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In a survey by IBM CEO’s considered creativity to be one of the most important factors to success. Yet turn around and ask anyone in your office if they’re creative (outside of the creative department of course) and ask them are you creative. Yeah you know it. They’ll say no, as most of us do.

I love to say this but we’re all wrong. We all think of the arts when we talk creativity. It either lays in design that is tangible or its something we do when we’re a genius locked away in a room by ourselves, but both couldn’t be further from the truth.

So how do we unlock our creativity? Creativity relies on a depth of understanding of a problem that doesn’t come without a personal connection or experience. This is what evokes inspiration in us. If we are trying to solve the problems of our customers we need to connect with them. We need to experience the problem or connect with them to understand their perspective.

Why do you think startups have the ability to be disruptive over the big conglomerates? Its because their story comes from experiencing the frustration or pain of a problem and they become so focused on fixing it that it becomes a passion and purpose onto itself. They understand the problem intimately.

It doesn’t stop there the creative thinkers of our time experience something, get inspired by an idea and then analyse it from different perspectives to pull it apart to see if their idea is viable.

And here lies the journey to creativity. It doesn’t lie in your ability to pick up a paint brush or design some creative copy. It starts with ideas. That’s right ideas. Now correct me if I’m wrong but I’m betting you have had a few ideas of your own lately right? Then in that case you my friend have the capacity to label yourself as creative so let’s look at 6 reasons why organisations need creativity.

But first let’s hit the gym. ???

1. Increased workplace problem solving

“Creativity is like a muscle”. David Kelley form IDEO and Author of Creative Confidence said it and it’s true.

Imagine the first time you walk into a gym. You’re not sure what some of the equipment does, if you’re dressed right what stretches to do. It’s all feeling a bit foreign.

Then skip forward to when you’ve been going 4 times a week for a year. What is it feeling like now? You go straight to your routine warm up stretch and get to business. Heck you might even have a bit of a swagger as you walk through those doors and flick a few index fingers towards to Tom, Dick and Lucy. And so you should you’ve earnt the right to be there.

Creativity is the same. It feels totally foreign at first. It feels clunky, hard and uncomfortable but the more we look for any opportunity to pause and look at things differently it gets easier. Give yourself permission to suck at brainstorming then reflect and think about how the next session can be done better.

Start small. At the beginning of every meeting bring an idea to work on for 5 mins. Give your team permission to flex their creative muscles.

How many times do we tell ourselves I’m not the creative type? I’ve said it myself, many times. We link it to being able to draw or paint, but creativity isn’t just about tangible design. It’s simply about creation. Business models, customer experiences, processes. I mean we’ve all heard creative accounting. Creativity is within all of us.

Allowing teams, the time to collaborate and think differently helps them to work out how to solve problems. Our minds naturally want to solve problems so give them the time to do it.

2. Spend more time doing the work that matters by prioritising

Creativity allows time for perspective. It helps everyone identify the key elements to our organisation that are going to make a difference whether it’s in the long term or the short term. By having perspective this allow us to understand the bigger picture and where our time is best spent. Is it completing a to-do list, getting your inbox down to zero unread or is it doing something today that will make a difference to someone tomorrow?

3. Better teamwork and team bonding

I always hear this catch cry that everyone loves a brainstorming session. But why? Is it because we walk out thinking we’ve solved the world’s problems or was it feeding our need to collaborate, communicate and connect?

Organisations often believe that in order to improve workplace culture we need a team bonding event or more social club catch ups. These are quick fixes and unsustainable ones. Instead focus on how your team can work together more effectively and connect on a level that allows them to be open and transparent. Teams unite over a common problem. We may have different perspectives but when we work on finding a solution to a problem together, we can have healthy and higher-level discussions that unite us and give us interactive moments of meaning.

4. Increased team engagement and interaction

The next time you play scrabble have someone stand behind you and tell you what each word will be that you can put down. The only way you can play the game is if the individual behind you tells you what to play. Thinking for yourself is not permitted. Sound like a fun game?

Of course not. Why would we ever play a game like that?

Yet in the workplace this happens all the time. Whether it’s a CEO, middle manager or micro manager we think it’s acceptable to hand down the solutions with the focus on a deadline. It’s a do this by then not a we need to do this because……

We become driven by to do lists and tactics with no time to refocus. We’re driven by order for our hands, but not enough time is spent on engaging our minds and our hearts. Our minds are constantly seeking to solve problems and if we link that to our purpose or our hearts then we are more engaged at work. If we are more engaged at work, we are more likely to proactively seek out healthy interactions. As teams we work together more effectively because we are all playing a part towards a bigger picture.

If engagement and interaction are high people will seek more problems to solve. The less problems that exist in an organisation the more productive it is and the better results it can deliver.

5. Improved ability to attract and retain quality employees

I like to call this the happy kids in the playground affect. If you have a bunch of kids playing in one particular section of a playground you can bet that new kids entering are attracted to the area of the playground. There’s more fun, more laughter coming from that section so something great must be happening.

We run to what looks fun ;o) Even as adults!

It’s the same with a flourishing culture. When people are happy at work, word spreads.

6. Drives the desire to learn and be curious

In keeping with the theme of children they have a natural ability to be innovators as opposed to us more conditioned and seasoned adults. It all lies in their ability to ask why? Asking why repeatedly can lead us to a path to the ‘Aha’ moment. They become hard to attain as we get older and there is only one reason for that, and this is because we become programmed to act on assumptions. We become conscious of the judgment of others, so we don’t ask too many questions. If we do, we’re worried we’ll be seen as that co-worker without a clue but true innovation stems from a curious mind.

We spend so much time delivering a knee jerk reaction to problem solving that we end up doing a band aid fix more often and not and that is because we lack the root cause understanding.

Innovation is our driving buzz word, yet we spend more time in the tinkering and polishing phase that all that work is meaningless if we haven’t understood the root cause of the problem.

If you don’t know the root cause to a problem, you are trying to fix a headache with a band aid. Organisations who spend more time in the upfront stages of innovation are the ones more likely to get it right. This involves more time in discovery, more time defining the problem and more time in the creative brainstorming phase.

The best leaders of our time are continuous learners they adapt a beginner’s mindset and allow their creative mind to flow.

With more and more offices clearing out by the day using online tools is not just proving a ‘nice to have’ or a plan b but the only way in which teams can continue to effectively hold meetings and communicate.  

It’s challenging times with many organisations grappling with the pace of change and putting in place new policies and procedures around the COVID-19. Those encouraging or enforcing team members work from home means they are now working with increasingly dispersed teams. We are looking at some quiet offices around town. (Que the tumbleweed).  

The need for dispersed teams to maintain high levels of communication is nothing new. This need has been around long before COVID-19 and let’s face it anyone here in WA has at some time worked for an organisation that is dispersed across our 10,194 km coastline but the need to connect online has never been higher than right now.  

IBM conducted a survey which stated about 60% of CEOs cited creativity as the most important leadership quality yet when we look at our meeting structures there often dedicated to sifting through tasks and tick lists. How much time are you dedicating to improving your team’s creativity to solve problems? Are you using tools to help them be more visual and collaborative. Creativity is a business asset. 

We’ve got to get stuff done, why invest time in creative thought?   

By promoting creativity, you heighten the engagement of your team. More engaged team members deliver better productivity and better outcomes for your customers, resulting in increases in revenue. All of this is supported in Gallup’s article on Fostering Creativity at Work.  

Keep your team connected and collaborating with these online tools. Make your meetings more visual and engaging.

  1. IdeaFlip https://ideaflip.com/ 

If you’re just getting started with an online tool Idea Flip has an incredibly simple user interface that allows you to display brainstorming ideas and move them around quickly and easily. You can upload PDF’s and images and if your working on developing a website or making changes to your site you can take screen shots to communicate what you want with your creative team. You can export all your work from the session and there’s an option for feedback. It’s a simple web app but does come with a small subscription cost. 

  1. Miro https://miro.com/ 

Has a range of templates to help you with everything from strategic planning to collaborative brainstorming. There’s a huge range of templates in here that you can pick and choose from and you can see your colleagues commenting and adding their notes live. The work is then exportable.  

Some of the templates like the customer journey mapping templates are a little simplistic so you’ll need to explore the templates and see if it meets the requirements of what you’re working on.  

  1. Creatlr https://www.creatlr.com/ 

Again, there’s a bunch of templates to search through from empathy mapping, customer journey templates to business model templates and even change management templates. However, for free users you’ll find some templates are locked which requires a subscription.

  1. StormBoard https://stormboard.com/ 

Stormboard is free for up to 5 users (with free trials for more users) and available across all devices. There is a range of templates to select from depending on your needs. If you’re an Agile team you’ve got your daily stand up available and a Kanban board. You can also any export of the templates to PDF, PowerPoint or word so you can take a snapshot in time then continue working on your project.  

Tips for getting started 

  1. Select someone from your team with a knack for facilitation and bringing people together. They can get familiar with your new online tool and oversee getting the team set up. Once set up they can then run the meeting and guide everyone through it.  
  1. Set up a test run first to ensure when the CEO comes online that you’ve got any nuances worked out. 
  1. After the meeting reflect and ask for feedback on what went well and what needs to be improved for next time. These online tools are simply tools that you should look to customise and work in with your organisations systems and process.  
  1. Once you’re familiar with one tool or template see where you can trial others.  

Stay calm and stay connected!  

Cheers, Liv