Approaches to creativity and innovation have mostly come from individual hypothesis and craft -- people studying what they think works based on personal observation. Now, scientific research is starting to validate many of these approaches.
When working with a team trying to come up with new ideas, one very useful method involves taking the problem into another framework. (There are many ways to do this -- one example: ask people to imagine Steve Jobs or Bill Gates solving the problem instead of themselves.)
Scientists Evan Polman and Kyle Emich found students who were asked to solve problems requiring creative thinking did better when they were solving the problem for someone else, instead of themselves. One example: they were more likely to solve a "tower escape" puzzle, and created better aliens for a story when they were solving these challenges for another person, not for themselves.
The practical implications of our findings are striking in the extent of their reach...That decisions for others are more creative than decisions for the self is not only valuable information for researchers in social psychology, decision making, marketing, and management but also should prove of considerable interest to negotiators, managers, product designers, marketers, and advertisers, among many others.
The theory, called construal theory, is still being developed.
Polman E, and Emich KJ (2011). Decisions for Others Are More Creative Than Decisions for the Self. Personality and social psychology bulletin PMID: 21317316
Via the British Psychological Society Newsletter: http://www.researchdigest.org.uk/blog
Construal theory on Psycholopedia: http://www.psych-it.com.au/Psychlopedia/article.asp?id=79