Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How 2 Promote Creativity

"Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!"

Every once in a while ... "it" happens.

You could call "it" an epiphany, an "a-ha" moment or a brilliant flash of insight that smacks you straight between the eyes.

"It" is a highly prized asset for a very simple reason: "It" has the power 2 bring you and your organization wealth, fame, more customers or government funding. People who populate the worlds of commerce, education, science, the arts, the military and many other pursuits often wax eloquent about how they want 2 grow and nurture "it".

"It" is creativity and its needed badly 2 solve some of the most pressing challenges we face today. But several things typically get in the way, not the least of which is a steep cultural reluctance 2 experiment, fail, experiment some more, fail again, really fuck something up and then finally figure something out. Research tells us the only thing that separates the great scientists from the average was a willingness 2 employ trial and error as a way of doing business. In other words, the most respected scientists like Tommy Edison, would have had many more good ideas and home runs, but also had way more lousy ideas and strikeouts. Michael Michalko, an expert on genius and creativity, refers to this in his book, "Cracking Creativity" when he opines, "Geniuses produce. Period." They produce - both good and bad.

Unfortunately, too many organizations today are killing creativity with the implication that each idea has 2 be a winner, fully formed and ready 2 be taken 2 market. If not, the idea generator will often hear not so subtle messages that they're stupid, inadequate or some sort of "loose screw".

If you are serious about promoting creativity, what are you doing 2 help make your workplace safe for individuals 2 come up with "dumb" or "crazy" ideas? Is yours a culture that encourages other individuals 2 build on those crazy ideas? Or is it the type of organization that would recoil at some of these riffs on creativity shared by thought leaders like Tom Peters?

Truly creative minds have always been able 2 survive any kind of bad training.

But wouldn't it be great 2 promote creativity from even more of us instead of depending on a select few?

First, you have 2 make sure you're not killing "it". There are three things 2 watch for:

#1 Creativity almost always includes risk.

Eliminate risk and you eliminate creativity. The creative solution is also rarely the most efficient. Why? Because creativity requires experimentation which dictates trying something that may fail.

#2. Don't settle for the first "good" idea.

People naturally gravitate toward the path of least resistance, but true creativity will take a less traveled road and fight through the resistance 2 find the gem of an idea on the other side.

#3. Remember, camels are horses designed by committee.

People are social animals who work in groups, but these groups naturally and usually kill creativity, or at least reshape it as conformity. Creativity within groups isn't impossible, but it will have 2 fight harder to see the light of day. Coming up with something truly new often means having 2 break from the herd.

You and I will never be able to quantify creativity. But, an ever-increasing dependence on the dusty world of metrics is exactly why creativity has gone 2 hell in a basement. When leadership or strategic decisions are based solely on numbers, the desire 2"waste" time and discover creative toys in the attic evaporates.

Never forget remarkable people and brands are built on a foundation of emotional connections. At some point, someone had 2 go with their gut and roll the dice on a creative solution.

Great ideas don't come from numbers.

They come from having the guts to find "it".

"Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity"




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