Creativity drives problem solving, innovation and entrepreneurship. It is a critical skill (and mindset) that leads to new and more efficient solutions to existing problems. It also enables individuals and organizations to find ways to address customers’ needs as a differentiating factor. In theory, creativity is widely praised and desired. But, in reality, creative solutions are often met with pushback, reluctance and even hostility.
“Being creative is going to be associated with a lot of failure,” says Dr. Lynne Vincent, co-author of Outside Advantage: Can Social Rejection Fuel Creative Thought? “You have to have the confidence to persevere and continue on past the hurdles and barriers.”
People say they value creativity, but in reality they celebrate the successful outcome of its implementation.
I have seen many organizations stuck in a creativity slump as their employees focus too much on what they’re working on and they don’t see the forest for the trees.
One question I am asked often times is: how do I boost creativity in my organization?
1. Find inspiration in your mission statement.
A mission statement should tell the world why you are in business, what’s your real purpose of doing business. An inspirational, motivated purpose will offer endless possibilities where creativity has no limits. For instance, Lego’s mission: “inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow”. Their purpose is to inspire & develop children to think creatively, reason systematically and release their potential to shape their own future – experiencing their endless human possibility.
2. When you look at a problem, don’t look at it as a whole.
Take it apart in pieces and start building a solution with the pieces in a different way. As an example, the Indianapolis Zoo knew they were facing a major issue with the new orangutan exhibit: an increase of 30% in attendance. Looking at the attendance and parking problem as a whole, they saw an immediate solution: expand the parking lot. This meant raising more funds to build a new parking lot, with the challenge of having an empty lot when the attendance is low. By taking the problem apart, they realized that they had to better manage the flow of visitors across the week, versus trying to fix a massive visitor influx on the weekend. They introduced a dynamic pricing, spreading attendance more evenly between busy and low periods, thus controlling the parking issue and providing a better experience to the visitors every single day.
3. Educate yourself.
I personally spend a lot of time reading blogs, business books, watching videos like TED talks… I enjoy learning about new things, challenging my thinking, expand my horizon. As much I like to challenge people on how they think, I like to be challenged myself too.
4. Schedule unstructured meetings with your co-workers.
Have one of them explain a challenge (s)he is facing, or an idea (s)he has, and start brainstorming as a group. It does not have to be work related, but debating and exchanging ideas with people you see on a regular basis is vital for bonding and strengthening relationships in the work place.
5. Get away from familiar places.
I personally don’t like to spend my entire week in the office. I like to go places: Starbucks, a client’s office, networking event… We humans are creatures of habit, we like the comfort of the routine, of what we are familiar with. In order to change my mindset, I flee my normal work setting and unlock myself in a creative space; I take offsite unstructured time to re-source myself, change my perspectives.
6. Find a coach and a mentor.
In a previous company I worked for, all managers had coaching sessions to talk about work or personal challenges. Since I left that company, I’ve kept a relationship with my coach whom I called whenever I need to be challenged. I’ve also developed relationships with successful entrepreneurs who have mentored me over the years. Good coaches and mentors are not the ones who give answers to your questions, but rather challenge you to find your own answers.
7. Find inspiration from your competitors.
I’ve had great relatsionships over the years from many of my competitors. I like to meet with them on a regular basis, not to talk about our existing clients or prospects, but rather to discuss and debate on a topic that we’ve recently read about. Debates are great to gain new perspectives, help you think on our feet as you are forced on articluate on the spot your ideas to defend your position on a (controversial) topic.
8. Be a business activist.
I’ve founded and am leading s.p.IN (www.gospin.org), a social business activism plaform with the goal to bring people together with different skills to work on innovative projects serving the business community. This is a great source of inspiration and creativity for me as I tackle different sets of problems and I surround myself with people I would not meet otherwise. Great opportunity to expand my horizon and learn from others.
9. Stand-up comedy or improv.
As scary as it sounds, stand-up comdey is a great way to boost your creativity. I’ve done it several times and loved it. First, you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone. Making a business presentation in front of a group is one thing; making people laugh while you’re on stage is another. Which brings me to the second point: the adrelaline boosts your energy and creativity. Third, mostly with improv, is that you learn to react quickly and think on your feet.
It is important to clear your mind regularly, whether it is for a few hours or a few days. A walk in the park, time with your family, a vacation… It helps you relax, enjoy the moment. When you come back to work, your battery is refilled.
11. Encourage experimentation, lower the fear of failure.
Experimentation is key to creativity. Having an idea does not mean anything until you execute on this idea. Often times, people don’t take that step because of the fear of failing. If you see experimentation (and possible failure) was a way to learn, you will always find the positive in whatever you do. The more you try, the more you experiment, the more you will find of new ways, better ways to do things. Experimentation feeds creatvity.
Similar to stand-up comedy, a good work-out boosts your adrenaline level. You feel energized, you exhaust any angst you may have. You focus on the outcome. All the chemistry going on in your body fuels creativity.
What do YOU do to boost your creativity?
Image credit: www.mummypreneurs.com.au
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Stephan Vincent is the Indiana Editor for Innovation Excellence, covering innovation in the Hoosier state and beyond. He is the Innovation & Brand Catalyst at Think Unique, an innovation & branding consulting agency in Indianapolis, IN. He is also Founder and President of s.p.IN and Collide Summit Indiana, a first-of-its- kind un-conference unlike anything else. Connect with Stephan and gain more of his insights on his own blog.