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Getting Creative in Business

by Roy Chambers (follow)
Management (27)      Leader (12)      Business Ideas (8)      Innovation (4)     
I see it all the time. People in business become stuck and they have no idea how to solve their problems or move forward. Why not apply some creative problem solving to the issue.

Attribution: Pixabay - geralt

Note: I don't believe that creativity is always the way to solve problems. Some managers throw that term around too often. Sometimes you can learn from what was done in the past in the company, other times by researching common solutions.

Creativity is simply the way to bring out an idea that is already in your mind or within your organisation. I have seen too many managers quash any innovations or ideas which is what usually leads their business to being stuck.

So let's get creative.

Create a creative environment

It is hard to be creative when business as usual is to reject ideas or over analyse them. So you don't just turn up to your normal weekly or monthly meeting and say "Be creative". Have a special meeting, even go to a new location to hold that meeting. If you are a suit and tie wearing boss, turn up to the meeting in a t-shirt. Anything to tell people that you staff that this is an opportunity to be different.

If you are trying to creative on your own, then try moving to a new location to do it, rather than staying at the desk where you felt stuck.

Blank piece of paper

Have a really large sheet of paper, huge white board or multiple flip boards. This is where you are going to write your ideas, so the bigger the paper the more you encourage ideas.

Attribution: Pixabay - PublicDomainPictures

However the blank sheet is also a metaphor. You are now throwing out all preconceptions. I have been to creativity sessions where people are saying something is not possible to other people's ideas, yet I actually know where to buy that very solution. The concept that certain things can't be done or don't exist is what kills creativity.

So we have to convey the idea of the blank sheet. More on doing that later.

Warm up exercises

There are lots of ways to get people into a creative mood. I usually ask people to stretch. Actually I cheat, I start with a creative problem and often the response is not very good, so I have them stand up and stretch and shake out tension in their hands. The result is that after stretching I usually see a lot more ideas.

Sometimes I start with talking about creativity, the rules of creativity, such as all ideas are good and that we don't over analyse them. I often also do a little creativity exercise, such as the classic thinking out of the box exercise (I actually have about 6 solutions to that problem, which challenge people who have learnt the one easy one).

Define the task

We then define the task or problem that we are going to solve. Maybe it is something as general as ways to increase productivity, ways to market the product or service or a new product or service that we could offer. It can also be a specific problem.

Start brain storming

I know that minds maps are pretty trendy now, but I still prefer straight brain storming. Don't worry, you can come back to mind maps at a later stage when they are actually better to use.

Attribution: Flickr - darkday

Basically I usually write the numbers 1 to 20 on a board, because people often think they can't come up with that many ideas. Then we start writing down ideas.

It is important to stop yourself or others commenting on ideas. If you think they are wrong, write them down and then suggest a different version or solution. What is killing ideas in your company is that every idea is analysed to death or rejecting out of hand so nothing comes through.

Keep writing down ideas. For creativity classes we usually stop at 20 because of time and lack of space, for a real problem you still want at least 20 ideas, but you keep going until all ideas are exhausted.

An alternative is to do this in groups where each group brain storms as many ideas as possible.

Analyse and choose ideas

The biggest mistake I see in brain storming is that this is where the process stops. The manager takes away all the ideas and just looks at them. I even had one manager write every marketing idea we had from a brain storm down in a report. We had around 40 ideas from out excellent team. Guess what, no one can implement 40 ideas, so of course none were implemented.

Attribution: Pixabay - geralt

What we do at this stage is analyse the ideas. I have different techniques that I use

Eliminate impractical ideas. They are not rejected, they just can't be achieve with the current budget or time frame.

Combine or extend ideas. Many ideas are similar or can be brought together into a single idea.

Organise your ideas. This is where minds maps can come in. Often during the mind map process new ideas can be added to this or existing ideas extended.

Choose the top ideas. This is often my favourite approach. Even if you only want one idea, the creativity session is time limited so it is more feasible to choose a few ideas, usually three is a good number. These are the recommendations to look at it more detail.

Continuous creativity

Many organisations thrive on being creative. These never use brain storming or creativity sessions because they are integrated into their thinking and processes. For other organisations creativity and innovation is more difficult.

If you were to have regular creativity sessions you will begin to see innovation in the everyday way work is carried out.

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