Creativity is not having unique and cool ideas that hit you out of the blue on a regular basis. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with art in its many forms. Dictionary.com defines it as “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, and interpretations.
Creativity in the professional business realm is firmly rooted in the ability to connect seemingly unrelated information, thoughts, ideas and strategies. This requires a few key things:
- Expectations must be communicated. If you ask people to be creative, they can interpret that in many ways. Provide the framework. Start with describing the situation – not the specific problem to be solved, but the situation – the destination in general terms, the constraints, the history, and the clear objectives. To do this, you must make sure you do not solve 90% of the problem in this step. Leave it open enough to allow for creative thought, while providing a framework with immovable constraints, company values and goals not up for debate.
- Describe the Creative Process. If you ask people for ideas, and then don’t use any, tell them they are wrong or that their idea won’t work, you will stop the creativity from flowing. “Yes, and…” is a good approach. Explain that you want to brainstorm 100 ideas in 5 different areas. Tell them what will happen next and how those ideas will be processed. Involve others as much as possible in the steps of the process and the implementation. You can elicit more involvement, especially from those you might think are not creative, by creating a safe and predictable place.
- Ask Questions to clarify. The idea that someone puts forth first is rarely their best idea. They are testing the waters. If they are shut down, you will never hear the good idea. Curiously ask them the How, What, When, Where types of questions to better understand their suggestion. Most of us cannot clearly communicate what is in our head in 30 seconds or less, especially with a creative or unique idea or concept.
- Connect the Dots. If you enter the creative process without ‘the solution’ in your mind, you have a lot better chance of combining seemingly unrelated ideas. Group words on paper. Create different categories. Find multiple ways that different ideas connect. Don’t jump too quickly to conclusions. If you need an immediate solution, then have a meeting with your problem solvers and solve the problem. If you want to stimulate creativity, give it time to grow and ideas to evolve.