avoid the think tank scenario. Rather than generating lots of great new ideas, think tanks tend to come up with the obvious and safe. That's because they are shaped by powerful 'group norms'. That's not a person in the group called Norman but rather the unwritten rules that influence how people behave. Rather than encourage free thinking and creativity, they kill it stone dead sometimes with stones the size of boulders.

Psychological studies on group norms reveal that they spread like wildfire. People conform to what they perceive to be 'normal behaviour' as a basic psychological trait. That's because we like to conform and be liked and to fit into the way things are. Creativity within groups isn't impossible; it just has to fight harder to get out.

So what's the alternative? Well, to start with get out of your office environment, which subconsciously reminds you of how to behave. Go for a walk instead. Maybe take two or three colleagues and agree there are no rules on the conversation. Then start to think outside the box and rule out nothing. Great ideas can be reined in later if they're too far out. And that's all there is to it.

I'm writing this in Williamsburg, Virginia. Seeing how the English settlers arrived here in the early part of the seventeenth century has been a real eye-opener. People had to die before they recognised that their behaviour at home didn't suit the environment here. But then they started being creative. And, four hundred years on, they have arguably the most advanced and most powerful nation on earth. The good news is that you don't have to cross an ocean to be creative. Just far enough away from your normal environment. But take a map, or you might never get home to execute your bright new ideas.

Philip Hesketh is a professional speaker on the psychology of persuasion and author of Life's a Game so Fix the Odds.