Creatures of Habit Simon Jack Habits that stifle our creative ability at work and actions we can take to remedy them www.creativeencounters.co.uk
Before you begin, please take this short quiz… Q1 Which of these is a creative work activity? a) Producing a catchy marketing campaign b) Developing a new product or service c) Making meetings more productive d) Removing an inefficient task from a process e) Realising and learning from mistakes f) All of the above Q2 Who drives creativity at work? a) Leadership team b) Marketing c) Account managers d) Customers e) New Recruits f) All of the above Q3 I am a creative person… a) Yes b) No
How did you get on? Hopefully this was an easy quiz. Creativity is a commonly misunderstood to only be flamboyant demonstrations of natural talent. However, creative thinking is a relatively simple skill that can be learned and harnessed by everyone. In simple terms, it’s learning how to see various perspectives and applying them to achieve a new outcome. That can be in absolutely anything we do, from creating a new business model, to brightening up someone’s day. Q2 f) All of the above Q1 f) All of the above Q3 Whichever you choose, you are right
Unfortunately we aren’t always able to appreciate our creative abilities and over time, we trade in our imagination for sensible logic and we develop thinking habits that can be quite restrictive. Just think back to when you were a child when anything was possible… Why are we not more creative? But these limitations can be conquered by empowering yourself with simple creative thinking techniques. So read on… A washing up bottle could be a spaceship A cardboard box could be a fairytale castle Even Noel Edmonds could be entertaining if you really tried
Routine Routines can make us more efficient in tasks we do on a repetitive basis but narrow our thought processes when trying to come up with new solutions. Here’s a great demonstration of how too much focus can prevent us seeing the obvious (click on the movie reel). Obey logic We are conditioned from a young age to think in terms of right and wrong. We are not taught how to entertain flawed logic in order to provide a springboard to new ideas . The Habits
If we get used to doing something in a particular way, we can often stay in a state of adequate bliss even though better solutions may exist. This is often one of the biggest drawbacks to creativity at work. In our fast-paced world we must learn to question whether the existing approach is still the most beneficial and test alternative solutions. Social conformity is a great for safeguarding us from risky and embarrassing situations. However, it can result in ‘groupthink’ where ideas don’t ever leave their creative comfort zone. Sometimes it is necessary to go against the grain to look for new solutions. Want to see social conformity in action..? Stick to the rules The more we experience doing things in certain ways, the more we instil preconceptions and assumptions that hold fast in the way we think and perceive. Are you bound by actual rules or are these simply assumptions that are waiting to be broken? Follow along If it ain’t broke
Now let’s learn how to break free from these habits. The remaining document is split into the sections listed beneath. This will help put some structure to your creative habit busting. However, with creativity, there are no hard and fast rules, so try each of the techniques and find whatever works best for you. Evaluating your Creations Defining your Challenge Developing a Creative Environment Habit Busting Inspiring New Ideas
Defining your Challenge Be sure you are tackling the right challenge and are not following a misleading path. These techniques enable the exploration of different angles and can often lead to new solutions themselves.
When a problem is stated to you, always reframe it. Words carry preconceptions as they are a very specific descriptor and a more generic concept might provide a more fruitful springboard. So change them. Just blurt out your new statements without too much thought. For example, how can I… make housework easier? Re-express Convince others to tidy after themselves Find someone else to do the work Find more efficient products Tolerate mess Reduce the need to clean Keep from getting untidy Easier storage solutions Turn into a competition with my partner
Don’t let thinking be held back by constraints and assumptions. Compromise later not at the start. If you start limiting your ideas too early, you’re missing out on developing flawed but potentially great solutions. A simple way of achieving this is to ask some ideal and provocative questions…
Analogy is a way of simplifying understanding through relating to an abstract concept. Analogy allows us to draw broad parallels between related situations and ask where else and how else has our challenge been tackled before. Suppose you had a challenge whereby you needed to increase levels of trust and respect. To get a clearer understanding and kick start the ideas process you might look for situations that require these same qualities. You may formulate a list like the one beneath. Find an analogous situation
Inspiring New Ideas The following techniques harness divergent thinking to help shift thoughts away from usual processes and explore the creative depths of your mind.
A simple rule to abide by is to always go beyond your first answer and challenge yourself to look past the most obvious solution. Set an ideas quota that you’ll have to really dig deep to meet. You may be surprised at the new creative solutions you find. Below is a classic optical illusion called the Rubin Vase. You should be able to see either 2 people face to face or a vase. But go beyond the obvious and ask what else could this be.
A crevice between 2 cliffs
A Man in a hat running from a tornado
A bottle of sauce being squeezed
2 elephants back to back running away from each other
Try and find more interpretations of your own.
Quantity over quality
Our perceptions can strongly influence how we think. But by allowing ourselves to step into different mindsets, we are able to release more of our creative potential. Shake up preconceptions and ingrained beliefs by asking how a historical figure, celebrity, cartoon character, or an abstract profession (e.g. zookeeper) would solve your challenge. If you’re stuck for who to take inspiration from, try running through the alphabet and picking a character with a name that corresponds to each letter. For example, how would Neil A rmstrong, Yogi B ear, Charlie C haplin (and so on) solve your challenge?! Explore multiple perceptions
Assumptions and preconceptions strongly influence our decisions. Break them by listing all them one at a time then remove/change/lessen/magnify/reorder/reverse them and see what the result is. At the very least, get into the habit of periodically reviewing assumptions and seeing if they are still valid. Can you connect these 9 dots with just 3 straight lines? Really try and think about your assumptions as you draw the lines. Break rules and assumptions
If you assumed the lines had to stay within the bounds of the box of dots, you would have struggled. If however, you had broken this assumption and thought ‘outside the box’, you would have eventually found the solution. How did you get on? Now can you connect all the dots with just 1 line? You’re on your own for this one!
Metaphor and abstract association are fantastic techniques for exploring a challenge from outside your existing frame of reference. You are forced to connect and combine concepts and ideas to form new relationships. Below is a list of well known inventions that have been inspired by extracting concepts from nature. See if you can match the correct pairs. Where in nature can you find inspiration? Extract useful concepts and see where associations lead your thinking. Force new relationships Helicopter Mussel Radar Woodpecker’s head Parachute Hummingbird Anaesthetic Armadillo Shock absorber Bat Adhesive Flying squirrel Snowshoes Squid Tank Reindeer Fastening device Chameleon Jet propulsion Snake venom Camouflage Burdock burr hooks Invention Nature
Make your challenge silly/odd/unusual by tampering with the context and defying existing logic. Then suspend judgement to extract useful concepts and positive features. Let’s put this into practice with the following Illogical inventions. Ask where else and how else these could be made useful. See the funny side Taking the silent alarm clock as an example, ask what else could wake you besides noise. Perhaps light, vibration, water, a burst of air, pressure (it could fire soft pellets at you!)? Try coming up with your own illogical inventions. Just take an object and reverse the core function that gives it it’s main identity, then try and find a potential new use for it. Phone with no earpiece Double-sided playing cards Inflatable anchor Solar powered torch Book on how to read Silent alarm clock
Evaluating your Creations Hopefully by now you’ll have lots of ideas and it’s time to start turning ideas into innovation by selecting those that are going to provide the greatest benefits.
Always start by exploring the positives and interesting aspects of a solution. You are likely to find benefits that you wouldn’t have done if you instead went straight into critical thinking. Don’t worry about finding perfect solution that meets all your objectives. Meet the major objectives first, then find ways of making the rest work. Turn negatives into positives by reframing them into a how to statement and then go ahead and tackle this new challenge afresh. Example: I have a problem of keeping cats out the garden and have come up with the solution of getting a dog. PIN: Positive, Interesting, Negative How to ensure the dog can be trained to dig in allocated parts of the garden. The dog would also dig up the garden. Could a dog improve other elements of my lifestyle? It’s very easy to implement. How to ensure the dog has a presence in the garden at all times. It would only work when the dog is in the garden. Would a cat need to see the dog to be afraid? Could I use scent or sound instead? No cat would come near with a dog in the garden. Reframed Negative Negative Interesting Positives
The 3 Qs Quality Quantity UniQueness Simple Scalable Usage Frequency Sharable Resonant Believable Original Flexible Challenging A innovative solution should exhibit as many of the categories in 3 Qs as possible. You can use this system to compare the overall value of different ideas by scoring each category out of 3 then totalling the scores. You can change/add to the scoring categories as necessary. ____ Total Score (out of 27)
Developing a Creative Environment Creative thinking requires both techniques and attitudes to succeed. You can make your workplace a haven of creativity by ensuring both flourish.
Use a neutral facilitator- not the boss as they’re likely to create bias or worse, fear!
Idea generation and evaluation should always be done separately to avoid the temptation for premature criticism.
Work in short bursts to create a sense of urgency and keep ideas flowing.
Build in plenty of breaks to allow people to relax and engage their subconscious minds.
Make sure everyone gets involved not just the supposed experts or those that believe they are the most creative.
Encourage silly ideas. In fact reward silly ideas to keep the fun spirit alive. They can often lead thinking down new and exciting avenues.
Write absolutely everything down. All ideas at this stage are valuable raw inspiration material.
Provide pictures, magazines and a variety of unusual objects to provide visual and tactile stimulation. Participants will also be more creative if they are encouraged to be playful.
Allow people to break out to work solo on ideas. Results of individual thinking are often a great catalyst to propel the group further into the realms of new possibility.
Don’t be a know it all- resist any tendency to be critical and always respect everyone’s contribution. Offer positive feedback first rather than judge.
Rules for creative teamwork
Check out Creative Pursuit the board game, which sums up what it takes to be more creative at work. Perhaps even give it a go with some colleagues. Play Creative Pursuit
Congratulations, you are now a creative change agent! You have the ability to come up with better ideas and lead your colleagues towards a more creative culture. Remember to regularly practice and develop your creative thinking skills and bring out the best in others with your positive attitude. Most importantly... have fun in the process. Get involved! Twitter: @simontigerjack Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Creative-Encounters/225401804190113 Blog: http:// www.creativeencounters.co.uk /blog/ Simon@creativeencounters.co.uk