If you feel like you've hit a wall in your job and are all out of creative ideas, there are things you can do to become more innovative, according to Jeff Chapin.
He's a co-founder and the Chief Product Officer of direct-to-consumer mattress company Casper, and is tasked with re-thinking the experience of sleep and learning how to improve it. Since launching in 2014, the company has brought in over $300 million in revenue selling its original Casper Mattress along with pillows, sheets, duvets, bed frames and even dog mattresses. Casper has raised $240 million in funding, including a reported $75 million from Target, according to Recode.
Over the course of his career at Casper, and in his previous job at design firm IDEO, developing products ranging from spinal surgical tools to shipping containers, Chapin has learned a thing or two about how to have an original idea at work. His top advice?
"Get out of your desk chair," Chapin tells CNBC Make It.
The reason is pretty simple: "You're never getting good ideas sitting behind your computer," he says. "That is for producing something, but the good ideas come elsewhere — you need stimulus."
As the leader of the design team at Casper, Chapin encourages his employees to immerse themselves in learning about sleep, often out of the office.
"My main responsibility is making sure people get exposed to enough stimulus that they get good ideas," he says. "I can't take the team and put them in a room and say, 'Come up with a good idea.'"
Chapin sends his team members to do things like shop along with a customer looking for a mattress in one of Casper's new brick-and mortar locations, or to interview people about their sleep rituals and their bedding. Casper will even go to people's homes to ask how they sleep on all sorts of mattresses, not just its own brand.
"It is really interesting to go spend two hours with somebody in their house," Chapin explains. "People are really open and transparent and you can get to really personal conversations with complete strangers."
For another example, when Casper engineers were working on a new kind of blanket, they put it in a tactile box (where you can feel it but can't see it) and went to a Casper pop-up shop in San Francisco to get in-person feedback.
"If sleep is our mission, we try to understand that in many different ways," he says. And his advice can be applied to any field. "If you do financial planning as a business, go spend time with low income people who have financial planning issues."
For whatever profession you're in, ask yourself "What are the inputs you need so you can get the good ideas?" Chapin suggests. Then, seek out whatever customers, users, competitors or clients might be able to provide you with that fodder.
"If you're going to do something new, go immerse yourself in that," he says. "Just immerse yourself in all aspects of that thing and I guarantee you're going to get a new idea."
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