What does “creativity” mean?
We often think about creativity when we think of innovation. This is why we think about companies like GE, Microsoft, and Apple, as well as their ‘Go, Create” ad campaign. However, creativity is not always about innovation. While not everyone is involved in the creation, it’s essential to be creative every day.
We may have to find a way to provide uninterrupted service to customers when our IT systems fail. To keep the project moving forward, we might need to find a way to compromise a policy or organize an event with a limited budget.
It may be as simple as finding something to do with your kids on a rainy Saturday. This can be a challenge even for the most creative of us.
It is important to remember that creativity is something we must do more of than we think. How often have we heard ourselves say, “I can’t imagine anything” or “I don’t have any ideas?” It is a fact that if you believe you don’t know anything, then you will not have any. It’s not the best way to solve a problem.
Why is it that we often run out of ideas quickly and are unable to solve problems? What is it that makes some people have so many pictures?
Creativity in the workplace: Challenges
The typical office or meeting room layouts don’t encourage creativity. Many of us work in cubicles or in open-plan offices that are four-sided and have partitions. Each of us has a computer, and we each stare at it when faced with a problem. We believe the internet is our lifeline, and it has all the answers to all our problems.
Meeting rooms typically have a rectangular or square table with flipcharts or screens at one end. This is where the chairperson will sit or stand. In my experience working with teams, many meeting rooms don’t even feature windows.
These environments are not conducive to creative solutions. Mental boxes are created by the the squareness of rooms and tables. No windows in a room do not permit us to gaze into space, which is something we need to be able to relax and open our minds. If you don’t have a window, it’s challenging to think blue-sky.
It is not helpful to sit around a table and drink coffee or eat sugary biscuits. Many people find it easier to think when they are lying down. According to Dr. Darren Lipnicki, a researcher at the School of Psychology of the Australian National University, brain chemistry differences mean that standing up is more efficient for solving problems than sitting down.
Many famous breakthroughs were made when the creator was at ease. Archimedes is believed to have experienced his Eureka! A moment in the bath. Mary Shelley is said to have had her Eureka!
Vertical thinking, also known as conventional or linear thinking, can be a barrier to creativity at work. Vertical thinking is a way of thinking that follows a sequential, analytical path in a specific direction. It is often regarded as the most rational. This approach is helpful in problem-solving, but it can also limit our ability to explore all possible options. It focuses on finding the best system and closing any other ideas.
The Apollo Syndrome
Dr. Meredith Belbin’s “Apollo Syndrome” is one of the obstacles to solving problems in a team. Belbin(r), the team role theory, is a famous invention of Dr. Belbin. His “Apollo Syndrome” refers to a phenomenon that he observed in teams of intelligent, highly successful people who failed to solve problems together.
These teams shared a few key characteristics:
They spent a lot of time having destructive discussions with each other trying to convince others to accept their ideas and point out flaws in the views of others.
They were slow to make decisions and had poor quality.
Teams were hard to manage because members were prone to working on their own ideas and not taking into account the opinions of others.
Teams only worked well when there was no dominant person. It became apparent that a team made up of clever individuals is not the best.
Too many ideas and not enough closure
It is not enough to have the most innovative people in a team. It is essential to have people who can come up with solutions. However, it is equally important to have people who can evaluate those ideas and decide what to do with them. The lack of ability to implement the pictures is a significant problem for teams. I’ve seen many productive sessions go stale because the ideas weren’t used.
Creative thinking methods and tools
Although vertical thinking is known to inhibit creativity, there are many valuable tools that can be used to solve problems effectively. The ‘Reframing Matrix’ is one such tool. This allows you to imagine different ways of approaching your problem.
Vertical thinking is the opposite of lateral thinking. This term was first used by Edward de Bono. Lateral thinking is concerned with the creation of ideas that are not possible through step-by-step logic. It is a search for multiple approaches rather than one right approach. The user can make jumps instead of following a sequence.
Brainstorming is one of the most popular tools for lateral thinking. This allows people to come up with ideas without having to make any judgments or analyze them before the session ends. To avoid embarrassing members by ridiculing or open criticism of their beliefs, group brainstorming sessions should always be tightly facilitated.
Edward de Bono also developed the “Six Thinking Hats” technique. This encourages full-spectrum thinking and separates performance from ego. Each metaphorical hat represents a different type of thinking: data, intuition, and logic. Members of the team can use the caps to introduce new ways of thinking to the group, depending on their needs.
Roger von Oech, an inventor and the author, is the creator of “Creative Whack Pack,” a creativity tool that includes a set of cards with a variety of strategies for developing, finding, or implementing your ideas. The pack has been used in creative workshops and problem-solving sessions with excellent results. The ‘Creative Whack Pack,’ along with other resources, can be purchased from our bookstore.
Research has shown that classical music can improve creativity. It slows down the heart rate and thus blood flow, allowing us to reach ‘alpha state.’ This allows us to relax, similar to light meditation, and creates new neural pathways that stimulate creativity. A CD player is a rare feature in meeting rooms.
Mind maps can be a valuable tool to capture the outputs of creative thinking. Although mind mapping dates back to the third century, Dr. Allan Collins created the modern version in the 1960s. Mind maps can be used for brainstorming ideas or to record outputs from other tools or methods.
Your team can achieve breakthrough creativity.
First, get out of your office if you want to improve the creativity and productivity of your team. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get out of your office, but rather, find somewhere that isn’t restricted by walls, tables, or equipment.
Pick a time that is convenient for you to hold your session. Some people think more in the morning than others. Discuss your ideas with your team to find out what works best for you.
Relax and clear your mind of all unnecessary thoughts. You can think of ways you could achieve this. Perhaps go outside to play tag for ten mins before the session starts, or listen to classical music with your eyes closed for ten minutes. Even lying on the ground could be a good idea, similar to a yoga class. You shouldn’t dismiss it until you have tried it.
Discuss the roles that people will play.
Who will help you find the correct information and resources to get you started?
Who has the most innovative ideas?
Who is good at analyzing and evaluating flaws in a product?
Who will do the best job of implementing the ideas?
Keep in mind that many ideas do not necessarily translate into lots of solutions. Be selective about the ones you are interested in following.
Contact us if you are interested in learning more about creative thinking and how it can help you solve problems or improve your team’s performance.
(c) Ann Greene 2007. All Rights Reserved Worldwide
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Ann Greene, the founder of Allagi, is a specialist in team development for corporate teams. You can contact her at allay—Ie to receive tips, strategies, and articles about developing high-performing teams.