3 ways to tap your creativity at work

six senses dan pink

From ‘A Whole New Mind’ by Daniel Pink

Why Creativity is Important

For CEOs, creativity is now the most important leadership quality for success in business, outweighing even integrity and global thinking, according to a study by IBM. The study is the largest known sample of one-on-one CEO interviews, with over 1,500 corporate heads and public sector leaders across 60 nations and 33 industries polled on what drives them in managing their companies in today’s world.

One of the challenges that specialists in IT, Finance and Engineering encounter is that they feel the pressure of conforming to a process oriented culture.  Mind-numbingly boring meetings and tick boxing seems to work against being resourceful.

This suppresses the creative thinking that is needed to:

  • generate ideas, whether this is introducing a new product or the applications of coding
  • increase team collaboration in problem solving such as those needed for engineering teams needing to work out operational issues

 

The Price of Pressure

In the U.S. and UK, 80% of people felt increasing pressure to be productive rather than creative, while the number rose as high as 85% in France.

Yet, with the ground constantly shifting and competitors looming creative thinking is vital.

If you want to breathe life into idea generation and problem solving, use techniques that very few of your competitors are using: theatre based play and visual games.

 

You don't have to cross-dress to be creative.

You don’t have to cross-dress to be creative.

The Androgyny of the Mind

“A great mind must be androgynous.”  Samuel Taylor Coleridge

You may be relieved (or frustrated) to know that it’s not necessary to do a David Bowie at work.   Regardless, the androgyny that Coleridge was talking about is the ability to access both the analytical and creative, in order to generate solutions and ideas.

If you feel more comfortable with the word ‘resourceful’, then it’s that quality you can be tapping into.   Here  are three suggestions that have been really successful in increasing resourcefulness, with a wide range of teams in IT, Engineering and Finance.

These ideas can be used at the beginning of sessions to shift the thinking from analytical to creative/resourceful and get everyone thinking ‘out the box’

 

 

       1. Word Association:

The mind starts to make weird and humorous connections with this game: just what you need to start thinking more expansively.  Simply begin a story with one word and the next person adds another word, triggered but not necessarily connected to the previous word.  Expand it to 2 words per person, then to three.  You can eventually build this up to phrases that make a story.

Unexpected neurological links are formed during this type of ‘play’.  This will impact on problem solving in that you’ll truly start to think more resourcefully as new neurological pathways are formed.

2. Ordinary Objects, Abnormal Use:

Have a pool of objects at hand.   Using a hoop:  one participant jumps into the circle, picks up a hoop: the hoop can be a window; the next person jumps in and the hoop becomes a hole in the road.  Then someone else makes it a giant bangle.

The point is no-one is rejecting ideas, as everyone’s offer is built on what’s gone before.  A common problem with brainstorming is that ‘bad’ ideas are too often rejected.  You need ‘bad’ ideas to get to the top of the pyramid, where the ‘good’ one is.

Had Dr Spencer Silver actually come up with a super strong adhesive, the Post-It Note – made from his ‘failed’ weak version – would never have been invented.

Sometimes, we go ‘wrong’.  And this is absolutely right.

3. Brainwriting:

Write an idea on a piece of paper.  Fold the paper into an aeroplane and throw it across the circle to someone else.  The recipient then adds to that suggestion by writing it in the plane, folding it back and throwing it to someone else.

This stops conversation from being sidetracked and encourages everyone’s equal contribution of ideas, whether introverted or extroverted.

 

The problem with ‘brainstorming sessions’ is they often muddy two types of thinking: divergent and convergent.  Divergent thinking generates ideas.  Convergent thinking sorts and analyses these ideas towards the best outcome but ideas are often judged and thrown out before the best solution is found.

Improvisation and play can create excellent ground for divergent thinking before input is screened, tweaked and filtered.

 

I would love to hear how you encourage Divergent thinking in your own departments and to what effect.  What did you find useful?  What changes did you see?  Did your team start to work differently as a result?  Let me know below!

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