In a lot of workplaces, “creativity” and “innovation” are thrown around frequently. They end up becoming blanket terms and no one knows what they mean. Unless your organization/department is part of the small percentage that is coming up with the latest technology, products or services, most organizations are really thinking about these term as meaning ‘how can we do better tomorrow as compared to what we are doing today’.
Small ‘c’ and small ‘I’ creativity and innovation
For many teams and departments outside of R&D, creativity and innovation really need to focus on how to achieve key performance indicators more efficiently and perhaps with a new angle. In sales that might mean building stronger relationships with customers in different ways, finding a new target, or reaching a new market. In operations, it might mean finding ways to cut costs or a way to improve efficiency. To reach those kind of breakthrough ideas, sometimes we have to use creative thinking techniques.
Using Creative Thinking Techniques
In workshops that we have conducted, participants have varying levels of comfort with creative exercises. Many believe that they themselves are not creative, so they hesitate to fully participate at first. However, it is interesting to see those groups that embrace various creative thinking techniques and what results can arrive. It can be as simple as using the reverse brainstorm technique. Determine what the goal is to achieve, and then think about as many ways as you can to not achieve that goal. After brainstorming that, you turn those negatives into the positives (sadly, the occasional participant stays stuck in the negative).
Building a Culture where Creativity can Grow
It is very important that leaders acknowledge any barriers that might exist in the organizational culture that prevent creativity. Often leaders will say to team members that they welcome new ideas and ways of doing things. But then, that very same leader admonishes team members for taking risks or won’t support the idea one level up. So prior to undertaking any creative brainstorming, an environment or culture of openness, safety and an understanding of risk tolerance is necessary. Otherwise, it just becomes a frustrating exercise for everyone.