Category Archives: How to be Creative
Effective collaboration is key to helping organizations achieve their goals.
But creating and maintaining strong teams is easier said than done. There’s just too much work to do on a daily basis—deadlines to meet, reports to file, bosses to satisfy. So how can teams boost their performance?
Research on group dynamics shows that teams perform best when their members agree on rules related to goals, roles and norms. Teams that spend time talking out those three things tend to do better. As soon as people get together in any kind of group, they start putting rules together. The highest-performing teams understand the importance of constructing those rules carefully and deliberately.
The three steps to building better teams are:
Commit to the goals, roles and norms for guiding the team’s direction. Do you have a shared vision? Choose specific goals with clear and measurable targets. Take into account the team members’ values. What will inspire them? What’s in it for them?
Roles should be well-defined and should utilize the skills and interests of each person.
It’s also important to establish norms, which are the rules that help you manage communication, decision-making and conflict. Even when we think we understand, we misinterpret others’ intentions and fail to recognize our own assumptions about the way work should be done, the authors say.
Check alignment between the agreements that the team members made and what they are actually doing. Because your team behaviors become habit, it can be really hard to see when things get out of alignment. You have to be a really good observer of your own culture.
Enlisting the help of an outside onlooker could help you see the gaps between what your team members are saying and what they’re doing. Or appoint a team member to play devil’s advocate and ask the tough questions. But first, you must create a psychologically safe space so that team members feel it’s safe to speak their minds.
Two common biases frequently lead to teams getting off track. When a project is successful, teams seldom bother to investigate processes that might have produced negative results under slightly different circumstances. This is called “overvaluing outcomes.” Another common bias is “motivated blindness,” which occurs when team members don’t look for problems because their paychecks depend on a project’s completion.
The solution? Search for evidence that disproves your beliefs to ensure that you are not letting your own interests cloud your judgment, the authors say.
Close the gap between what team members are saying and doing. To bring the team back into alignment with its goals, determine small, specific steps the team can take to get back on track. Carve out time to work on them, and be realistic about the obstacles you might encounter along the way. Highlight the positive impact the changes will have.
During the course of professional life, one often comes across coworkers who are not so easy to get along with. Some of them can be avoided easily, yet others make it impossible for you to simply ignore them and continue your work. Most of us choose to ignore a difficult employee, even if he is directly interfering with our work, rather than confronting him. While this might be the easier solution, having a difficult coworker affects your work productivity tremendously and makes it hard for you to perform at your maximum potential in the long run.
Is he really being difficult?
The most important thing that you have to figure out is whether the coworkers is actually being difficult on purpose or is it just your perception. It might be that you are having problems with a coworker just because the two of you have different personality types that clash too often. There are a lot of people who just fail to get along well as they have very different personalities. It does not mean that any one of them is being difficult rather the problem is that both of them are failing to find a common ground. If this is what is causing trouble between you and a colleague then it can be easily resolved. The best way is to talk it out with the coworker. Ask him which of your habits are causing him inconvenience and listen to him patiently, as there is no point in being offended by what he has to say. Try to remain objective and figure out what you can do to resolve the situation. Make sure that you also communicate your problems to the coworker, but do it tactfully. It should not appear that you are criticizing the colleague just to spite him. Vocalize your concerns in a friendly and amiable manner so that the other person reacts positively as well.
However, if you are sure that there is nothing untoward in your attitude and the coworker is being difficult on purpose, then you have to take some steps to set the situation right.
Word associations is what I consider to be the first creativity building exercise. It’s actually a simple improv comedy drill.
You can do a word association with a partner. First you say a word, and then your partner says the first word that comes to his mind, then you say the first word, then he says the first word, then you say the first word, and so on and so on.
However you can also do this on your own and play this game by yourself. Just say a word, then say the first word that comes to your mind, then say the next word that comes to your mind, then say the next word, and so on and so on. It sounds simple, but it gets complicated.
What you’ll find when you do this is the first four or five words will come very easy because as soon as you say one word your mind instantly comes up with the next four or five.
Once you get beyond that is when you are tapping into your creativity. You have to open your mouth and talk and see what comes out.
You’ll know you’re using your subconscious if you go fast and it’s word after word after word. If you do this and you pause, or hesitate, or stutter a little bit or stammer, then what you are doing is thinking about things in your conscious mind.
You want to get to a point where you can go for 30 seconds, or a minute, or just keep going without ever having that hesitation, because then you’re really bypassing the conscious mind and tapping into your creativity.
This is just a muscle building exercise. It builds the creativity muscle. You’re not going to use this exercise to solve all of your problems. Just saying one word is not really going to give you a whole lot in terms of results, but when you apply this mentality, when you build this muscle then apply it to say, generating ideas, you get some very interesting things that come up very quickly.
3) Be persistent
Consistency is coming back day after day. Persistence is sticking to a task until it is done.
Because of the romanticized notion of creativity, people believe that ideas should come immediately. If nothing comes in a day or two, there is a great temptation to quit. We believe that we are out of ideas.
This is where persistence becomes paramount. Be willing to stick to it and keep creating when you feel you should quit. You must realize that your creative mind is more powerful and more resourceful than your conscious mind. Your limitations and desire to quit are in your conscious mind.
The person who comes across as truly creative is the one who persists in these times. Not because they have a great idea, but because they trust that by persisting their creative mind will give them something.
If you want to be a super creative person, be willing to keep at it, even when you are sure you have exhausted all ideas.
It is hard work to be consistent. It is hard work to be willing to be bad; to be willing to keep creating when you feel the quality is not there. It is hard work to be persistent. And yet these three things will help you unlock and apply your creativity immediately.
Stop thinking of creativity as a magic tool only a few special people possess. With some hard work and discipline, anyone (including you) can be immensely creative!
When someone uses their creative skill to generate a new idea, the only thing the outside world sees is that one brilliant idea. What the world doesn’t see is the dozens, or hundreds, or even thousands of bad ideas that led to the one good one. As you develop your creativity, be willing to be bad. Be willing to tap into your resources and keep coming up with bad ideas. The willingness to do that will unlock and increase your creative flow to a point where the good ideas will come.
Use that as a reminder when you feel that your ideas aren’t good enough.
Creativity has a mystique about it. People who consider themselves uncreative believe that some people just are creative, and that they have the ability to just go off into a room somewhere and emerge a few hours later with new brilliant ideas.
Here’s the big secret of creativity: Creativity is hard work!
Just like any other endeavor, tapping into and applying your creativity is less a function of natural talent or inspiration and more a function of discipline and effort.
If you want to unlock and apply your creativity, do the following three things:
1) Be consistent:
Creative inspiration is wonderful; it is also rare. Once in a while I will be suddenly struck with an idea for a story, article, or speech. When this happens, it’s great. But if I just waited for these moments, I would accomplish very little.
The problem is that most people wait around for inspiration. They are paralyzed with non-action because nothing comes to them.
This is where consistency becomes important. People who write for a living will tell you that the most important thing is to “get the butt in the seat.” That is, everyday, inspired or not, they need to sit at their desk and write. This type of consistency generates a volume of creative work, regardless of inspiration.
If you are trying to use your creativity for any purpose, then be consistent! Put some work in everyday, even if you feel blocked up. By being consistent, not only will you continue to generate ideas, but you will also be cultivating your creativity so that inspiration is more likely to hit.
This approach can also be applied to cultivating creativity. There are drills and exercises that can unlock and develop your creativity. However, these drills and exercises are useless if not
used. They are also ineffective if not done consistently over a period of time. Just like a physical muscle that needs to be gradually strengthened over time, so too does your creative muscle.
How do you keep going even when you feel blocked up? That’s the next point…
In this fast moving world, people are required to do much more than earlier. Everybody wants to equip himself with a variety of skills. We want to be adept at driving, skiing, managing people, organizing parties, raising children. Time is short, so make hay while the sun shines. This is the new age mantra. Multi skilling has finally arrived.
In organizations, managers are happy to recruit multi talented employees. Can you handle teams? Are you competent to organize events? Can you train and motivate your subordinates? Can you also sell? Well, then walk right in, they say. Multi skilled people seem to be the answer to many of organizational challenges.
All organizations go through a change process. Dynamic environment and changing market scenarios force organizations to be flexible. Meeting competition head on requires companies to always be on the ball. Taller hierarchical structures give way to flatter matrix organizations. Designations have evaporated with the reduction of organization levels.
Some organizations are spread out across various industries. Given the multi dimensioned nature of organizations, people also have to make use of multi dimension skills. And hence the entry of the multi skilled employee.
Organizations which multi skill employees use lateral shifts as a mode of employee training and development. Cross functional skills are adopted. Employees are given cross functional training to increase the talent pool. Knowledge sharing is encouraged and formally acknowledged in these organizations.
Employees have to multi skill themselves to make more talent available to organizations. It is also a refreshing change of environment for employees who have been specializing in certain functions. Very often managers have reported an influx of new ideas, out of box thinking and creative solution generation purely by role reversals and lateral moves. This helps organizations to gear up for any future personnel requirement.
Though the concept of multi skilling seems rosy, the only real drawback is that multi skilling makes the employees stretch to the limits. Sometimes, there is an undercurrent of frustration. New jobs, new environment, and new learning can unnerve employees. They fear about not being able to live up to the expectations. Often, employees are uncomfortable with the changes and can’t deal with the conflict of the role and their personality.
Without proper counseling and training, multi skilling can backfire. Employees need to be guided and supported through the entire process of multi skilling. Training with feedback is of paramount importance. Multi skilling is a developmental process; it needs to be handled with sensitivity.
The aim in this step is to generate a list of questions that, if answered well, will solve your problem.
To do this, look at all of the information that you gathered in the first two steps. Then brainstorm the questions that you will need to answer to achieve your Target Future. Use phrases such as “How can I…?” and “How will we…?” to begin.
For instance, imagine that your Target Future is to have a bigger departmental budget. One question might be “How can I get a bigger budget?” Then you could brainstorm related questions, such as “How can we spend less on routine work, so that we can do more with our existing budget?” or “How would we operate if we had no budget?”
If you generate a long list of questions, narrow these down to the questions that are most relevant for solving your problem.
In this step, you’re going to develop your Target Future by defining what success is once you’ve implemented a solution to your problem.
A good way to do this is to use the “DRIVE” acronym. This stands for:
- Do – What do you want the solution to do?
- Restrictions – What must the solution not do?
- Investment – What resources are available? What are you able to invest in a solution? How much time do you have?
- Values – What values must this solution respect?
- Essential outcomes – What defines success? How will you measure this?
Creativity is incredibly important in problem-solving – if you’re not creative, you’ll struggle to understand the issues surrounding a problem, and you’re unlikely to identify the best solutions.
Even worse, you may fail to solve the problem altogether!
So, how can you be more creative in your problem-solving, and thereby come up with the best ideas to move forward with?
Productive Thinking Model helps you do this. This framework encourages you to use creativity and critical thinking at each stage of the problem-solving process. This means that you get a better understanding of the problems you face, and you come up with better ideas and solutions.
In this section, I’ll look at the Productive Thinking Model.
About the Model
The model presents a structured framework for solving problems creatively. You can use it on your own or in a group.
The model consists of six steps, as follows:
- Ask “What is going on?”
- Ask “What is success?”
- Ask “What is the question?”
- Generate answers.
- Forge the solution.
- Align resources.
The advantage of this model over other problem-solving approaches is that it encourages you to use creative and critical thinking skills at each stage of the problem-solving process. This means that you can take a well-rounded look at a problem, and you can come up with better potential solutions.
Let’s look at each step in further detail, and explore how you can apply the model.