Evette Cordy (pictured below) is an innovation expert, registered psychologist and the chief investigator and co-founder at Agents of Spring. Cordy is also the author of Cultivating Curiosity: How to unearth your most valuable problem to inspire growth. In this guest post for B&T, Cordy says a creative staff is highly sought after, hard to find, but it can be fostered, too…
Creativity is the most in-demand soft skill in short supply according to a 2019 LinkedIn talent report. Most often associated with the arts or design sectors, it is a skill that applies to almost any role. Creativity is the use of imagination and originality in solving problems – a skill that machines can’t easily replicate.
Creativity is a skill that can be learned – not an innate quality. That is, with practice anyone can be creative, not just a privileged few. Here are three tips for getting your team to perform at their creative best:
- Do a warm-up
Research has suggested that undertaking a creative warm-up such as improvisational games can positively impact on both the quantity and quality of creative thinking. Just like athletes warming up their muscles to perform well, we can warm up our brains to enhance creative thinking.
Choose team activities that help free people’s brains from conventional thinking, to see things differently, and to generate novel solutions that help form more creative ideas.
- Ask your team to get into pairs.
- Ask one person in each pair to assume the role of the world-renowned expert – whatever they say can’t be wrong. The other person is the novice, and their role is to ask the expert questions. They can ask anything, and the expert will always have an answer.
- Tell the expert their area of expertise is providing therapy to bees.
- Begin by getting the novice to ask the expert questions about this topic. After several minutes of questioning, ask them to swap roles – the expert is now the novice, and the novice is now the expert.
The playfulness of this activity will completely change the room energy. There are no right or wrong answers, and the possibilities are endless. It is a great way to start any creative team session.
- Defer judgement
How often have you been in a meeting trying to solve a problem when someone makes a suggestion, only to have another person interrupt with “Yes but … this won’t work because of x,y or z”?
If every suggestion or idea is met with critique, it is likely that creative thinking will soon dry up. Edward De Bono once said: “The enemy of creativity is the immediate judgement of ideas.” This sentiment has been backed up by research.
Learn to postpone your instant judgement. Create a safe space for people to share their ideas, take chances and even fail. We need to judge ideas – but first we need to separate the ‘idea production’ from ‘idea selection’ thinking. Create space for all ideas to be voiced, no matter how wild, and then spend time selecting those with the most potential.
“Yes and …” is a pillar of creativity – a guiding principle in group work that can help teams to defer judgement.
- Once you have defined the right problem to solve, ask someone in your team to share an idea.
- Respond to all ideas with the sentence starter “Yes and …” followed by something that builds on their idea with another idea. The “yes” acknowledges an idea without judging it, and the “and” allows you to build on it.
- Seek analogous inspiration
Analogies are often used to express our ideas or to help explain complex matters. Analogies are also a great way to generate creative ideas to address a problem.
For example, the service experience of the Ritz Carlton has inspired Apple retail stores, A hospital intensive care unit in the UK has been inspired by the F1 Ferrari race team’s pit-stop techniques. Ford’s assembly lines were inspired by systems used in slaughterhouses and grain warehouses.
Analogous inspiration will get your team’s creativity flowing. It can help isolate elements of a great experience, interaction, product or service, which are then applied to the challenge you are working on.
- Select a challenge you are trying to solve and consider its key attributes. For example, wait times may be a significant pain point affecting your customers’ service experience.
- Pick an experience, interaction, product or service from an analogous area, such as Fast Passes at Disneyland – an example of managing wait lines well.
- Now find or force a connection between the problem you are working on and the seemingly unrelated analogy.
This simple activity can push your team’s creative thinking to entirely new levels.
In summary, there are several pay-offs for cultivating team creativity – better quantity and quality of creative ideas, more rapid problem solving, as well as building a more fun and engaging team environment.
Want to learn more about how to get your team creatively fit?