The Management Blog
Tips & advice to help you improve your performance
Do you ever walk into your own office to find your employees slumped over their desks, completely uninspired?
Or, have you been receiving the same exact work lately, which is lackluster and boring? Learn More
Being creative is a skill that many managers would like to develop within their people, as it enables them to see situations, events, people and results in unique ways.
Creative people make connections that others miss and look for opportunities that others overlook. Creative and innovative people combine to create a culture in which new and better ways to achieve goals are the norm. Learn More
People very often confuse creativity and innovation. Basically, creativity is the thinking that generates ideas; innovation is the practical application of those creative ideas to meet your business’s objectives more effectively.
But creativity is never enough on its own, since ideas are only the raw materials for innovation. You need a screening and development mechanism to turn ideas into reality. How, though, so you first develop creative thought processes? Well firstly, you need to identify some barriers to creative thinking:
– You allow your mind to be conditioned into following a dominant pattern of thought, so you become trapped into a fixed way of looking at things
– You fail to identify and examine the assumptions you make, to ensure they aren’t restricting the development of new ideas
– You think sequentially instead of laterally, and are always looking for the best idea, rather than different ideas
– You don’t challenge obvious solutions
– You judge prematurely, not giving yourself enough time to drift over other ways of looking at things
– You tend to conform and give the expected answer
– You fear you’ll look foolish or be put down by others
These rationalisations may inhibit your thought-processes and create barriers to creativity. So what can you do to overcome those barriers?
Firstly, do some self-analysis.
Identify the dominant ideas that influence your thinking.
Then define the boundaries you are operating in and question them. Do policies need re-thinking, or processes re-thought?
Then identify how you will break free from the boundaries, opening up your mind to new ideas
Think, how would a competitor view these ideas? What would a scientist think, or a football manager? By looking from a different perspective, you create different thought patterns and possibly come up with an idea you wouldn’t have considered if you thought the same way as always before.
You may find plausible reasons why something might not work (it didn’t work last time, it’s too risky, it’s too expensive, good in theory but…, the customers won’t buy it, etc.). But it’s the end result that is key here – you shouldn’t worry too much about how you get there.
Incubation is always a good idea. How often have you had really good ideas when in the bath or shower or walking the dog? This is because the mind is working unconsciously on the problem and is able to identify those things that you wouldn’t have thought of on a conscious level.
Lateral thinking is also a good technique. Instead of looking for what is right, concentrating on relevance, moving in a certain direction and leading from one thing to another, Lateral Thinking looks at what is different, makes jumps instead of thinking sequentially, welcomes intrusions and explores many unlikely directions. You need to provocatively challenge the way you’re thinking, and reject thinking that reduces decision-making to a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
When you consider what benefits you gain from thinking creatively, you give yourself the chance to build great ideas and identify various perspectives that you hadn’t seen before. And that’s where innovation and future development really works.
We are often asked by managers, how do we get our people to think creatively? We all know that creative thinking is a skill or talent that is highly prized, but how exactly do we encourage it?
Good question. I think it all starts with having the environment that encourages creativity in the first place. We all know that when a manager says she wants people to be creative but then negates creative thought by her actions or words, people will freeze when asked for ideas or input. Make sure that your actions back up your words if you want your staff to be creative.
What we find to be the biggest assistance in creative thought is allowing people to take risks. Don’t look for perfect solutions every time. Reports show that Thomas Edison experimented thousands of times before he found the element that allowed the first electric lightbulb to glow. On the way, he discovered explosive mixtures that blew up his laboratory! If he hadn’t taken risks on the journey, you might still be using candles on your desk!
Research shows that creativity is tied to failure. How? Because creative people are productive people. They have many, many ideas. You want people to come up with lots of ideas because the more ideas people come up with, the more innovative the ideas usually are. Why? Because the first ideas are usually conservative. It is only when you get these conservative ideas out of the way that you start coming up with new ideas – ones that haven’t been tried before – ones that are truly innovative.
Edison had ideas that others considered stupid or bad because they were so different from what people had seen before. So, unless risk is encouraged, people aren’t going to offer an idea that is out of the ordinary, or “bad” or “stupid.”
Remember that conformity will kill creativity every time! Yet what do managers and HR people do? Hire for fit, for culture. In other words, they encourage conformity! I know you have to go by the book sometimes, but how can you encourage something that your culture doesn’t reward?
You might think a person doesn’t have the education or background to be creative. But that attitude will stifle creativity right from the outset. By allowing diversity, you allow creativity.
So how do you motivate people to think creatively? Remember, the best rewards are those that truly motivate the person being rewarded to do the behaviour that you want. If you want increased innovation, then you need to use rewards that have a history of working for creative people.
Try rewarding the behaviours you want by giving people some control over what they work on. Give them a few hours a week or a day or two each month to work on a project that is important to them. And then give them resources for that project – a budget, technology, software, space. The project may be something that you can encourage them in using creative thought. Get them to bounce ideas around. Let the person have full responsibility for it, without inhibitions.
This environment will encourage creative thought and innovation, almost without them knowing it. At least it will change their attitude and actually make them more productive, even increasing their motivation along the way. You never know, the project may even be of major benefit to your department or company!
So, if you want people to find their creativity, create opportunities for them to do so. They might surprise you!
This is a great idea if you want to generate ideas quickly. It encourages divergent thinking among your team, as they collectively address issues facing your company.
Here are some steps you can take to ensure it works effectively: Learn More