5 Tips to Get Creative in Teams
By Scott Lee · 15 July 2016 · 4 minute read
We believe everyone is creative, and everyone has the ability to innovate. But often, these skills have been suppressed. The principles of creativity are really just common sense, but unfortunately common sense is not common management practice. We help people bring these common sense skills back to life, to bake creativity into the DNA of their company culture, and enable all employees to be innovators. We have a short guide with 5 of our favorite exercises to get started.
1) LEAVE THE OPERATIONAL WORLD
Creativity is about breaking down prior assumptions and making new connections. Innovation is about taking those new ideas and turning them into reality.
The starting point is to create awareness of the difference between the operational world (the world of today with known solutions) and the innovation world (the world of tomorrow, within unknown solutions).
The operational world is the everyday where we are concerned with rules, regulations, procedures, yes/ no decisions. All too often in the operational world ideas are quickly squashed, and never have the opportunity to be developed further.
The innovation world is about dreaming, speculating, developing new ideas, experimenting with those ideas, and developing them into solutions that reconnect with the operational world.
2) A CLIMATE OF TRUST, IS A MUST
Our experience shows that in a business meeting people bring a certain amount of available mental energy to bear. In an adversarial climate people focus on the self, they avoid speaking up, they can be defensive, argumentative, concerned sometimes about their own survival even. This type of climate is death to innovation.
In contrast creativity flourishes where team members deploy their energy on the task rather than on the self. Participants need instead to be focused in the moment, open to being experimental, constrictive and cooperative.
We can think of two selves within each of us. The experimental self is fully alive when we are a child, but quickly a safe keeping self takes over as we grow older. The safe keeping self is the little voice in us that says don’t make mistakes. It is self-punishing in order to “protect” us. Whilst it has positive intent, the result often results in a negative effect. It inhibits are ability to make new connections, which lay at the heart of creativity.
When we work together in creative teams we want to benefit from the rich connections that a variety of people can bring. The experimental self is our natural performer and connection-maker in this environment. The stronger the experimental self becomes the higher our ability to innovate.
3) EXERCISING TO MAKE NEW CONNECTIONS
A range of creative tools exist to help stimulate creative thinking. In normal everyday problem solving, we typically use less than 10% of the capacity of our brain. Our brain runs on about the same energy it takes to run a light bulb. It is always trying to solve problems using the most efficient way possible, using tried and tested solutions.
To make a new breakthrough, we need to help people access the full associative and unconscious power of their brain when making new connections.
The tools used in workshops are like little mental gymnastics (or ‘mental bungee jumping’ as one client recently described it), that the more people practice and use, the more they can access the full power of their brain.
Random words, objects, images are all commonly used in creative workshops to create valuable mental excursions. The more irrelevant these are the better. Then after these excursions we instruct the brain to force fit these back to the problem to make relevant connections. Practice really works and as people do these exercises more often their brains are easily able to shrink, reverse, break down, distort, disguise or metamorphose their way to breakthrough ideas.
4) GET HELP TO ESCAPE THE PIT
In most creative workshops there is a focus on a problem owner or opportunity seeker. This is the person who will celebrate if the project is a success (or perhaps get fired if it is not). This person often has the most knowledge of the area in which we are working. This knowledge can be helpful, but also sometimes the more you know the more you “know” what is not possible.
It is difficult for clients when they are so involved in their internal process. Clients need help to look from a broader perspective. So we invite people to workshops with no knowledge, like housewives or experts from other areas. They ask the innocent questions clients often want to ask but sometimes do not have the courage to do so.
Resources from a workshop can be customers, prosumers (professional consumers for example bloggers who are more involved role in category), or trade or other experts. It can be anyone or often a mixture of the above.
5) SPRINGBOARD FROM NONSENSE
Many companies when they try to be innovative sit round and rationally brainstorm directly to finished solutions. More often than not they experience that the solutions they come up with are simply things they have done before or are already familiar in the market from their competitors. To avoid this, a specific process is used which facilitates the ability to make new connections.
First we use a special type of listening that is deliberately different from listening to ‘understand the problem’. We do not want in depth understanding that will drag us back into the pit. When people listen to a speaker or in this case the problem owner a variety of little thoughts will pop up in their heads, perhaps silly, seemingly irrelevant or sometimes immoral. Usually people self-censor these and drop out from listening. But at the beginning of the creative session asking people to repeatedly write down these little thoughts or brainwaves captures unconscious connections. These act as springboards for new connections.
Selection of ideas to further develop is also a key step. Often when people select initial ideas to take further they go back into their operational mindset and have tendency to select things that they can easily see how to make. Instead it is important to encourage teams to instead go for interesting, intriguing or exciting ideas, which they have no idea at that stage of how they can make.
“If at first, the idea does not seem absurd, there is no hope for it.” - Albert Einstein