It’s like magic: a puckish sprite who pops up at whim, thrilling us with flashes of genie-us. And there is undoubtedly something natural about creativity — some of us are more blessed with it than others. But it can be learned, practised and invoked. There are tricks, inroads, back doors and secret passwords into the creative realm at work — and not for just the elite few: for all of us.
Clap along if you’re happy at work
Risk taking is essential for creativity. Working under a tyrannical manager or in a company that makes weekly retrenchments (Is today my day?) means working in fear, which hardly gets you in the mood for risk taking.
Let the children play
A workplace that welcomes ideas fosters creativity. Leaders need to accept a bit of chaos — and bravely shoulder its side effects — if they hope to garner any level of creativity from their teams. There has to be a healthy combination of work and play in a free environment. “When there is an acceptable level of chaos, I think, the good things happen,” summarises the insightful Malcolm Gladwell.
Google recognises that you can’t schedule innovation, and, instead, builds its spaces to engineer creative collisions. (They also have nap pods for tired over timers. Uh-huh.)
And it’s not just about gadgets and rooms — Netflix’ amazing success is at least partly down to its revolutionary HR policy: hire the best and give them freedom to do what they do best. For the rest, make sure you have kickass retrenchment packages and tell them the truth: you have no more to offer each other. Valuing its staff as adults — and with HR genius, Patty McCord, at the helm — Netflix brought the maxim ‘the truth will set you free’ back into fashion.
Creative equality — no egos, no politics
What we want is a culture of joy around spontaneity and a continuous emphasis on new ideas. And everybody must be welcome — everyone except egos and politics, which get right in the way. All ideas are heard, and positivity is key: even if a thought misses the mark, it could be the thought that hatches a thought that hatches the brilliant spark.
Think big. Think love
Thinking about your lover — real or ideal — helps boost creativity, while thinking just of casual sex might help you to be more analytical (*note to self…). One suggested reason is that romantic thoughts release dopamine — a creative stimulant — and thinking about getting jiggy can turn on that old analytical testosterone. Who’d’ve thought?
Brett Steenbarger, who has a wealth of knowledge to hand out about trading psychology on forbes.com, puts it into perspective by separating the big picture from the little picture:
One of the intriguing findings of the creativity literature is that we achieve some of our best insights when we step back from analysis and data collection. We’ve all had the experience of coming up with great ideas while taking a walk or shower or during a holiday trip. Looking through the big picture telescope is a different cognitive process from looking into the analytical microscope. Many investors, meaning well, so diligently stare into their microscopes that they fail to see that bigger picture.
Practice makes better
It doesn’t take a genius to be creative. If I spend some time each day focusing on creativity, I will get better at it. It’s obvias. I can do it through work or through an outside source, like a calligraphy class, an inspiring Ted Talk, or listening to music, all kinds — even kinds I’m not really into (apparently that helps, too).
If you feel uninspired about how to fire up your imagination or that of your team, check out these tricks to trip you into creative mode.
The just-for-the-heck-of-it idea bounce
Just go into that room with no outcome in mind and see what happens when you chuck a few ideas about. No limits. No censors. Just thoughts bouncing off thoughts. You can use ‘what if…’ as a prompt. It could get pretty hot in there.
Get out of your zone
Change keeps the blood moving. It keeps our neurons firing and allows us to create. Do things that you’re not used to or necessarily good at: talk to a stranger; spend your lunch hour at the library; try juggling; put yourself in someone else’s shoes (not literally — that would be uncomfortable and could lead to posture problems).
Say thank you
When someone is bold enough to subject a little piece of their brain to prodding by the rest of the team, thank them for it, even if the idea gets thrown out in the end. They are much more likely to offer next time — and it might just be that one time; that one thought…
Thanks to Sergey Nivens for the article image