Most organisations suffer from a wariness of creativity stemming from the myths that I outlined last week. As a consequence, organisations typically donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t set out in an intentional and systematic way to build and maintain their creativity Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and this is a wasted opportunity.
This fear of creativity stems from the myth that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s only creative people that are creative and that if you let too many of them loose on your organisation everyone will end up doing interpretive dance or playing the nose-flute instead of turning out world-beating widgets. Creative thinking thus gets boxed in and techniques and approaches that will help stimulate it get confined to offsite meetings and awaydays.
Take mind-mapping for example. Go to most innovation sites and youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll see people promoting mind-mapping tools and approaches so itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s clearly something that helps people improve their creative ability. Spot someone in a business meeting drawing a mind-map and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a bit like discovering they have some exotic character quirk or esoteric religious belief.
This is even more bizarre since it seems Ã¢â‚¬â€œ on a small sample of one primary and one secondary school Ã¢â‚¬â€œ to be something that children are encouraged to get comfortable with doing. For children who donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t naturally sit down and turn out 500-word essays Ã¢â‚¬â€œ i.e. most of them Ã¢â‚¬â€œ itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a positive benefit.
I must confess I use mind-mapping intermittently but often do to prepare one of these pieces and the one I developed to get ideas for this set of posts is in the picture Ã¢â‚¬â€œ it came from Mindmeister which provides a free and shareable mind-mapping resource. I find itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s helpful in seeing linkages and gaps in my thinking as well as enabling me to structure my initial ideas.
WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d all benefit from using mind-mapping on a more regular basis but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not the be-all-and-end-all of creative techniques. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a whole raft of techniques that can be used to provide peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s brains with a bit of shaking up. Brainstorming (or Ã¢â‚¬Ëœthought-showeringÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ if you must) is the best known but thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s often practiced in a way that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really get a lot of benefit. Meeting leaders need to be rigorous about applying the rules and there are plenty of sites offering this guidance Ã¢â‚¬â€œ MIT has good set. Something thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s often omitted though is getting people to warm up and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s usually a good idea to practice on a light-hearted topic first Ã¢â‚¬â€œ see Roger von OechÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s idea here Ã¢â‚¬â€œ or use an ice-breaker exercise to warm up the meeting.
What leaders can do
You can find a vast array of creativity techniques on the web so I wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t take up space listing them here but as a leader at whatever level in your organisation you need to be actively encouraging people to be more creative, more often.
HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a list of suggestions to help lead creativity:
- Be creative yourself
Allow yourself time to have creative thought, play with mind mapping or other tools
- Be controversial
I once heard the author Fay Weldon use the expression Ã¢â‚¬Ëœtrying an idea on for sizeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and I think this is an excellent approach, particularly if you want to float something controversial. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a good idea to let people know youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re doing this howeverÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
- Allow daft suggestions
Another way of saying itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s OK to Ã¢â‚¬Ëœthink outside of the boxÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. If daft doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t quite do it for you then reverse the problem, for example, inviting proposals for really screwing up the initiative youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re all discussing.
- Allow lots of suggestions
Idea management, which weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll discuss in more detail in future, depends on having a large funnel to capture as many suggestions as possible and, in any situation you need to be casting as wide a net as possible for ideas. Be dissatisfied if they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t overwhelm you!
- Celebrate brave ideas Ã¢â‚¬â€œ we all, rightly, tend to celebrate successful ideas, but if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re serious about encouraging creativity itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s worth celebrating the brave and radical ideas that didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make it in the end.
- Be incomplete
This list is, of course, incomplete and if you want to invite creative ideas, make it clear you havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t thought the whole thing through from start to finish.
Oh, and as you’ve probably realised, the whole thing never finishes…