We need creativity now more than ever. Creativity helps us deal with the big A word.
In a rapidly changing environment knowing the right answer off the bat is near impossible. The whole idea of ambiguity is that often we are not even clear on the problem. We are good at assuming what we think is the problem but until we stop and dedicate time to unlocking our curiosity and unleashing our creative thought, we can’t be sure.
Creativity implies freedom – freedom to think in new ways. However, we are human and as we know NEW ways of doing things can be interpreted as a threat to many of us. The whole theory of change management has been in demand for years simply due to our inability to adapt to change.
– John F Kennedy
“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future”
Here’s the four things you need to get right to help creativity thrive in your organisation:
1. Bring your whole self to work
This isn’t walking into the office (or your home office) in your track pants and stained shirt, but it is the ability to be open and transparent with the people you’re working with. It is forming a foundation of psychological safety. No one will risk potential ridicule or negative reactions from sharing new ideas, especially radical ones. There needs to be encouragement, acceptance and acknowledgement from leaders.
There’s also needs to be an acceptance that the lines of your personal life and your work life are blurred now more than ever before.
With the viral BBC clip in 2017 now certainly seeming like every parents reality we’ve had the opportunity to get a glimpse into our colleagues life like never before. But this is a good thing, right? Well, I think so. I think this crisis we have faced is an opportunity for us all to think about HOW we do this thing called work and how we control its expansiveness into our lives. We all have responsibilities and priorities that lie outside our work. These are the things that drive our purpose and if they are not the things driving us then we need to take a step back and re-asses, what the hell we’re all doing here.
2. Respect each other
This is not a hard one, but old school leadership styles demand a stoic, fear driving figure head who threatens your job all to instil some motivation. Well, I have been in organisations driven by such figure heads and you won’t be surprised when I say it flat out doesn’t work. Fear disables creativity quicker than Superman being disarmed by Kryptonite.
The blame does not all lie with leaders. Perhaps you have someone in your team who lacks a little humbleness and exerts unsubstantiated hubris. You know the type they talk down anyone else ideas because THEY have all the answers and THEY know all there is to know. You leave meetings with them feeling like a hollow tip to the back of the throat might be more enjoyable.
What’s the cure? Well its simple. Turn up when you are supposed to turn up. Let people talk and listen to ideas before shooting them out of the sky. Actually, listen. Don’t just be worried about appearing to be listening when instead you are checking your phone or thinking about if bangs would make you look better on Zoom.
Actively listen, interpret and analyse what others are stating. Respect each other and know that NO-ONE has all the answers. That is right, no-one. There may be one person in the room who makes the final call but developing possible solutions should be done together.
We all think that innovative genius comes from some guy (yes I’m using a worn out stereotype) sitting in a room all by himself with his new advancement in technology and goes on to change the world and become a multi billionaire at 24. This is not reality.
Success comes to these individuals after many failures and mockery. Look deep into any stories of creative genius or ingenuity and you’ll find a journey filled with bouncing ideas around with other experts. Building on ideas and/or straight out stealing ideas and tweaking them.
Mark Twain famously once said “There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations.”Mark Twain
If you’re thinking of your colleagues as simply getting in the way to you doing your job there’s your first clue you need to rethink your mindset on collaboration.
If there is anything that this current crisis has taught us is that we need each other. We need each other in our day to day lives but we also need others to help form our own individual ideas.
Collaboration is not a team building exercise. Collaboration and creative thought need to happen every day. That is why meetings are the perfect playground for you to slide right into creating a creative team.
Collaboration provides people with satisfaction and engagement, and it helps organisations turn around and deliver on new ideas, faster.
4. Follow a Framework
You know where I am going with this. I’m a design thinking consultant so of course I’m going to say this is the framework to success. Let us simplify it though. It’s simply a staged process like walking (one foot in front of the other) that will help your team begin their journey to innovation. It will help them come up with new ideas and deal with ambiguity.
If you are not dabbling in design thinking this can seem all too impossible and irrelevant. You might be saying “we’re no Apple or IBM” or “it’s not applicable to us”. I’d wholehearted disagree on both counts but for the cynics out there I encourage any organisation to find its own framework. In reference to the quote from Mark Twain earlier look at design thinking, or Agile or Lean principles and steal small elements from each one.
Start small and experiment with what suits your organisations biggest challenge. If its reducing waste look at Lean, if it’s defining the difference between what customers say they want and what they really want then start with design thinking, or if its improving efficiencies and getting more done with less then explore Agile.
Follow a framework or steal someone else’s. The steps do not matter. Allow your team to do the work they love by giving them the freedom to play with the way things are done. The main point here is start small but just get started.