How to Boost Excitement About Creativity

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You want to be creative and breed creativity in your workplace, right?Images7

Do you consider yourself to be "creative?"

Creative_baby
I was just talking with my cousin, Len, a long-time public school teacher and Principal. Len is also a master coach  He noted that if you ask first-graders how many of them are "creative," pretty much all of the hands in the class go up. They smile. They show their colorful drawings and finger painting and maybe even compose a song along the way.

What happens when the same question is asked of the same kids a few years later? The responses drop to nearly zero. And the kids are still in elementary school.

Fast forward to your business meeting. Someone says "Let's get creative about how to grow the market in Asia. We've got until 5 o'clock."

Are you and I seeing the same thing here?

We've got little kids who are convinced they are creative. Then we've got bigger little kids who don't think so anymore. Now we've got adults who are sure they aren't creative being asked to create--and with a deadline.

This post is a call for thought, not a rant. (Well, a little one). It seems to me that we have taken an entire population of creative youngsters, tell them to color inside the box (or else!), and now tell them to "think outside the box"--(or else!).

Nine things to encourage creativity

Silvano Arieti  wrote a book in 1976 called Creativity: The Magic Synthesis (you can get a used copy through amazon.com). Here are his nine conditions and the reasons why:

1. Aloneness. Being alone allows the person to make contact with the self and be open to new kinds of inspiration.

2. Inactivity. Periods of time are needed to focus on inner resources and to be removed from the constraints of routine activities.

3. Daydreaming. Allows exploration of one's fantasy life and venturing into new avenues for growth.

4. Free thinking. Allows the mind to wander in any direction without restriction and permits the similarities among remote topics or concepts to emerge.

5. State of readiness to catch similarities
. One must practice recognizing similarities and resemblances across to perceptual of cognitive domains.

6. Gullibility. A willingness to suspend judgment allows one to be open to possibilities without treating them as nonsense.

7. Remembering & replaying past traumatic conflicts. Conflict can be transformed into more stable creative products.

8. Alertness. A state of awareness that permits the person to grasp the relevance of seemingly insignificant similarities.

9. Discipline. A devotion to the techniques, logic, and repetition that permit creative ideas to be realized.

So now we go to our boss and say "I'd like to have some extended alone time for inactivity and daydreaming so I can come up with a creative idea for your strategy."

(Please let me know how that conversation goes).

You can act to create creativity

Then next time you have charge of a meeting or idea session, how about using some of the above items to lay a foundation for creativity.

  • Build in "alone time" by having people think about the task well in advance.
  • Suspend judgment and encourage the craziest ideas in the room, because
  • Alertness (number 8) will connect the "crazy" dots

I hope you'll use these to be intentional about creativity. It sounds almost like an oxymoron--"intentional creativity"--but according to number 9 it isn't.

Intentional Creativity--that's a lot easier to sell to your boss than some alone time.

Graphic Source: www.bhmpics.com

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Nine Ways To Create Creativity

Do you consider yourself to be "creative?" Chances are, the answer is "No" or "Well, sometimes."

Why is that so?

I work with educational leaders and got this from a long-time school principal: 

If you ask first-graders how many of them are "creative," pretty much all of the hands in the class go up. They smile. They show their colorful drawings and finger painting and maybe even compose a song along the way.

What happens when the same question is asked of the same kids a few years later?

The responses drop to nearly zero. And the kids are still in elementary school.

Fast forward to your business meeting. Someone says "Let's get creative about how to grow the market in Asia. We've got until 5 o'clock."

Whoa!

We've got little kids who are convinced they are creative. Then we've got bigger little kids who start to doubt themselves. Then, we end up with adults who are sure they aren't creative but are being asked to create--with a deadline.

This post is a call for thought, not a rant. It seems to me that we have taken an entire population of creative youngsters, taught them to color inside the box (or else!), and now tell them to "think outside the box"--(or else!).

Creativity: The Magic Synthesis

Silvano Silvano Arieti wrote a book in 1976 called Creativity: The Magic Synthesis (you can get a used copy through amazon.com). Here are his nine conditions for creativity and the reasons why:

1. Aloneness. Being alone allows the person to make contact with the self and be open to new kinds of inspiration.

2. Inactivity. Periods of time are needed to focus on inner resources and to be removed from the constraints of routine activities.

3. Daydreaming. Allows exploration of one's fantasy life and venturing into new avenues for growth.

4. Free thinking. Allows the mind to wander in any direction without restriction and permits the similarities among remote topics or concepts to emerge.

5. State of readiness to catch similarities
. One must practice recognizing similarities and resemblances across to perceptual of cognitive domains.

6. Gullibility. A willingness to suspend judgment allows one to be open to possibilities without treating them as nonsense.

7. Remembering & replaying past traumatic conflicts. Conflict can be transformed into more stable creative products.

8. Alertness. A state of awareness that permits the person to grasp the relevance of seemingly insignificant similarities.

9. Discipline. A devotion to the techniques, logic, and repetition that permit creative ideas to be realized.

So, now we go to our boss and declare boldly, "I'd like to have some extended alone time for inactivity and daydreaming so I can come up with a creative idea for your strategy."

(Please let me know how that conversation goes).

How You Can Create Creativity

Then next time you have charge of a meeting or idea session, how about using some of the above items to lay a foundation for creativity.

  • Build in "alone time" by having people think about the task well in advance.  Mind-mapping-mindmap
  • Suspend judgment and encourage the craziest ideas in the room, because
  • Alertness (number 8) will connect the "crazy" dots

I hope you'll use these to be intentional about creativity. It sounds almost like an oxymoron--"intentional creativity"--but according to number nine it isn't.

Intentional Creativity--that's a lot easier to sell to your boss than some alone time.

___________________________________________

Resource: If you want to explore a lot more about creativity, you'll want to check in with Mark McGuinness at Lateral Action. Mark has a terrific blog and newsletter; when it comes to creativity, he's my immediate "go-to" guy.

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Creativity: Give Them Something to Argue About

Counterdependence: The act of overcompensating as a result of feeling very dependent and subconsciously moving in the opposing direction.

Think "teenagers".

Once teenagers figure out the rules, they begin to look for creative ways to break them as a way to assert their independence. Adults do the same thing. You can choose to funnel that dynamic into productive counterdependence.

Here are some proven (that means I did it at least once) ways:

1. Implementing Changes.

The warm-and-fuzzy school of thought says to get people involved at the outset of a change to help create it. Well, that might work if they known what to do and how to do it.

a. If they don't know either, then they require direction. When people know the over-arching purpose of the change, they'll be able to help refine it.

b. If they know what but not how, they need educational direction.

c. If they know how but don't want to do the what, they need a darned good reason. Perhaps even an offer they can't refuse. Then, listen for the responses to get an accurate readiness diagnostic that you won't have to pay for.

Trampoline2. Brainstorming Past The Glazed-Over Eyeballs.

People who are highly expressive and verbal often enjoy brainstorming. That's who the "storming" part was meant to accommodate.

But what about the deep thinkers who want to reflect thoughtfully  before participating?

They need something upon which to reflect, then react. They need content. Give them some. Instead of expecting your engineers and accountants to view your blank flip chart page as a Monet canvas, put some of your ideas up there first. Don't worry about how lame they are. (Your ideas, not the engineers). Just get something up there for people to "bounce off of."

Think of yourself and your content as  "trampolines for engagement." (Did I just say that?)

3. Overcoming Senior-itis.

I frequently hear this from managers:

"I don't want to tell anybody what I think of Project X until after they've discussed it in the meeting. Then I'll give my opinion. Otherwise, they may be intimidated and try to please me." The thinking is this: The most senior person in the room should wait until last to speak.

That may be true if:

a. You have a pant-load of wimps working for you, in which case it won't make any difference.

b. These people used to offer up a stream of ideas until they figured out that you always wait until the last minute to unveil your brilliance and tell them how wrong they all are. Gotcha!

c. You somehow believe that the accurate definition of "leadership" is "I'll go last."

I actually do understand how strong managers arrive at the "I'll go last" methodology and most of those with whom I've worked believe they are doing a good thing. They aren't.

At the beginning of the meeting the manager needs to say something like:

"Here's my thinking on this right now, and why. I don't have all the answers or the nuance. Let's talk about how to look at Project X in it's totality and see what we come up with." Then sit down, listen, and stick to clarifying questions.

Why go first? Because everyone in the room will hold back to some extent until the senior person puts a stake in the ground. Pound the stake, tell them you are more than willing to move it, and get out of the way.

Note: If you aren't willing to budge, say so and have a "best way to implement" discussion. Don't do a "faux" participative activity. You can get away with it once or twice but it will ultimately wreck your credibility and the group's participation.

That's what I'm thinking about this today. How about you?

Bonus: For an interesting, real-life example of how the entire population of a city used creative counterdependency, re-visit Wally Bock's When People Construct Windows You Can Walk Through.

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Think "Design" vs. "Work"

Right now, you are either thinking about or designing an idea, product, service, or process.

Yet  most of us don't view ourselves as designers. It sounds like a specific, creative field in which we don't have formal education. But we do.

Design_industrial


Earlier today I submitted a consulting agreement. As I proofread it I realized that 3 of the key elements were "Design'...a workshop. . .learning materials. . .executive planning session.

So I looked over previous proposals and agreements and discovered that "design" is a huge part of my work.

I admit, I'm a design freak in general. Elegant design grabs my attention faster than usability. Elegant design plus usability gets my money.

Here's my point: Start thinking of yourself as a designer. Look at your work and your life through that lens and see what happens.


  • Are you designing new leadership and management approaches to a critical situation?
  • Is your suggestion for changing administrative work flow an example of great functional design?
  • What about your IT solution for simplifying internal communication?
Gotcha! You're a designer.


photo attribution: lucidream.com/blog/ wp-content/uploads/2009/05...

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Boost Creativity: Make Rules To Be Broken

Counterdependence: The act of overcompensating as a result of feeling very dependent and subconsciously moving in the opposing direction.

Think "teenagers".

Once teenagers figure out the rules, they begin to look for creative ways to break them as a way to assert their independence. Adults do the same thing. You can choose to funnel that dynamic into productive counterdependence.

Here are some proven (that means I did it at least once) ways:

1. Implementing Changes.

The warm-and-fuzzy school of thought says to get people involved at the outset of a change to help create it. Well, that might work if they known what to do and how to do it.

a. If they don't know either, then they require direction. When people know the over-arching purpose of the change, they'll be able to help refine it.

b. If they know what but not how, they need educational direction.

c. If they know how but don't want to do the what, they need a darned good reason. Perhaps even an offer they can't refuse. Then, listen for the responses to get an accurate readiness diagnostic that you won't have to pay for.

Bird_breakingrules 2. Brainstorming Past Glazed-Over Eyeballs.

People who are highly expressive and verbal often enjoy brainstorming. That's who the "storming" part was meant to accommodate.

But what about the deep thinkers who want to reflect thoughtfully  before participating?

They need something upon which to reflect, then react. They need content. Give them some. Instead of expecting your engineers and accountants to view your blank flip chart page as a Monet canvas, put some of your ideas up there first. Don't worry about how lame they are. (Your ideas, not the engineers). Just get something up there for people to "bounce off of."

Think of yourself and your content as  "trampolines for engagement." (Did I just say that?)

3. Overcoming Senior-itis.

Frequently heard from managers:

"I don't want to tell anybody what I think of Project X until after they've discussed it in the meeting. Then I'll give my opinion. Otherwise, they may be intimidated and try to please me." The thinking is this: The most senior person in the room should wait until last to speak.

That may be true if:

a. You have an abundance of shrinking violets working with you, in which case it won't make any difference.

b. These people used to offer up a stream of ideas until they figured out that you always wait until the last minute to unveil your brilliance and tell them how wrong they all are. Gotcha!

c. You somehow believe that the accurate definition of "leadership" is "I'll go last."

I actually do understand how strong managers arrive at the "I'll go last" methodology and most of those with whom I've worked believe they are doing a good thing. They aren't.

At the beginning of the meeting the manager needs to say something like:

"Here's my thinking on this right now, and why. I don't have all the answers or the nuance. Let's talk about how to look at Project X in it's totality and see what we come up with." Then sit down, listen, and stick to clarifying questions.

Why go first? Because everyone in the room will hold back to some extent until the senior person puts a stake in the ground. Pound the stake, tell them you are more than willing to move it, and get out of the way.

Note: If you aren't willing to budge, say so and have a "best way to implement" discussion. Don't do a "faux" participative activity. You can get away with it once or twice but it will ultimately wreck your credibility and the group's participation.

That's what I'm thinking about this today. How about you?

____________________________________________

( "All Things Workplace" has been selected as one of the 10 finalists for the 2009 Best of Leadership Blogs competition hosted by the Kevin Eikenberry Group. It's an honor to be selected. If you are interested in voting for your favorite, please vote at Best Leadership Blog 2009 by July 31st.)


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Steve Roesler, Principal & Founder
The Steve Roesler Group
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