Introducing Brian Clegg, Creativity expert and author of a bookshelf of books on the topic of creativity. I first spotted Brian when I hired him to present a masterclass at an MBA Alumni event at a leading Business School. The other week, he made me an indecent proposal of a completely free resource – what’s not to like about this? I will let him take up the story after sampling ‘Free Your Mind’ by En Vogue:
Brian: Creativity in business is a funny thing. We all pay lip service to how important it is – but when times are tight and money is short we tend to pull up the drawbridge and say ‘We can do without all this new-fangled innovation. While we’re in trouble we need to stick with what we know.’
In reality, of course, this is absolute tosh. The very time when you need to be most creative as a business is when things are difficult. But it’s understandable that, in times of financial stress, you don’t necessarily want to spend lots of money to train people in being more creative.
Peter: The critics say that the banking crash was caused by creativity. I don’t agree. Mindless gambling is not the same as mindful creativity. What say you?
Brian: Absolutely. Creativity does always involve taking a risk, and that’s one of the problems many big organisations have with creativity. But it should be a controlled risk, with the impact minimised – hardly the case with the banking crash. More that though, while being creative involves taking a risk, that doesn’t make all risk taking creative. There is no creativity in bungee jumping or flinging yourself off the side of a building in the hope that the canopy over the door will break your fall. That is risk for the sake of risk. There are many ways that banks could be creative for their own benefit and the benefit of their customers – but the events leading up to the crash did not fall into this category. And the people who created this mess certainly did have creativity training.
There’s an assumption in my previous assertion re training, of course. I’m taking it for granted that there is benefit in training people in creativity. I hope there’s no doubt about the need for creativity. If everything around you stayed exactly the same, then you could carry on as you have before and thrive. But the fact is that the environment (financial and physical) is changing. Your customers are changing. Your competitors and your industry are changing. Technology is changing. You need creativity for new ideas, and you need it to solve problems. I think it’s no exaggeration to say that in this environment, creativity is nothing less than a survival essential. It’s a case of be creative or go to the wall.
Peter: Cynics would ask if there is any point in training people in creativity? Is it either nature or nothing? What would they do? Get a pot of paint or a guitar and start improvising in the office or something?
Brian: In fact, there is a huge point. Everyone can be creative, but most of us suppress that natural ability. We block it in ourselves and in others. We’re great at doing this. (If you doubt that statement, next time you are in a meeting, watch out for someone coming up with an idea, then see how everyone else finds reasons why it won’t work.) And in the last few decades practical techniques have been developed that will enable anyone to come up with a much richer pool of ideas, and help them to develop and implement those ideas effectively. We’re not talking about airy-fairy conceptual creativity, but down-to-earth, practical tools that solidly deliver ideas and problem solutions.
Peter: Well, of course, you are preaching to the converted here. As you know I operate from a suite of about 120 divergent and convergent techniques to help businesses expand ideas, develop them, make tough decisions and take the results to a profitable conclusion. But what if you are up against it cost wise?
So, creativity training, good – cost of creativity courses, bad. If your business has the money, I would still get yourself a proper course. You can’t beat the interaction with a good creativity trainer to get people up and running with creativity quickly. But if the budget doesn’t run to it, I’ve a simple, self-managed 25 module course in the form of a PDF ebook called Mind Storm that won’t break the budget at £19.99.
To get a better feel about what’s involved, the first chapter of the book is available to download for free – or you can find out more details and purchase the full course here.
Brian: Agreed. I really think, given the current conditions, any business that isn’t doing something about its creativity is asking for trouble.
image credit: brianclegg.net
Peter Cook is Rock’n’Roll Innovation Editor at Innovation Excellence. He leads Human Dynamics and The Academy or Rock, and provides Keynote speaking, Organisation Development and Business Coaching. www.humdyn.co.uk and www.academy-of-rock.co.uk. You can follow him on twitter @Academyofrock