Think creativity doesn’t belong in a business environment? Think again. Researchers have proven time and again that creativity has a positive effect on workplace performance. It also helps businesses adapt more easily to rapidly shifting markets and fickle customers.
A creative mindset inspires new ideas, helps solve problems, increases productivity, drives progress and helps find new ways to interact with customers. Despite the fact that many people do not think they are creative, there are ways to foster creativity in business-minded people.
These four exercises can help you as a manager or employer to build creative skills and expand the potential for success in your business.
Backwards forwards planning
Start with the end in mind. Yes, instead of planning something from the usual point (the beginning), start at the end or with the goal you want to achieve. Then plan in reverse. It may seem odd, but it can help you to see things from a new perspective and takes the guesswork out of planning because you already know where you want to end up.
Disney Creativity Strategy
Walt Disney was well known for turning fantasies into reality and making creativity a business strategy. The Disney Creativity Strategy aims to model the thinking strategies of successful people such as Walt. In this exercise you need to take on three roles:
Let your imagination flow freely and think up the most fantastical idea you can come up with. There are no boundaries in this role. It is like daydreaming and is not supposed to be based on reality.
Take the fantastical idea you had while in the Dreamer role and try to ground it in reality. Take components of the idea that seem ridiculous and think of ways to turn it into something that can actually work and is practical. Now give this more realistic idea time frames and milestones to map progress.
Look for all of the things that are wrong with the Realist’s idea. The Critic pokes holes in the idea, looks at ways to improve it and asks what could potentially go wrong.
This may be more difficult to do for people who are staunchly committed to a traditional corporate environment. However, it has been found that walking meetings improve ideation (the process of generating, developing and communicating new ideas). Apparently walking gives people the feeling of moving from one idea to another, and is the antithesis of stagnation. So, next time you have a meeting, take a walk and see how it stimulates creativity.
Sometimes you are too close to an issue or a problem to solve it, because you are not able to see the big picture or all of the moving parts. Psychological distancing can be one of the ways to avoid this. Distancing involves removing the personal connection you have to something by looking at it as though you are not involved in it or not affected by the outcome. This takes the pressure off you to look for a solution and gives creativity an opportunity to flow.
There are three types of psychological distancing: geographic distancing, where something is placed far away; time distancing, where something is far off in the future; and improbability distancing, that looks at something as if it may not ever happen. The best way to explain psychological distancing is using an example:
“Say you want to figure out how to attract more customers to your business. Gather your team or co-workers for a brainstorming session and explain that you have a friend (someone they don’t know) in another country (this brings geographic distancing into play) that needs help getting more customers. Then ask the people participating how they would go about helping this friend of yours.”
It may seem like silly role-playing, but distancing offers people the freedom to take more risks since they have no stake in this ‘friend’s’ business. Risk-taking is one of the key factors in fostering creativity.
There are many more exercises available that can boost your workplace creativity. If you start with the ones that have been mentioned above, they are likely to kickstart even more creative changes in your brain and in your business environment.