Old is cool again. Yet, as much as we love throwbacks like Netflix’s Stranger Things that celebrates the 80s, in business, the ways of old sometimes stand in the way of innovation. The thinking and ways of the past can only bring us so far. In seeking innovative solutions to the challenges and problems of 2018 and beyond, traditional methods and the ways of old are not going to give us any new perspectives or radically different choices. The robotic way of seeking solutions on pre-programmed autopilot is certainly no way for any successful organisation or individual to act.

Creativity to the Rescue

To crack the creativity code for better solutions, we first need to understand what creativity actually is. 

Put simply, creativity is one’s ability to challenge current practices, combined with a willingness to make connections that lead to innovative solutions and practices. 

Being creative simply means one is willing to expand his or her perception to see the opportunities that most people miss. Creativity and Innovation are the keys to growth and success of every organisation. The challenge comes when we start asking ourselves HOW do we actually go about cracking the code of creativity? What tangible steps and practices can we take to be more creative?

Switch it On

The fundamental principle for cracking the creativity code is to first accept and firmly believe that ‘Everyone is Creative’, and that creative thinking is a skill that can be learned. The frame of mind that we are all creative is the only way to unleash the power of creativity in all aspects of our lives. Unfortunately, most working adults do not see themselves as creative at all. This is especially so in Asia. 

To really Switch It On, we need to consciously tell ourselves that creative ability and innovative output is within our reach and capacity. We need to let go of the limitations that might have held us back in the past. The ability to ‘Switch On’ this mindset is key to becoming more creative, and will pave the way for us all to Make A Difference in our teams and workplace as we seek innovative solutions.

Withhold your judgement

It’s almost instinctive for us to dismiss ideas that contradict widely accepted norms and conventions. Yet, this very behaviour inhibits true innovation. 

Despite the ubiquity of brainstorming and blue sky thinking (done in hopes of generating creative and unique ideas) many individuals still keep their radical opinions and ideas to themselves, in fear of being criticised. What started out as a process to enable individuals to think as many ideas as possible results in a charade of false creativity and pretence. Instead of generating ideas that contradict the accepted norms and conventional practices, participants propagate the group’s accepted norms and suggest weak, incremental changes, hiding their true genius.

Although we are wired to apply judgement using our current frame of mind when deciding on solutions, brainstorming only works when individuals are able to withhold their judgements during the divergent phase. While no one can dispute the need for judgement in the decision-making process, its benefit is greatly diminished when it is applied as part of brainstorming sessions. Researchers have confirmed repeatedly the fact that people who withhold judgement when they seek solutions always produce better ideas than those who weed out the ‘not so great’ ideas right at the beginning.

Kill the Idea Killers

We all have heard them during our idea generation sessions. Once a unique and out of norm idea is floated by a participant, someone will immediately respond saying “it will never work here”. That is an example of an idea killer. Phrases such as “It’s too expensive”, “get real – this is not for us” and so on, might seem innocuous and well-meaning, but in reality, belie a mindset that is too entrenched in convention and tradition. You can find some common idea killer phrases listed in here.

Be an "Idea Farmer"

Instead of just letting the seeds of innovation sit aimlessly, why not sow them and let them grow and flourish. Build initial sparks – whether yours or someone else – into more complex concepts. Create fertile ground within your team to encourage new ideas. Use the powerful “How Might We” questioning framework to trigger thoughts and build upon ideas.

Think with Your Senses

Bring yourself into an experiential mode when seeking creative solutions. Engaging your senses expands the range, quantity and uniqueness of ideas. This is especially the case for knowledge workers, who engage their sense of touch only with keyboards, and sense of sight only with their computer and smartphone screens. Engaging your senses can be as simple as drawing out a mind-map or diagram to visually see connections (and make new ones), or even building a basic physical model of your challenge. To go even further, you can embrace approaches like the LEGO® Serious Play® Method (LSP), a facilitated tool that enhances and leads group discussion.

Moving Forward

Ultimately, the creativity code can only be cracked within environments that allow it to be cracked. Without the right mindset and conditions within the workplace, creativity champions will lose heart (and motivation) when their ideas are ignored, and even worse, mocked. You can learn more about how to build a creative work environment here

If you do have the opportunity to exercise creativity in a willing environment, remember that the journey to innovation begins with accepting creativity as part of your identity. Doing this represents the first step that will lead you to ideas and solutions that, until now, have evaded you.

Thank you for reading. If you have any questions or comments, or would like to know how these concepts and tools can relate specifically to your workplace and team, you can contact me at [email protected]